The proposed “anti-defamation” package proposed by the Albanian government has nothing to do with defamation and is only called as such, for a “propaganda effect”, according to the Albanian Media Council’s Executive Director Koloreto Cukali.
Responding to questions from Exit regarding the latest draft of the bill, Cukali added that “the main flaw of the draft is that it is trying to regulate ethics in media, instead of allowing self-regulation which is the standard in EU countries.”
One of the most concerning aspects of the proposed law is the fact that all decisions including financial penalties of up to €830,000, license suspensions and even shutting down and blocking of online media platforms, will be in the hands of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA). Cukali states that they are a “biased institution whose board is selected by political parties and the so-called Council of Ethics who lack independence and professional capacities.”
He also raises the fact that the AMA will have the power to enact executive orders such as fines and the blocking of sites immediately, bypassing any court process. While media platforms can file a complaint in the court, the fines, blocking and other penalties will remain in place until a court decision has been reached.
This has the potential to be used as a mechanism to instantly gag the media by crippling them financially or blocking access, whilst a potentially lengthy and costly court case proceeds.
According to Cukali, “there are plenty of other violations” including economic discriminations, registering with AMA for “fiscal benefits”, very high fines, and impacting freedom of speech by turning ethics into a mandatory law.
Lastly, he stated that “once the law passes they can put whatever they want in thee sub-laws and regulations that will accompany it, making it a major blow to freedom of expression in Albania.”