Kosovo's deputy prime minister quits over media law row

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2012 12:15 PM
Kosovo's deputy prime minister quits over media law row

By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's justice minister and deputy prime minister Hajredin Kuci resigned on Friday after parliament passed a new penal code comprising two articles the European Union says will undermine the freedom of the press.

The disputed articles in the new penal code force journalists to reveal their sources and make defamation a criminal offence.

Parliament approved the code in late April but President Atifete Jahjaga rejected it and returned it to parliament for a second vote. On Friday parliament again voted in favor of keeping both articles.

"I have publicly said that I will offer my resignation if these two famous articles... are again voted on in parliament," Kuci told a news conference.

Kuci has been Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's closest ally since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

"I can inform you that from this moment I have offered my resignation to the prime minister," Kuci said.

The European Union representative in Kosovo said he was disappointed with parliament's decision.

"It is unfortunate that such a decision was taken despite continuous advice from the European Union that these articles are in contradiction with EU conventions ... that protect the freedom of speech and the freedom of media," Samuel Zbogar, the EU representative in Kosovo said in a statement.

Kosovo has faced steady criticism from international bodies for not doing enough to protect journalists and the freedom of the press. Almost all Balkan countries have abolished laws that penalize journalists for what they write and report.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Jon Hemming)