KESTON NEWS SERVICE SPECIAL REPORT

YUGOSLAVIA/KOSOVO: HOW SHOULD ORTHODOX RESPOND
TO MEDIA "LIBELS"? The international bodies governing Kosovo have
refused to take sanctions against three Albanian-language Kosovar papers
which published articles about the Decani monastery which the Orthodox
regard as libellous, despite media rules to stamp out such inter-ethnic
libels. The publisher of one of the papers, which published allegations
that the monastery had been a den of paramilitaries in 1998 and 1999, told
Keston News Service on 13 December that the article did not necessarily
reflect the views of the paper, and added that Father Sava (Janjic), who
had led the complaints about the coverage, was "welcome" to publish a
response in his paper. Father Sava told Keston that such a response was
inadequate and that the international bodies should take action to prevent
or punish such "hate speech".

YUGOSLAVIA/KOSOVO: HOW SHOULD ORTHODOX RESPOND
TO MEDIA "LIBELS"?

by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

In the light of the refusal of the international bodies now governing
Kosovo to take sanctions against three Albanian-language Kosovar papers
which published articles about the Decani monastery which the Orthodox
regard as libellous, despite media rules to stamp out such inter-ethnic
libels, the Orthodox Church has declined to take up offers to publish
responses in at least some of the papers. Veton Surroi, the publisher of
Koha Ditore, one of the three papers that published allegations that the
monastery had been a den of paramilitaries in 1998 and 1999, told Keston
News Service on 13 December that the article did not necessarily reflect
the views of the paper, solely the views of the individual making the
allegations, and added that Father Sava (Janjic), who had led the
complaints about the coverage, was "welcome" to publish a response in
his paper. Father Sava told Keston that such a response was inadequate
and that the international bodies should take action to prevent or punish
such "hate speech".

Surroi argued that his paper was not responsible for the views of those
they reported, but he failed to explain why the paper had repeated the
claims editorially in its headlines. "Father Sava has been always invited to
state his position in Koha Ditore, even in more difficult times of war, and
he is always welcome to do so," Surroi told Keston. "Any citizen who
wants to express a different view regarding anything published in Koha
Ditore has always had the possibility to do so. If the Decani monastery
wants to publish anything regarding this, they are welcome, and have
been told so."

The three papers - Koha Ditore, Epoka E Re, and Zeri - published articles
on 5 September reporting an open letter from Musa Berisha, President of
the Decani-based Albanian Council of Human Rights Defence, alleging
that the Decani monastery played a significant role housing Serbian
"Nazis" - paramilitaries - during fighting in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999.
The monastery's abbot, Father Teodosije, and his deputy, Father Sava,
were accused of being willing hosts, and it was alleged that Father Sava
also practised shooting nearby. The three different articles, signed by their
authors, were published under the headlines: "Decani Monastery was
always a House of Serb Nazis", "Decani Monastery was a House of the
Serb Paramilitaries", and "The Decani Monastery was Always a House of
Serb Formations Which Terrorised Albanians."

Believing this constituted "hate speech", the Orthodox asked the
international community to act. Despite regulations issued by the United
Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and a Temporary Code of Conduct
for the Print Media in Kosovo, no reply was published and, according to
Father Sava, UNMIK's Temporary Media Commissioner Anna Di Lellio
failed to take any legal measures. Di Lellio told Keston that she closed the
case "as it always does when the offer to write a reply is not taken up by
the complainant."

Berisha's open letter came in response to an earlier Koha Ditore article by
Ibrahim Kelmendi reporting that following a visit to the monastery on 30
August, the then KFOR commander Lieutenant General Thorstein
Skiaker had paid tribute to the monastery: "during the war in 1999, the
Decani monastery priests rescued Kosovar Albanians from Serbian
forces." Berisha rejected this out of hand, alleging that "The Decani
monastery was a house of Serb paramilitary and military formations... and
their aim was to terrorise the Albanian population of this part of Kosova."

Zeri published a longer version of Berisha's open letter, stating that "at the
end of April [1998] eyewitnesses saw the priests and other staff of this
monastery, approximately ten of them, including Sava Janjic [Father
Sava], practising by shooting in the air with a machine gun and pistols not
far from the monastery." The article added that in May 1998 six
Albanians were killed near the monastery, implying that the same persons
seen shooting were probably the killers.

