OSCE condemns attack on Kosovo Serb journalist

PRISTINA, Jun 25, 2000 -- (Reuters) Europe's human rights and security watchdog, the OSCE, condemned on Friday a near-fatal attack on a Kosovo Serb woman radio journalist and announced a program of action to protect media workers.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was reacting to the attack on Valentina Cukic, who works for the multi-ethnic local station Radio Kontact.

Cukic was shot and seriously wounded in a drive-by attack on Tuesday night while walking with a Serb companion in a central Pristina street. Her companion was also hit, but both are expected to recover.

"We cannot allow such attacks to take place," said Daan Everts, ambassador in Kosovo of the OSCE. "The freedom of journalists to do their jobs and the freedom of the media are rights which have to be respected."

Although nobody has been arrested for the attack, there is little doubt that Cukic was targeted as a Serb and a journalist in a city now almost exclusively the domain of ethnic Albanians.

"Unfortunately there is a high level of intimidation of journalists of all ethnicity working across Kosovo. Working in these conditions distorts all journalism and undermines attempts to build a free and democratic media and society," the OSCE said in a statement.

The same intimidation exists in Serb-held areas of journalists, interpreters and Albanian workers for international agencies.

"Are there any Albanians around here?" a Serb asked menacingly while a Reuters journalist sat recently in a cafe in the Serbian north of the flashpoint town of Mitrovica. Nobody answered.

To help local journalists, the OSCE issued guidelines on Friday defining a range of dangers confronting them. These included threats, intimidation, harassment and pressure by authorities, plus a variety of ways in which they might be inhibited from reporting freely.

OSCE said it was setting up a program to protect journalists and gave hotline numbers they could ring for help. But it added: "OSCE can assist in investigation and prosecution of these offences, but only if we know about them. Your silence only encourages those who threaten you."

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