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Kosovo draft criminal code violates press freedom: HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the National Assembly of Kosovo [official website] Wednesday to remove certain provisions in the draft criminal code that they claim violate freedom of the press [press release]. In a letter [text], HRW claims that articles 37 and 38 of the draft code will significantly interfere with journalists' work. Article 37 allows the punishment of journalists and makes them criminally liable for defamatory comments through any medium including the Internet. Article 38 subjects journalists to criminal prosecution if they refuse to provide their news sources who are criminals. Benjamin Ward, HRW Deputy Director for the Europe and Central Asia Division, pointed out at the end of the letter that:

Freedom of expression and of the media is guaranteed in both international and regional human rights instruments such as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, international standards which Kosovo has pledged to respect.
The national assembly adopted the code on April 20, giving rise to various protests by journalists and media outlets. Kosovo's president Atifete Jahjaga did not give her final approval to the proposed code but returned it on Tuesday for reconsideration.

Journalists' rights are a persistent issue across the globe. Last month Idrak Abbasov, an Azerbaijan journalist, was the victim of a violent attack [JURIST report] by police and security personnel when he filmed the unlawful demolition of a house near the capital of Baku. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [advocacy website] in February released [JURIST report] its annual Attacks on the Press report [text] which demonstrated the increase of censorship of journalists in 2011, including a 20 percent increase in imprisonment of journalists. Last May the journalism rights group Reporters without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] released [JURIST report] a list of predators of press freedom [materials] including several Middle Eastern countries.

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