A draft law that requires online platforms distributing audio-visual materials to be registered with the Kosovo Independent Media Commission might need an assessment by the Venice Commission due to backlash the government is facing by local and international media organisations.
A draft law that requires online media producing videos to register with the Kosovo Independent Media Commission, KPM, which was highly criticised from local and international media organisations that accused the government of attempting to exert state control, might need an official assessment from the Venice Commission, experts told Kallxo Përnime show.
Labinot Leposhtica, the legal office coordinator of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN Kosovo), told Kallxo Përnime that the draft law for the KPM should be sent to the Venice Commission to avoid misinterpretations.
“The minimum of correctness for this significant draft law is to be sent to the Venice Commission. We discussed the reasons,” Leposhtica further stated.
On February 1, local and international media organisations called on Kosovo’s government to withdraw the draft law on the Independent Media Commission, IMC, and stop attempting to put online media “under control”.
In December, the government approved the draft law which amends the Law on the KPM, in force since 2012, empowering this body with competencies to regulate the online media, which until now have been self-regulated. This draft law stipulates that platforms distributing video materials and online media must be registered with the IMC if they wish to publish audio and video materials.
Under current legislation, the IMC is an independent institution responsible for the regulation, management and oversight of the broadcasting frequency spectrum in Kosovo.
The former chairman of the Parliamentary Media Commission in the Kosovo Parliament, Nait Hasani, also claimed that to dispel doubts, the draft law for the KPM should be sent to the Venice Commission.
“Valon (Ramadani, the current chairman of the Parliamentary Media Commission) should be responsible, saying yes, we are for a transparent law, a law that serves citizens, a law that serves the media, and we are ready to go to the Venice Commission. If there are mistakes, dispel doubts, what is the government afraid of, not daring to go to Venice?” Hasani said.
Ramadani, MP of Kosovo ruling party Lëvizja Vetëvendosje (in English Self-Determination Movement), disagrees with this proposal, claiming that the law has no shortcomings that need to be addressed in the commission.
“I think there is no room to send it to the Venice Commission. Experts have worked on this draft law. I don’t understand why we should send it to Venice, adding that after it passes the first reading they will invite citizens to discuss this law in most major centres,” Ramadani declared.
He told Kallxo Përnime show that the initiative to amend the law for the Independent Media Commission, KPM, does not aim to control online media and the government, however, considers it in line with the European Union directive.
“This law is in harmony with the directive of the European Union. We have had cooperation with the European Commission or had experts working on this proposal, two experts have proposed this version,” Ramadani told Kallxo Përnime show.
Ramadani claimed that contrary to what the Association of Journalists of Kosovo and the Kosovo Press Council have claimed, online media would not be licensed under the new law but would register voluntarily.
“The media is not being censored… Online media will not need licensing; this is misinformation” Ramadani said, adding that “registration will be voluntary, not mandatory; you cannot find it in the law that it is mandatory”.
The draft law stipulates that platforms distributing video materials and online media must be registered with the IMC if they wish to publish audio and video materials.
In its 2023 Kosovo annual report, the European Commission said that “the media environment in Kosovo remains lively and pluralistic, and the legal framework is mostly in line with European standards”.
The report suggested that Kosovo review the Law on the Independent Media Commission to update its powers, including regarding audiovisual media, in line with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
Leposhtica said that the reactions from the Association of Journalists of Kosovo and the Council of Written Media of Kosovo regarding the draft law for the Independent Media Commission, KPM, are belated, considering the draft law was approved by the Kosovo government and was sent and processed by the Parliament for almost one month.
According to him, the Kosovo government should organise a campaign to inform the journalist community about the changes expected through this draft law.
“This shows the unwillingness of the initiator of the draft law, the Prime Minister’s Office, to have as inclusive a process as possible. Even if the media and organisations refuse to participate, the Office should conduct an informative campaign on what is happening in this process,” Leposhtica declared.
Xhemajl Rexha, Head of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, AJK, had declared on Friday, that “we see the proposed changes as an attempt from the government to control online media that produce video materials,”
Flutura Kusari, a media lawyer, said if the bill goes forward, it would drastically change the regulation of all the online media in Kosovo. “We know that most of them publish video materials,” Kusari said.
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, ECPMF, echoed Kosovo media organisations’ concerns saying that the need to harmonise national legislation with the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive, AVMSD, is being used “to justify the introduction of a licensing system”.
05 February 2024 - 17:52
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