Denying all these accusations, Father Sava wrote to the Council of
Human Rights Defence in Decani, international representatives in Kosovo
and to the Temporary Media Commissioner stating that Berisha's open
letter "denigrates an ethnic or religious group and attributes criminal
responsibility prior to a finding of guilt by a tribunal". He complained that
publishing Berisha's letter in the print media violates UNMIK regulations
2000/36 and 2000/37. Father Sava believes publication of such material
demonstrates "open disrespect towards Kosovo's ethnic, cultural and
religious diversity by publishing unfounded information which creates
damage and pain to a religious community".

"I wrote to the Council for Human Rights Defence and UNMIK in
September saying it was a serious provocation and I had the right to be
protected from hate speech," Fr Sava told Keston on 26 October.
"Temporary media commissioner Anna di Lellio said that there was a
similar case in Pristina but when she tried to do something her actions
upset other human rights organisations because it upset the Albanians.
She said it was better to forget about it as the Albanians would be very
angry otherwise."

Di Lellio has a different version of events. "The TMC travelled to the
Monastery of Decani on Thursday, 13 September, and visited Father
Sava. The TMC considered the fact that the newspapers had published an
open letter, not articles authored by their staff," she told Keston from
Pristina on 30 November. "While the editorial decisions to publish such
letter could be debatable, they are not subject to UNMIK regulation. The
TMC suggested Father Sava to write a reply to the editors and he said that
he would do so... Unfortunately, a few days later Father Sava sent an e-
mail to the TMC saying that after careful consideration he had been
advised by the Abbot not to write any reply... The TMC has been also
advised that a very reputable Kosovo Albanian public figure offered
Father Sava to visit the Monastery of Decani and appear on TV with him.
Father Sava declined that offer too."

"After the initial idea to write some sort of a reply," Father Sava told
Keston on 4 December, "we spoke about it (in the brotherhood) and
concluded that it is absolutely tasteless to answer such incredible lies...
and to put ourselves to the level of hear-say and tabloid type writings...
Then the TMC came with the suggestion that Veton Surroi come to the
monastery with his journalists to underline the importance of the
monastery for Kosovo society... We refused the proposal because it was
Veton's paper that put the worst headline and the word 'Nazi' about us.
They used the word 'Nazi' even though it was not mentioned in that
infamous letter."

Father Sava said it would be "pure hypocrisy" for the paper to publish
allegations that the monastery was a "house of 'Nazis' and a paramilitary
base" one day, and then to "make it up" and write about the importance of
the monastery for Kosovo society. "Our monastery as well as our Church,
out of its dignity, could not permit these Albanian papers to treat us they
way they desire."

He added that "as a sign of protest against spreading of ethnic and
religious hatred" his monastery had decided, with the blessing Bishop
Artemije of Raska and Prizren, to have no contacts with representatives of
the three papers until their editors "issue a public apology to the
Monastery of Decani, and disassociate themselves from what they had
written."

Fr Sava also wrote on 11 September to Marek Nowicki, Kosovo's
Ombudsperson, asking him to "urgently take legal measures provided by
UNMIK REG 2000/4". (REG 2000/4, adopted on 1 February 2000, is On
the Prohibition Against Inciting to National, Racial, Religious or Ethnic
Hatred, Discord or Intolerance.) The Ombudsman responded with a
formal letter, as did the OSCE representative, Ambassador Dan Everts
who promised to "do everything in his power". No action has been taken
so far.

"The TMC closed the case," Di Lellio told Keston. "But it referred it to
the NGO's Civil Society department of the OSCE, suggesting that the
department looked into the Human Rights Group in Decani and tried to
discuss the matter with them."

But Father Sava suggests a different perspective: "Kosovo is still an area
without laws and order, and with open persecution of the non-Albanian
population. Under such conditions to cling to the 'Convention of the
freedom of the press' means de facto to misuse the freedom of the press
against the freedom and dignity of undermined groups and individuals."
(END)