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Monday, September 26, 2011

Jeta Xharra is a journalist's journalist, smart and wedded to the highest standards of her craft.

 As Executive Director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, she is based in Kosovo where she has a weekly panel show on the public television channel.

In a 90-minute presentation on Kosovo at the US Institute of Peace (USIP), 21 September, she said the US embassy in Kosovo once wanted her to remove what it regarded as a dangerous man on the panel. ‘But we had four other panellists, and I felt we needed to be open to all viewpoints,’ she said. The man remained.

I met her before her presentation, moderated by Dr Michael J. Dziedzic (PhD, Senior Program Officer: Stabilization Center for Conflict Management. At my request, he gave her the Sarajevo Commitment. I also briefed her about the ICF.

What came through her talk was the powerful role media play in the effort to eliminate corruption, raise living standards and otherwise make Kosovo a model country. She said 82 countries now recognize it.

With the help of dozens of her network's investigative journalists she monitors public officials, the courts and other power sources. Kosovo is a ‘diverse group of people,’ in a two million population market, she said, and added her network's aim is to help improve ‘education, the economy and eliminate corruption and violence against women.’ As well, she wants women on courts.

While most Kosovo residents are Albanian, the country has a sizable minority of Serbians. From Xharra's account, the Serbians are doing quite well though they don't have the public TV channel the Kosovo Constitution guaranteed them. Asked why, she said she thought it was mostly because they lacked the resources. Moreover, they have private TV channels.

Xharra's evident principal fear now is that the government's plan to privatize Kosovo's oil production (third largest supply in Europe) will breed corruption. She planned to meet with World Bank representatives during its annual meeting this week in Washington to encourage more aid to Kosovo.

A year-2000 MA graduate in War Studies from King's College, London, she later managed the BBC bureau in Kosovo. She also worked for BBC News in Albania and Macedonia in 1999.