Pristina, 24 January 2020 – Kosovo Law Institute (KLI) strongly reacts to the Independent Media Commission (IMC), which through the Draft Code of Ethics for the audio and audio-visual service providers strives to infringe the principles and standards guaranteed with the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo and systemic legislation by attempting to impose restrictions on the media on reporting from the court hearings.
According to this document, which is still a draft, it is intended that reporting from court hearings only be done after the final judgement is announced, which it is unacceptable and violates constitutional and legal principles.
KLI reminds the IMC that the Constitution and Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Kosovo stipulate that a criminal case hearing is public and only in certain circumstances the public or media representatives can be excluded, on the cases when this is based on the interests of justice and the measure is mandatory.
Freedom of expression and freedom of media are guaranteed with the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, which also prohibit censorship and does not allow anyone to obstruct the spreading of the information or ideas through media, unless on cases when it is necessary to prevent incitement, provocation of violence and hostilities on the grounds of racial, national, ethnic or religious hatred.
Therefore, such an approach of IMC is a dangerous precedent, because when an administrative body which in this case is the IMC, through secondary legislation, respectively the Draft Code of Ethics, aims to restrict the freedom of expression and freedom of the media, which rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the law.
KLI considers such an attempt as an overcome of the competences and powers of this Commission, which belong to another branch of power, as regulated by the Civil Law against Defamation and Insult. The same law stipulates that it will be interpreted in a way which ensures that the application of its provisions maximizes the principle of the freedom of expression and will be in compliance with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as applied in the legal practices of the European Court of Human Rights.
The part of this Draft Code of Ethics that restricts reporting from the courts, also contradicts the IMC mission itself. The Commission’s mission is to protect the freedom of expression, diversity of opinion, access to information for the journalists and the public, and the interest of media users and operators in conformity with the rule of law.
The draft code of ethics, in the part that restricts reporting from the court and the approach are considered censorship and an obstacle for the transmission of the information which is of a particular interest to the public of Kosovo. KLI states that both, national and international legal provisions, as well as the ECHR practice give crucial importance to the open hearings for the public and stakeholders, to ensure a fair trial, whose ultimate goal is the public trust in the independence and impartiality of the courts.
KLI considers that the publicity of court hearings should be understood in such a way that under any circumstances it will not harm the administration of justice. On the contrary, as the ECHR practice provides, it protects the litigants against the covert administration of justice and is one of the ways in which the public trust towards the courts will be maintained. Thus, IMC should be aware that publicity of court hearings, according to ECHR, is one of the elements that shapes the right of a fair trial.
In this regard, KLI, requests IMC to stop these kinds of practices which violate the foundations and values on which the Kosovo Constitutional order is built. Attempts to obtain power and competences belonging to the other branches, pose a threat to freedom of expression and freedom of the media.