Kosovo media outlets' microphones. Photo: BIRN

Kosovo Urged to Drop Legal Push to ‘Control Online Media’

A draft law requiring online media that produce videos to apply for licensing has drawn criticism from local and international media organisations, which accuse the government of attempting to put them under state control.

Local and international media organisations called on Kosovo’s government on Thursday 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 IMC in force since 2012, empowering this body with competencies to regulate the online media, which until now have been self-regulated.

Under current legislation, the IMC is an independent institution responsible for the regulation, management and oversight of the broadcasting frequency spectrum in Kosovo.

“We see the proposed changes as an attempt from government to control online media that produce video materials,” Xhemajl Rexha, Head of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, AJK, said.

This is an attack on freedom of the media and we think that self-regulation is the only appropriate form. We call on government to invite media and NGOs to discuss the matter,” he added.

In its annual report on Kosovo for 2023, 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.

Imer Mushkolaj, head of the Kosovo’s Press Council, a self-regulation body which gathers online media, insisted that the law initiative would weaken the power of the Press Council.

“The goal of the law is to weaken the Press Council and this represents an opposite approach to what is happening in Europe. We call on government to withdraw this draft law,” Mushkolaj said.

“We are not trying to say that media can do whatever they want, this is a lie. All concerns can be addressed through the Independent Media Commission and Press Council and not through a law which controls the media,” he added.

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”.

“However, for the purposes of this legislative initiative, the directive has been interpreted incorrectly, without taking into account the local context and ignoring the existing self-regulatory body in Kosovo. The EU directive in no way provides for the state to put online media under control through a compulsory licensing process,” ECPMF said.

The proposed draft which has been sent to parliament for review requires that media platforms which distribute video materials should undergo registration and licencing procedures at the Independent Media Commission. So far, online media have been registered as businesses while their membership of the Press Council is on a voluntary basis.

01/02/2024 - 16:27

01 February 2024 - 16:27

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.