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Journalist assaulted, threatened by public official over article on false academic credentials

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 14 March 2008 press release by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate:

SEEMO PRESS RELEASE ALBANIA

Vienna, 14 March 2008 - The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), condemns the assault carried out by Member of Parliament (MP) Tom Doshi against Besar Likmeta, the Albania editor for the online publication Balkan Insight.

According to information received from The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), Likmeta had been working on a series of articles, published on Balkan Insight, concerning forged diplomas in Albania. The investigated degrees included MP Tom Doshi's law degree from Tetovo University, an Albanian-language university in The Republic of Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). At the time, Doshi was still listing the degree on the official parliamentary website. The investigative reporting uncovered that Tetovo University had informed the Education Ministry that Doshi never completed his studies.

Soon thereafter, Doshi's CV was removed from the website of the Albanian parliament, and Likmeta arranged to meet Doshi at the Sheraton Hotel in Tirana in the late evening of March 10 for an interview. During the interview, Doshi demanded to know why Likmeta was investigating the story, commenting that it was "extremely brave" to pursue the matter. MP Arben Isaraj, who accompanied Doshi to the interview, asked Likmeta if he was "out of touch with reality". Doshi then attacked Likmeta, hitting him with a leather briefcase. The journalist sustained a black eye and his glasses were broken. When Likmeta tried to take statements from nearby witnesses after the assault, the hotel barman ordered him to leave.

SEEMO deplores this disturbing incident, and calls for a full investigation of the matter.

"Physical violence against journalists is never acceptable, but is particularly deplorable when carried out by a public official," said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. "Investigative journalists play a vital role in uncovering political malfeasance, and must be protected, not hindered, by states."

SEEMO is a regional network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe.

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