By Fatmir Aliu
Deputy Prime Minister Kuci resigned after parliament adopted a new criminal code without amending controversial articles that the media have strongly objected to.
Hajredin Kuci, who was also Justice Minister, resigned on Friday after parliament adopted a new law code without amending controversial provisions penalizing journalists for not revealing their sources.
Deputies voted for the bill without taking into consideration amendments suggested by President Atifete Jahjaga, which foresaw the exclusion of the contested articles from the law.
Kuci had already said he would resign as Minister of Justice if the law code was adopted without amendments meeting media concerns.
Prime Minister Hashim Thaci expressed regret over the loss of his deputy, and accepted his resignation as a moral act.
In an extraordinary government meeting, he called for the immediate amendment of the new law code to address the issues that the media have raised.
“Parliament’s decision to vote on the law without the amendments was unnecessary,” he said.
“The government supports freedom of expression and not the oppression of the media,” Thaci told his cabinet.
President Jahjaga had pledged earlier to help solve the row between media outlets and the government over the new criminal code.
Her spokesperson, Arber Vllahiu, told BIRN on Friday that the President is now planning to send the whole issue to the constitutional court for interpretation.
Hundreds of Kosovo journalists protested in April, urging the President not to sign the draft criminal code.
The Association of the Professional Journalists of Kosovo, AGPK, which advocated the changes, said it was “horrified by the vote.
“Parliament has sunk freedom of the press in Kosovo,” the association said.
The AGPK argues that two articles in the new code, Article 38 and 39, directly endanger the work of journalists, as they oblige reporters to disclose their sources, if need be, to prevent threats to the life or physical integrity of any persons.
Reporters say the law doesn’t clarify which criminal offences journalists could potentially commit, leaving it open to judges and prosecutors to interpret the code differently.
Journalists boycotted state institutions on the International Day of Press Freedom, on May 3, in protest against the draft law.
A number of international media rights organizations including Reporteurs sans Frontieres and the regional South-Eastern Europe Media Organization, SEEMO, have supported the AGPK and expressed worries about the criminal code.