A majority of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) board voted against the so-called “anti-defamation package”, which Albanian journalists call “censorship package”. 4 of the 7 board members are appointed by the ruling majority, but now AMA has only 5 members in total, 3 of which were appointed by the opposition.
Sami Neza, Agron Gjekmarkaj and Suela Musta voted against the draft law during the routine opinion that involved institutions give for draft-laws before they pass a parliamentary vote.
Former opposition MP Albana Vokshi welcomed the decision and emphasized that the media bills proposed by the Socialist majority aim at censoring the media and, therefore, ‘are unconstitutional, endangering the freedom of the media, freedom of the press, the right to information and the violation of democracy’.
Concerns had been raised by the Council of Europe, the EU Delegation to Albania, the OSCE and a number of local and international media freedom organisations over the powers granted to the AMA. Under the draft law, all decisions including blocking, suspending, and shutting down media sites, as well as imposing huge fines would be in the hands of the AMA, bypassing any court procedures.
This would have a “chilling effect” on media freedom in Albania and could be used as a way to instantly gag the media through financially crippling them, or restricting access while a lengthy court case proceeds
Koloreto Cukali, the Executive Director of the Albanian Media Council had sounded the alarm over the involvement of the AMA, stating 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.”