Kosovo foreign minister says Turkey's request to punish journalist 'unacceptable'

  • World
  • Wednesday, 27 Jul 2016

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's foreign minister on Wednesday said a request by Turkey for Pristina to punish a journalist for tongue-in-cheek Facebook comments on Turkey's failed military coup was unacceptable and an overreaction.

As the coup attempt against President Tayyip Erdogan unfolded in Turkey on July 15, prominent journalist Berat Buzhala wrote on his Facebook profile: "I invite the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo who are holidaying in Turkey to align with the army." He signed it with an emoticon symbol with a tongue protruding, indicating he was not serious.

The Turkish embassy subsequently sent a note to Kosovo's government urging it to take action against Buzhala, citing a newly-adopted Kosovo law which prohibits citizens from joining armed conflicts outside the country.

"Without a doubt this as overreaction by the Turkish Embassy in Pristina," Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj said in an interview broadcast by the Albanian service of Radio Free Europe.

Hoxhaj called the note "unacceptable" and said he was due to meet the Turkish ambassador soon to discuss the matter.

Turkey is a major investor in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Turkish companies run the sole airport, electricity distribution networks and won the contract to build two highways worth around $2 billion.

Turkey's request has sparked criticism from journalists and civil society in Kosovo. The country's Association of Journalists (AGK) has demanded an apology from the embassy and has called on Ankara to recall its ambassador.

Kosovo's State Prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi told local media that so far he saw no criminal offence in Buzhala's actions but that his office was ready to investigate.

Turkey has previously reacted against mockery in foreign media. Erdogan was outraged earlier this year when a German comedian satirised him in a crude poem on television. Erdogan launched legal action against him in Germany and his lawyer said this month he had filed a complaint to get the poem banned in its entirety after a court banned re-publication of parts.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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