Kosovo’s Independent Media Commission. PHOTO: BIRN.

Kosovo’s Draft Media Bill Sparks Concerns Over Political and Religious Influence over TV Stations

Civil society organisations in Kosovo have raised alarms over a new draft law proposed by the Independent Media Commission, IMC, citing concerns that it could pave the way for political parties and religious communities to establish their own television stations.

Civil society organisations have expressed their concerns on a new draft law of the Independent Media Commission which aims at regulating the online media. These groups are concerned about the law’s potential impact on media diversity, independence, and the broader regulatory landscape governing media outlets in the country.

Media rights lawyer Flutura Kusariexplained on a March 25 a public hearing at the Public Administration, Local Government, Media, and Regional Development Commission that her main concern is that this “draft law allows political parties and religious communities to open television or radio stations.”

“Until now, political parties, the Islamic Community of Kosovo, or other religious organisations did not have the right to open television or radio stations. The draft law has removed the part that prohibits them from opening television stations and allows them to do so,” Kusari declared.

According to Kusari, the draft bill would quickly lead to a situation in Kosovo with an “overcrowded media scene with television stations that can invest large amounts of money and then compete with private television stations that provide content for the public”.

Kusari is also concerned about the new law’s impact on gender equity. Currently, the IMC is required to have at least two women on its board, and the draft law removes this requirement. 

“Increasing the number of members from 7 to 11 makes it easier for political capture of the IMC, not only by one political party, but by any political party, ” Kusari added.

Despite criticisms from local and international organisations, on March 7, 2024 the Assembly of Kosovo  approved in principle the Draft Law for the Independent Media Commission.

Editor in Chief at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Kosovo, BIRN, Kreshnik Gashi  put forward two proposals in response to the draft media law during the same public hearing. First, he suggested that the IMC should retain the registration of online media producing videos, with oversight from the Press Council of Kosovo in order to address ethical concerns. 

 “We propose implementing a system where complaints about ethical violations by online media, particularly those publishing videos, are initially reviewed by the Press Council. Alternatively, these complaints could be submitted directly to the IMC, but with a prerequisite that the IMC seeks input from the Press Council before making any decisions”, Gashi stated.

Additionally, Gashi advocated for financial transparency within media entities, proposing amendments to the Finance Law that would require businesses with media outlets to disclose their profits.

“Recalling the principle of full transparency, BIRN and Internews Kosova will demand IMC to publish its audited financial reports of media in order to avoid dubious financing sources of media and provide public necessary information about their financing,” Gashi said.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, AJK,  Xhemajl Rexha, declared that AJK continues to oppose the idea of online media producing videos being registered with the IMC.

“We continue to believe that it is a decision that should not go further, it should be postponed for several reasons, including the capacity of the IMC to control and monitor online media.

On February 1, local and international media organisations called on Kosovo’s government to withdraw the IMC draft law and stop attempting to put online media “under control.”

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, ECPMF, issued an urgent call through a statement to the Office of the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, to review this Draft Law.  According to the centre, the lack of transparency during the drafting process  raises concerns, highlighting the importance of involving journalists and civil society.

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.

In December 2023, the Government of Kosovo approved the draft law amending the Law on the IMC, in force since 2012, empowering the commission to regulate online media outlets, which until now have been self-regulated.

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

and 11/04/2024 - 15:14

11 April 2024 - 15:14

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.