I met with BIRN's legal assistant Fitore Metbala early in June to talk about the role of the media in Kosovo’s justice system. Fitore Metbala had previously worked at CLARD and had been working for BIRN for five months.
The Balkan Investigate Reporting Network in Kosovo is an independent media organization that monitors public institutions and officials in Kosovo. Most recently, they have been monitoring the courts.
Like most Kosovars I have met, Fitore is fed up with the level of corruption in Kosovo’s state institutions. Media often needs to shine a spotlight on these state institutions to remind them of their responsibilities. BIRN monitors public institutions and officials and make reports and recommendations in order to increase accountability, Fitore said.
BIRN has started to film court hearings, and will try to broadcast all court hearings to minimize any possibility of misconduct and corruption in the courts. They were filming the court hearing when I tagged along with PILPG for the second hearing in BIRN v. Kosovo Prosecutorial Council at the Justice Palace in Pristina.
The case was about the noncompliance of KPC with public records laws. BIRN had submitted multiple requests for various records including the performance of judges and the outcome of disciplinary hearings in the KPC, but were denied them. The KPC claimed information of that kind was protected under the law of private data.
Fitore said that KPC can’t hide behind the law of private data when transparency is in the public interest. The public has a right to know when a judge or prosecutor is found guilty of misconduct and corruption. They are public officials and therefore must answer to the public, Fitore said.
While those supporting BIRN almost packed the small courtroom, only the lawyer defending the KPC was present to support KPC. PILPG and my boss Anton had predicted that this hearing would be the last, but the judge decided to conduct a third hearing in order to give the parties more time to authenticate a document the KPC submitted.
Fitore hopes that the court will find for BIRN and thus set a precedent for future public records case. If BIRN wins this case, other state institutions and officials may think twice before engaging in corrupt activities because they will know that the public has access to that information.
The level of corruption in the judicial system in Kosovo is saddening, Fitore said. Sadder still, many corrupt judges and prosecutors go unpunished. Corrupt judges continue to corrupt the system by retaining their positions and making legal decisions on cases. The result is public distrust.
“How is justice possible if corrupt justices continue to stay in office and make decisions in office,” Fitore said.
Kosovo’s still a young state and needs time to improve, Fitore said. International institutions often want things to happen immediately – they give little time for Kosovo to implement their recommendations. Change takes time.
And she’s right. Even I find myself frustrated with Kosovo’s inability to implement its new laws and meet international standards. I sometime forget that like a child, a state also needs time to mature. I just hope that Kosovo can make the necessary changes to its system and implement them before the people become even more disenchanted with their public institutions.
Like KLI’s Genc Nimoni, Fitore believes that Kosovo’s youth has a crucial role to play in reforming Kosovo. The new generation shouldn’t have to compete with the older generation, Fitore said. They are not enemies. They should work together to fight against corruption, to improve the laws and their implementation, and to build a better Kosovo.
“We, the youth, are trying to improve, to bring new methods, new ways of thinking,” Fitore said. “The old generation and new generation can collaborate. That is what we are trying to tell them.”