The dominant PDK-led coalition is blatantly demanding much more airtime on pre-election TV debates than it deserves, raising claims of pressures on media.
Kosovo’s ruling parties have been accused of trying to secure much more than their fair share of media coverage in the general election.
The complaint comes after the candidates of the coalition of three parties – the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, and the Initiative for Kosovo, NISMA – all demanded be treated as separate entities in terms of media coverage.
They want three times more minutes in election TV debates than representatives of the opposition Vetevendosje party – and one-and-a-half times more airtime than the two-party coalition between the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, and Alliance New Kosovo, AKR.
Jeta Xharra, an anchor of TV election debates and BIRN Kosovo’s Director, said what the PDK-run coalition was pushing for looked illegal, since election law guarantees equal air time to each political bloc – not each part of a bloc.
“The PDK has stipulated to all the broadcast media, including us, that as a condition of its participation in our election debates, their coalition should have three times more time to present their programme than Vetevendosje and twice the airtime of the LDK-AKR coalition,” she said.
The head of the board of Independent Media Commission, IMC, Adnan Merovci, told BIRN that Kosovo, unlike elsewhere in the region, has so far had quite a success in organising debates.
“For more than 10 years now, we have seen all political entities in Kosovo present themselves in equal air-time in political debates and the audience has become accustomed to seeing a fair play from this representations, at least during election time,” said Merovci.
In most Balkan countries politicians are routinely refusing to take part in debates with their opponents.
In Albania, which is gearing up for general elections on June 25, Prime Minister Edi Rama ignored the call of main opposition leader Lulzim Basha to match their stands in a TV debate. Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian President, also ignored debate invites ahead of Serbian April 2 presidential elections.
The situation in Kosovo was different however, with debates among parties and top candidates regularly being held since 2004.
While Ramush Haradinaj, candidate for Prime minister of PDK, AAK and NISMA coalition has also refused to partake in debates, candidates for members of parties have routinely participated in debates with opponent parties competing with political programming.
The Association of Journalists of Kosovo called the demand a form of direct pressure on the media ahead of the June 11 election.
“The request of the PDK, AAK, and NISMA parties for their PAN coalition to be treated differently from other parties in an unjust attempt to impose editorial policies … and violates legal provisions that ensure equal representation of all entities certified by the Central Election Commission,” a statement issued on Friday read.
Under Kosovo election law, media are obliged to “ensure that all certified political entities receive fair and equitable coverage during the electoral campaign, and all broadcast media must ensure fair and equitable access to political discussion shows and debates for all certified political entities”.
Kushtrim Sadiku, an anchor at Klan Kosova TV, told BIRN on Friday that the conditions put forward by the PAN coalition damaged the right of citizens to compare the different political programmes. He called it a form of “a pressure on the media in order to make the [TV] debates impossible”.
Adriatik Kelmendi, author and anchor at Kohavision, agreed that the demand violated the CEC and Independent Media Commission rules for fair represantation of all certified political entities.
“It also appears to represent interference with the independence of the media. Those are the reasons why I turned down the format that they demanded,” Kelmendi said.
Adnan Merovci told BIRN that the law does not stipulate anywhere that a political entity composed of three political parties should get triple the amount of airtime on a TV debate.
“If the media meet this request, then they violate the law, because the other political entities would get triple-less time,” Merovci said.
He also said the format of BIRN Kosovo’s election debate, Debat Pernime, which includes representatives of four different political options plus one, for other communities, is what the public needs.
“Not only as an institution but as a citizen of Kosovo who wants to see all the political offers on how to resolve Kosovo’s problems through debate, I like the way Debat Pernime has provided a solution,” he said.
“However, while NISMA and the AAK have participated in BIRN Kosovo debates, the PDK keeps sticking to its demand,” he noted.
02 June 2017 - 17:15
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