GLOBAL JOURNALIST: Kosovo celebrates independence amidst prime minister crime allegations

Friday, February 18, 2011 | 2:40 p.m. CST

The world's youngest nation, the Republic of Kosovo, celebrated three years since it first declared independence on Feb. 17, 2008. Three years pales when compared to its centuries-long history of widespread conflict and turmoil; the wounds from the violence that scarred the landscape and its people still linger. Because of the often intense discourse, some countries even refuse to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation.

Kosovo and Serbia are barred from joining the European Union unless the two entities can settle their differences. Past bad blood seeping into the present is likely to impede those efforts.

Straining relations further, recent allegations have surfaced that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was involved with organized crime and organ trafficking; opinions differ depending on which side of the border the accusations originate.

From the heart of the conflict, journalists who have watched Kosovo begin to take its first steps discuss what these developments mean to the newborn sovereign state.

This week, we explore these issues and more on Global Journalist.

Listen to this week's show.

Highlights from this week's guests:

Prishtina, Kosovo: Jeta Xharra, anchor RTK (Radio Television of Kosovo); Kosovo Director, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network

"It takes a lot of effort for journalists to remain independent, especially financially independent because the biggest employer in Kosovo is the government. Most employees are civil servants … basically people are threatened, not necessary with direct violence, but with the possibility of losing their jobs. Sources talk to journalists less than they used to because they are afraid of the repercussions … losing jobs, losing possibilities to get good health service, losing the possibility to get good or better education. This is only if journalists are brave enough to report something."

Dejan Anastasijevic, reporter, Vreme newspaper; contributor, Time Magazine; researcher, Belgrade Center for Human Rights

"There are two issues that are completely separate. One, Serbia as a nation still has a lot of problems. We're reconciling with Kosovo as a separate state… The other set of problems is the role of Kosovo, which is serious. … Every time the government in Kosovo gets accused of doing anything illegal, they say that this is just Serbian propaganda and this is an attempt to undermine our glorious liberation fight."

Prishtina, Kosovo: Arben Ahmeti, Senior Political Reporter, Koha Ditore Daily

"Kosovo is probably one of the biggest populations that is pro western in this region. Almost every citizen wants to know how to join the EU in order have better payments and better conditions. We don't have a political class that is competent to deal with the aim of citizens to join the EU."

Prishtina, Kosovo: Besa Luci, Editor-in-Chief, Kosovo 2.0

"While Kosovo does have a future integrating with other nations in the EU, there is still a heavy influence with relations that it has with the U.S., even in Kosovo. With a country that is still young, there a lot of building processes going on in Kosovo…I think sometimes there is a lot of discourse about who to side with and who to trust."

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