Baton Haxhiu, Kosovo:
I thank you for this press freedom award and I am thankful to CPJ. The award makes a great contribution for Kosovo's free press. The award will also pressure our regime, our political structure, to respect free press and free speech in Kosovo and the region.
American citizens are born with freedom from fear. In the Balkans, citizens are born to fear.
Why are we born with fear? Because our institutions --- that is, the media, the court system, prosecutors, the police --- have always been mere extensions of corrupt regimes. In such a world, your loyalty to power counts for everything. The word "traitor" is thrown at you quickly and easily. And its effect makes a mockery of free speech.
Now you have the international commuity in Kosovo, an international administration, and political parties.
But you also have a big political vacuum, no security, and excellent conditions for our blooming political mafia.
At the moment in Kosovo, you can easily be corrupted and ignore the law because there are no laws. But all is not lost. You still have a chance to build something new. You still have a chance to build a civic society and democracy in Kosovo.
What I need from you is help in building independent institutions from scratch before elections. Because if institutions are build after elections, they will once again be extensions of the regime.
This can be fulfilled by you Americans. You hold the key to progress and democracy in the Balkans. And especially you in the media. Anything is possible with you. Not because you are perfect --- only God is perfect ---but because you Americans are near God. I need your help and your presence in Kosovo.
Again, thank you CPJ. I also want to thank my friend Fred Abrahams from Human Rights Watch, because he is part of our freedom. He is the best example of how to help Kosovo and the region.
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