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Olivera Kovacevic, Serbia’s head of entertainment, says EBU decision to disqualify Joost Klein was “too harsh”

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The EBU’s decision to disqualify The Netherlands, represented this year by Joost Klein, upset numerous Eurovision fans worldwide. And it has not gone unnoticed by Eurovision artists and their broadcasters. Olivera Kovačević, the head of entertainment at Serbian broadcaster RTS, spoke about the situation on the show Među nama on TV Nova, declaring that the EBU’s decision was too harsh.

 

The Netherlands’ disqualification 

On Friday evening, approximately 30 minutes before the jury final, the EBU announced that Joost Klein, representing The Netherlands, would not perform in that night’s jury show, which contributes to 50% of the final score. This decision stemmed from its ongoing investigation into “a reported incident.” While the EBU was initially vague about the nature of “the incident,” it was revealed that the Malmö police were on-site conducting an investigation.

According to our bloggers at the event, they witnessed the Netherlands’ Eurovision 2024 singer participating in the opening flag parade during the afternoon dress rehearsal. This indicates that the EBU made a sudden decision sometime between the flag parade and his scheduled rehearsal, following Luxembourg in spot 4 and just before Israel in spot 6. The EBU subsequently announced that The Netherlands would not participate in any rehearsals until further notice.

Following the news, Dov Gil-Har, a news anchor at Israel’s state broadcaster, approached the Dutch bluebird dancer with a camera, saying, “Where were you? We missed you on stage.” A security guard for the Dutch team is heard saying, “What are you doing? Why are you doing that?” and “Can you please stop that.” Fans recalled that the night before — at the Semi-Final 2 qualifiers press conference — Joost insisted that the Israeli representative, Eden Golan, should be made to respond to a question about whether the presence of Israel posed a security risk to the event and the contestants. The camera incident was, no doubt, stoking existing tension. 

On the day of the Grand Final, the EBU announced that the Netherlands was disqualified from the contest. The EBU stated that the disqualification was based on a complaint from a member of the Swedish crew who felt threatened by Joost Klein. Dutch broadcaster AVROTROS issued a statement providing details on the exact events that occurred:

Despite AVROTROS’s efforts to find a solution, the EBU maintained their decision to disqualify the Netherlands. On Sunday the EBU updated their initial statement regarding the reasoning behind the disqualification, holding firm in their position but still not providing the details that all Eurovision fans are eagerly awaiting:

(…)

Joost’s behaviour was in clear breach of Contest rules which are designed to ensure there is a safe working environment for all staff and to protect the production. We are not pre-judging the legal process but, given the circumstances of what occurred and the fact that the police case will shortly be handed to the prosecutor, it would not have been appropriate for Joost to participate in the Grand Final.

The decision to exclude him was backed by the Contest’s governing body of Members – the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group – and unanimously supported by the EBU Executive Board, following a thorough internal investigation.

The version of events released in some public comments and on social media does not correspond with the statements shared with us and the Swedish Police by staff and witnesses. However, the matter is now subject to legal proceedings and there is unfortunately nothing further we can add at this stage.

(…)

Full statement bellow: 

Olivera Kovačević considers the punishment too harsh

Serbia has entered the debate with Olivera Kovačević, head of entertainment at RTS and the supervisor of the Serbian national selection, announcing that they will write to the EBU demanding an explanation for Joost Klein’s disqualification. Kovačević believes the punishment was too harsh, stating that even if the EBU’s account of the incident is accurate, the penalty is “extreme,” especially considering how close it was to the Grand Final. She emphasized that rehearsals are precisely for instances when a contestant cannot be present at the venue, suggesting that the EBU could have streamed Joost’s rehearsal clip if they really wanted to prevent him from entering the arena. Kovačević said that RTS will not remain silent and will demand a thorough explanation from the EBU. She also highlighted the contest’s importance for Serbia, noting that the semi-finals were popular and the Grand Final attracted two million viewers in the country. 

She also addressed Israel’s participation in Eurovision by stating that she doesn’t find their participation just, even if they were the victims in the beginning, and also that she suspects an organized voting campaign in the Western Europe Countries:  “We can discuss whether Israel’s participation is just, Israel was attacked first and may have been the victim in the beginning, however with how the situation has developed, with every dead Palestinian child…Israel is slowly losing its right to participate [in international events], more importantly it’s losing the media war, as much as people say that there’s an Israeli [propaganda] push, you can’t sell a product which is very bad. Israel received the highest marks almost exclusively from Western European countries, there’s also a possibility there was an organized voting campaign.”

 

 

The other contestants reactions following the disqualification

The EBU’s decision sparked a wave of reactions as Eurovision fans expressed outrage, leaving numerous comments on all Eurovision and EBU social media platforms in support of Joost Klein. Käärijä, the Finnish representative from the previous year who was selected to announce the jury points this year, declared on the evening of the Grand Final that he would not announce the Finnish votes: “I have decided not to participate as the spokesperson for the Finnish jury in tonight’s Eurovision finale. Giving out the points tonight does not feel right.” Eurovision fans suspected his decision was related to the disqualification of the Netherlands from the contest, as Käärijä and Joost are known to be friends.

Eurovision contestants were asked about the decision, and some expressed their opinions. The Estonian representatives, 5miinust / puuluup, commented to the Dutch press: “It’s sad he’s gone. As we said before, he was the only one relaxed.” They had previously expressed their belief that the Netherlands could win.

Dons, the Latvian representative, also expressed his regret towards the Netherlands disqualification by stating to the Dutch press: “That would be fun (Joost performing), He’s always fun. And, I don’t know what happened, because I’m not on social media today that much but he’s an incredible person. He’s a very very loving guy. And I wish him all the best and Joost, if you see this, pick up the phone, I’m calling you tomorrow.”

 

The representative of Albania, Besa, competed in the 2nd Semifinal alongside The Netherlands. As the EBU investigation unfolded, Besa took to social media with a series of posts and replies, openly expressing her support for the Netherlands and their contestant. On the day of the Grand Final, she shared her thoughts on the escalating events that transpired from the Second Semifinal until the Grand Final night. Besa was among the contestants who openly advocated for the Netherlands to be allowed to perform in the Grand Final.

She strongly asserted that the EBU’s decision, made while the investigation was still ongoing, was wrong and artistically unfair. She emphasized that if Joost Klein were found guilty, he should be appropriately punished. However, she defended his right not to be judged without evidence and to avoid disproportionate punishment for any potential wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Joost Klein’s performance from the second semifinal has garnered 8.9 million views on YouTube, making it the most viewed performance from the Second Semi-Final. Currently, “Europapa” is at #22 in the Top 50 Global chart on Spotify and #50 in the Top 50 Viral chart on Spotify. In the Netherlands, the song holds the position of #9 in the Top 50 Viral chart and #1 in the Top 50 Netherlands chart on Spotify.

 

What are your thoughts regarding the Netherlands disqualification? Let us know in the comments below. 

 

 

 

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