Mr. Murat Mehmeti, the whistleblower on a massive tax evasion scheme in the Tax Administration of Kosovo (TAK), and the ‘Insajderi’ online news portal, which published a series of investigative reports on corruption and organized crime, are the recipients of the 2017 Democracy Award.

The award was presented to the winners in Prishtina on Tuesday, 19 December 2017, by the Swiss Cooperation Office (SDC), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DANIDA) and the Kosovar Civil Society Foundation (KCSF).

The Democracy Award recipients are individuals and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the strengthening of democracy in Kosovo, and the award is presented by the “Democratic Society Promotion” (DSP) Project.

This year’s awardees are the TAK’s whistleblower Mr. Murat Mehmeti, and the representatives of the ‘Insajderi’ news portal, Mr. Vehbi Kajtazi and Mr. Parim Olluri, who received the award after a one-year open competition and the review of the 12 submitted nominations.

Mr. Patrick Etienne, Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office in Kosovo, praised the courage and dedication of the 2017 Democracy Award winners, highlighting the need for a more vibrant civil society, which drives the government towards more transparency and accountability.

“I am optimistic about Kosovo when I see that there are smart, committed and courageous stakeholders who are aware that when the public interest is undermined, indifference is not an option for the country,” said Mr. Etienne.

KCSF Executive Director Ms. Venera Hajrullahu, said that the award highlights the efforts, courage and sacrifices of Kosovo citizens for the democratization of the country.

“This award is representative of our values, and we hope it represent the values of all citizens for whom the transformation of Kosovo into a representative democracy and a functional state is a matter of vital importance,” said Ms. Hajrullahu.

Mr. Murat Mehmeti, who discovered and denounced a major fraud and tax evasion scheme in the tax administration, said that his efforts in exposing wrongdoing did not constitute an isolated struggle.

“My appearance in front of the public to denounce wrongdoing was not a sudden moment of discontent, but rather a long-term accumulation of disappointment, mine and of many others, who also face injustice only because they try to do their job in compliance with the law,” Mr. Mehmeti noted.

‘Insajderi’ Executive Director Parim Olluri, said that despite being less than two years old, the news website has already turned into the nemesis of corrupt officials, who even tried to corrupt its menagment.

“They didn’t make it though, and we’ll continue with our investigations. Their goal was to intimidate us through physical attacks against me and my colleague, but they failed to intimidate us. We will continue to do our job, “said Mr. Olluri.

‘Insajderi’ Editor-in-Chief Vehbi Kajtazi, said that they started this project with three goals: establishing a credible, impartial and professional medium, conquering fear and contributing to the general public interest.
“I believe we have already achieved the first two goals. The third goal is being confirmed tonight as we are honored with the Democracy Award”, said Mr. Kajtazi.

This year’s awardees join the individuals and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the strengthening of democracy in Kosovo, for which Lumbardhi Foundation was awarded in 2016 for the successful protection initiative of the Lumbardhi Cinema in Prizren.