Amid concerns about media freedom, Kosovo’s Commercial Court postponed the execution of a government decision to suspend TV channel Klan Kosova’s business certificate, which would prevent it from operating.
Kosovo’s Commercial Court decided on Thursday to postpone the execution of government decision to close down privately-owned TV channel Klan Kosova by removing its business certificate until a final court decision is taken.
In its verdict, Kosovo’s Commercial Court said that Klan Kosova has fulfilled the legal criteria to continue operating.
“Since according to the certificates presented [to the court], it transpires that the plaintiff [Klan Kosova] has made the [required] changes in business registries in North Macedonia and Kosovo, the court assessed that postponing the execution of the contested decision does not conflict with the public interest,” judge Arnis Dumani said in the verdict.
The verdict also said that it would be “contrary to the public interest” and the media freedom guarantees in Kosovo’s constitution if it did not postpone the execution of the decision to suspend the channel’s business certificate.
The Association of Journalists of Kosovo, AJK, welcomed the verdict which it said allows Klan Kosova to stay on air “despite the government’s decision to shut it down”.
“The AJK will closely monitor further procedures, hoping that a swift epilogue will close this episode of the government attemptting to undermine freedom of media in Kosovo,” the AJK said.
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom also welcomed the court’s decision, saying that “this interim decision protects media pluralism and counters the government’s attempts to undermine press freedom”.
The dispute started in June when news website Kosovanews published an investigation that suggested irregularities in Klan Kosova’s registration in Kosovo’s business registry.
The ministry then suspended Klan Kosova’s business certificate and initiated a criminal complaint against the company, its managers and officials from the Business Registration Agency on suspicion of misuse of office.
According to the decision, which was made public by the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, the ministry suspended Klan Kosova’s business certificate because the owners’ residential address is allegedly registered as “Peje-Serbia and Gjakove-Serbia… [which is] in violation with the basic principles of the constitution of the Republic of Kosovo”. Both towns are in Kosovo, not Serbia.
The Independent Media Commission, the institution responsible for the regulation, management and oversight of broadcasters in Kosovo, gave TV channel a month to correct the documentation, but on the final day, July 28, the ministry said that Klan Kosova failed to comply with the request.
Klan Kosova insisted on Monday however that it has corrected all the data in the business registry and accused the ministry of “fraudulently presenting a situation that does not exist”.
But the ministry said that its commission, which reviewed the case, acted in accordance with the law when it suspended the certificate.
“The commission decision closes this case within the ministry while the complaining entity has the right to take the case to the court,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry’s decision sparked angry reactions and hundreds of journalists and civil society activists marched on Monday to Pristina’s main square to protest, holding a banner with the slogan “Democracy dies in darkness”, calling the move to suspend the business certificate an attempt to curb the freedom of the media.