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French foreign minister refers to Voice of America reporter as "sick" and "insane"

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 10 March 2010 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), strongly condemns the manner in which French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner behaved towards Budimir Nicic, a Voice of America reporter, in the Kosovo town of Gracanica.

On 2 March 2010, Kouchner, who was UN administrator in Kosovo from 1999 until 2001, visited Gracanica, where Nicic posed a question about Kouchner's view regarding human organ trafficking allegations. Kouchner was asked to comment on the claims by the families of Serbs kidnapped and murdered in Kosovo.

As a reaction, Kouchner, according to media reports, laughed out loud and said to the journalist, in French (SEEMO/IPI translation into English) : "But you are sick, aren't you? Do I look like someone who would traffic organs? You are insane, to believe all kinds of nonsense like that . . . Sir, you should consult (a doctor). There was no yellow house, there was no organ trade. People who talk about things like that are bastards and murderers." Kouchner's answer is posted in the form of video material on different websites, including Youtube.

The claims about organ trafficking are also mentioned in a book published by former Hague Tribunal Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. There were also different reports about this case in media. The case was also investigated by the Serbian War Crimes Prosecution, and was addressed in several international reports. According to these sources, hundreds of Serb civilians were kidnapped in Kosovo in 1999 and then their vital organs were removed and sold on the black market. One of the locations mentioned as the possible place where the kidnapped civilians were operated on was a house with a yellow front wall (yellow house).

"SEEMO is surprised at this manner of communication by an official representative of the French government. The behaviour by the French Foreign Minister was not professional and it is not a way in which a state official should be communicating with a journalist," said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

Vujovic added: "Of course, the journalist might have formulated his question differently, but in asking the question he made clear the source of the information - in this case the families of kidnapped and murdered Serbs. It is unacceptable that a state official react in this aggressive manner. As a politician, and a member of the French government, he should communicate professionally and responsibly with journalists. We would have expected Mr. Kouchner to react in a more courteous and dignified way."

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