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Journalists In Kosovo, Moldova Call For Greater Freedom, Protection

Kosovo investigative journalist Vehbi Kajtazi had reportedly had been threatened and attacked prior to the assault, and police never resolved his prior complaints.

The Association of Journalists of Kosovo marked World Press Freedom Day with a demonstration in Pristina on May 3 calling for greater protection for reporters.

"Impunity kills the freedom of expression," was the theme of the protest. The association said journalists continued to face threats, attacks, blackmail, and censorship in Kosovo.

One example of the dangers cited by the journalists was an assault on prominent investigative reporter Vehbi Kajtazi in October 2017 that left him with cuts and bruises on his face.

The association said he had been threatened and attacked prior to the assault, and police never resolved his prior complaints.

One of Kajtazi's colleagues was also attacked two months earlier, the journalists said.

U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie said it was "unfortunate that journalists in Kosovo are still being physically attacked."

The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Kosovo 78 out of 180 countries in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, released last month.

In Moldova, journalists marked press-freedom day with their traditional Solidarity Press March in Chisinau.

It started at the parliament building and passed the presidential and government office buildings before concluding at the audiovisual regulator's building.

Slogans included "A free press equals a free society," and "We demand media protection."

Reporters Without Borders ranked Moldova 81st in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, saying that the country's media suffered from "excessive influence" from oligarchs.

Freedom House described Moldova as a country with a "partly free" press in its 2017 Freedom of the Press index.

The calls for greater press freedom in the two countries came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement saying, "we honor the many journalists and media actors who have dedicated their lives, often at great risk, to promote transparency and accountability throughout the world."

"We renew our commitment to promoting and protecting a free press, which is an essential pillar of democracy," Pompeo said.

"By fostering a free press, citizens are more informed, active, and engaged in political decision-making, and can better hold their governments accountable."