The OSCE is conducting a legal review on the Socialist Party proposed Law on Audiovisual Media and Law on Electronic Communications and will be sending it “in the coming days.”
In the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media biannual report, presented to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna this week, Harlem Desir explained how they have provided several legal reviews but there was still work to be done.
Desir wrote to Prime Minister Edi Rama, consulted the government on drafting processes, and even met with members of the government including Director of Communications Endri Fuga to discuss various concerns. The Representative stated that throughout, he “emphasized that it is necessary that this legislation respects international standards and OSCE commitments on freedom of expression.”
He stressed that the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) should not substitute the independent judiciary or self-regulatory mechanisms on issues of freedom of expression. Also highlighted was the fact that procedures relating to blocking content, fines for breaches of the law and the modalities for the right of reply must adhere to international standards.
Despite ongoing dialogue and some amendments, Desir noted that several remaining issues still need to be addressed including article 33/1 which mentions “the respect of privacy and dignity of citizens”. He wrote that this clause in the hand of AMA could negatively impact the freedom of expression in Albania.
The most recent draft of the so-called “anti-defamation package” was published last week and has largely ignored most of the OSCE recommendations.
All decisions including financial penalties, suspensions, blocking, and even shutting down of sites would be in the hands of the AMA, bypassing any court processes. Furthermore, there are a number of violations of media freedom in the law including economic discriminations, registering with AMA for “fiscal benefits”, and the act of turning ethics into a mandatory law.
Concerns have also been raised over vague language used within the law and the likelihood that the government will pass subsequent by-laws and regulations that will increase the scope of the law, dealing a major blow to media freedom.
Earlier this week, the AMA board voted against the law, three votes to five. The board should contain seven members, four appointed by the Socialist Party, three by the opposition but at the moment the board only has five members, three of which were appointed by the opposition.