Kosovo: our letter to the Prime Minister on the capture of public television

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Source/Author: EFJ

On 3 February, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and its partners co-signed the following letter to the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti (VV), following the appointment of a ruling party activist as director of the public television RTK.

Dear Albin Kurti, President of Vetevendosje Movement (VV) and Prime Minister of Kosovo,

Our international press freedom and journalists’ organisations are writing to you to share our shared concerns about the recent appointment process for the new director of television at Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) Mr. Rilind Gërvalla.

Ahead of the voting by the Board of RTK on Tuesday 31 January 2023, many of our organisations made public calls expressing our hope that the selection would be made based on merit, professionalism and independence rather than political affiliations.

Council of Europe and international standards on this process are clear: appointments cannot be used to exert political or other influence over the operation of the public service media. Individuals appointed to positions of management within public service broadcasters should also be fully independent from all political parties and vested interests.

We note, however, that multiple news reports published by media in Kosovo have shown clear connections between Mr. Gërvalla and your political party Vetëvendosje. Our organisations believe these links call into question the integrity of the process and risk further undermining public trust in the political autonomy of the broadcaster.

We have actively monitored the developments concerning the public broadcaster since Vetevendosje came to power, we have commended your party at the Council of Europe level for the election of the new independent board in a professional and transparent manner with full inclusion of civil society.

We also noted during our recent press freedom mission to Kosovo as part of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Safety of Journalists the commendable progress made during your administration in overseeing the depoliticization of RTK and its management structures after decades of state control, including the recent managerial decisions taken by the Board. This progress has also been acknowledged internationally in reports by the EU and international human rights bodies.

It is vital that this hard-won progress led by your party is not undermined. We believe that as long as Mr. Gervalla serves as director of the television, it will not allow you and your party to continue the depoliticization and reform of the public broadcaster.

A new recruitment and appointment process should be organised, with ample time given for applications, to ensure that the position is filled by a professional and respected candidate with no links to the government or any political party.

We believe doing so would strengthen the ongoing reform process of RTK, help regain much needed public trust of the country’s citizens in the functional independence public broadcaster, further safeguard RTK from political pressures, and represent a boost for press freedom and democracy in Kosovo.

More widely, we restate our shared concern about the annual funding cut imposed on RTK by your government – now at its lowest in a decade – which we believe is undermining the ability of the public broadcaster to meet programming requirements and fulfil its public service mission. Moving forward, we urge your administration to ensure a stable and sustainable funding model for RTK. Our organisations will continue to monitor the situation regarding RTK closely in the coming weeks and months and report all issues of concern to relevant European institutions.

Regards,

  • Article 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)