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Estonian, Latvian journalists arrested in Kosovo

Rodion Denissov, former Tallinna TV presenter

News agencies reported on Thursday that authorities in Kosovo have arrested former Tallinna TV presenter Rodion Denissov on Wednesday, along with his wife Vera and a Latvian colleague.

Since the arrest took place, no precise accusations have been made, though Denissov said he had been arrested because his work represented a danger to Kosovo. The three were later released.

The arrest of Denissov, his wife Vera, and Latvian journalist Juri Aleksejev was confirmed to ERR’s Russian news portal by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As sources reported, a representative of the Kosovan police told ERR’s Russian news portal that they are investigating the objective of Denissov’s presence in Kosovo, after which the three would be released at the Serbian border.

The journalists were arrested as they were doing an interview with the mayor of Parteš, a town in one of Kosovo’s Serbian municipalities. Denissov said. According to the police, they had “distorted facts” and presented a danger to Kosovo. Denissov didn’t want to comment on the accusations any further.

According to activists on social media, the three were released on the same day by Kosovan authorities. Images posted on Twitter portrayed Aleksejev posing in various t-shirts with nationalist Serbian slogans and imagery. On Facebook he later wrote that he was already in Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after NATO mounted airstrikes to drive out Serb forces and halt the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanians in a two-year Serb counterinsurgency.

Human rights organization Freedom House said in its 2017 report that the media in Kosovo were "partly free," but that threats against journalists and their arrest have increased in recent years.

Last year a hand grenade was thrown at the home of the head of Kosovo's state broadcaster RTK days after another explosive device was thrown into the broadcaster's courtyard.

Journalists in Kosovo have not only been arrested like the case of Denissov, his wife and their colleague, but also faced threats for their reporting before. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in August 2016, the group Rugovasit took responsibility for detonating an explosive device in the back yard of Mentor Shala, the head of Kosovo's public broadcaster, and threatened further attacks if he did not resign. The group said it opposed the broadcaster's coverage of a border demarcation deal with Montenegro.