War In The Balkans: Kosovar paper reborn in exile

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN HAS put up pounds 100,000 to bring one of Kosovo's most vital newspapers back to life. Albanian refugees stranded in camps in Macedonia were for the first time yesterday able to read Koha Ditore, which used to operate from the Kosovo capital, Pristina.

Serb paramilitaries and police shut the newspaper last month and for weeks little or nothing was known of the editorial staff as the province was engulfed by Serb terror.

The editor, Baton Haxhiu, was feared dead in the early days of the conflict but yesterday he appeared yesterday on CNN television by satellite link holding up the newspaper's first edition. He said he had escaped Serb forces by hiding in basements for 12 days. "I am here and have in my hand your support, Koha Ditore, which is being distributed to all Albanian- speaking people in the Macedonian camps," he said.

The first edition in exile led with a headline: "The refugees in Albania should stay until there are guarantees for their return to Kosovo."

The Foreign Minister, Robin Cook, said yesterday that he had met some of the exiled journalists who had escaped from Kosovo with other refugees streaming out to Albania and Macedonia. "We cannot get Kosovars back their homes yet, but we can give them back their voice," Mr Cook said.

He added that the refugees needed access to a newspaper they could trust.

The Foreign Office donated pounds 100,000 to help the staff buy computers and newsprint. The paper is being produced by the same journalists who put it together in Pristina.

Before it was shut down, Koha Ditore was regarded as the most dynamic paper in the province, with a young staff and an independent outlook.

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