By Petrit Collaku
Ambassador Dell has sent an open letter to Kosovo’s Independent Media Commission, IMC, calling on it to investigate whether the country’s press code of conduct had been violated.
Dell asked the IMC in Pristina to look at whether Kohavision, a private television station, broke the code of conduct by broadcasting him talking on the phone at a Kosovo Assembly session on the day it was electing a president.
Dell was recorded in the hall of the assembly talking on the phone during the break between the second and third rounds of the vote. The vote ended with the election of Behgjet Pacolli as President.
“I was disappointed to learn today that private correspondence and conversations were intercepted and recorded by media outlets and subsequently printed or broadcast nationwide,” Dell’s letter reads.
He added that these outlets, including the newspapers “Koha Ditore” and “Express”, had crossed a line by transmitting private communications that took place at the Assembly Hall on February 22, “including an apparent phone call involving me.
“I am writing to members of the IMC regarding this unprofessional, unethical, and potentially illegal activity,” his letter reads.
“I am not disturbed by the content of these communications which reflect nothing more than routine efforts to gather information in a confused environment,” the letter continues.
He suggested that the media houses may have broken the law by both obtaining and then making public the conversations, an offence carrying a maximum penalty of a year’s imprisonment.
“Koha Ditore” and “Express” also published photographs of SMS messages exchanged between Behgjet Pacolli and his advisor, Esat Pushkar, who was sitting by Dell in the VIP gallery inside parliament watching the election process. The messages referenced alleged comments made by Dell.
The Independent Media Commission told Balkan Insight that they had not yet received the letter from the US ambassador.
“Express” responded by saying the publication of the SMSs was not a wiretap. “The photos were not taken in a private environment of Pacolli, Dell or Puskar but in the premises of the Kosovo Assembly,” the newspaper said. The paper said that publishing the photos ensured its readers were better informed.
“When we decided [to print the photos], Mr Dell, we had in mind exactly the lessons of American democracy – about fair information and service to the public,” the newspaper added.
“Koha Ditore” and Kohavision, which are part of the same group, said it was in the public interest to make the conversations public.
“We want to assure Mr Dell, as well as the public, that our approach was absolutely ethical and professional, and legal too,” letter reads.
“The whole event happened in the hall of the Kosovo Assembly and not in a private environment, while the exchange of SMSs were made during the election of a President of the Republic and not during a family party, where privacy would be considered a protection,” the letter adds.