RTK to withdraw SLAPP lawsuit against activist Agron Demi

Pristina, October 23, 2021 – We, the organizations and activists noted below, express our concern with the lawsuit filed by Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK), against the activist and policy analyst at the GAP Agron Demi Institute. We ask RTK to immediately withdraw the lawsuit and in the future to refrain from actions that endanger the freedom of expression of activists and discourage the monitoring of this institution.

During the months of March and April 2020 Mr. Demi had written, among other things, the following: “I had added one more measure to preserve health: the immediate closure of RTK”. The public television claims that Demi’s criticism through Facebook statuses, accompanied by a request to shut down the public broadcaster, constitutes hate speech and insults to the television and its employees.

Mr. Demi’s criticisms are fair and represent the bitter truth about the public broadcaster RTK. These criticisms are based on facts known worldwide and supported by international and local reports and court decisions, which emphasize that RTK is a politically influenced institution, due to financial misuse this year its board was dismissed by the Assembly of Kosovo, about half million euros were stolen from the television by its employees, it has repeatedly refused to audit and independent journalists have been continuously censored, which had led to the protest of the journalists themselves against the television.

We express our deep disappointment that RTK, instead of working to improve the dire situation in which the broadcaster finds itself, uses judicial strategies to silence critics.

Further, we consider that the lawsuit brought by the public broadcaster has the characteristics of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). This lawsuit is baseless and has no chance of success in court. Its purpose is to drag Mr. Demi to court, cause stress and financial cost and intimidate him.

We remind you that RTK is a public institution, financed by public money and subject to public supervision. As such, this institution should show a higher level of tolerance for criticism. Moreover, it is shocking that the public budget dedicated to RTK is misused in court proceedings to silence criticism.

Beyond the specific case of Mr. Demi, the very use of SLAPP lawsuits can have a deterrent effect on other activists who monitor and criticize the work of the public broadcaster. Such a dangerous precedent that stifles freedom of expression must not be allowed to be created.

The lawsuit was filed at the Basic Court of Pristina on April 17, 2021 and was signed by Mr. Ngadhenjim Kastrati. The lawsuit does not have the name of the lawyer, while the case will be handled by judge Fatbardha Uka Ibrahimi. Mr. Demi accepted the lawsuit on October 13, 2021 at his workplace.

We will closely monitor the judicial process and have full confidence that the Basic Court of Pristina will handle the case in accordance with the standards of the European Court of Human Rights and will recognize this lawsuit as a SLAPP.

Also, we remain hopeful that one of the first actions of the new RTK board will be to withdraw this lawsuit and prohibit the use of SLAPP lawsuits in the future. Finally, we call on the Media Committee of the Assembly of Kosovo to monitor the developments related to this court case.

Anti-SLAPP Group (Flutura Kusari, Shpresa Loshaj, Adriatik Gacaferri, Ardian Nrecaj, Visar Alimehaj, Rina Kika, Lévizja FOL, KCSF), GAP, Group for Water and Environment Protection, Center for Policy and Advocacy (QPA), Eye of Vision, Multimedia Center, Association of Independent Intellectuals in Deçan, PIPS, Balkan Sun Flowers Kosova, QKSS, Çohu, KDI, Walk Different , Group for Policy Research in the Balkans, D+, Center for the Development of Social Groups – CSGD, INDEP , BIRN, FIQ, Internews Kosova, CHwB Kosova, PEN, Organization for Quality Improvement in Education (ORCA), GLPS, TOKA, Institute for Freedom and Justice, KMDLNj, KRCT, KADC, YMCA Movement, AMPEK, CEL Kosova, Committee of Blind Women of Kosovo, Community Building Mitrovica, COLUMBUS Institute, IKD, YIHR KS, Democracy for Development (D4D), Kosovo – Women 4 Women, IPKO Foundation, Kosovo Initiative for Stability – IKS, RRGK, Balkan Green Foundation, EcoZ, Center for Kosovo Education – KEC, ATRC, Let’s Do It Peja, OMM “Gjethi”, KFOS, DokuFest.