Today, the Albanian Media Council called a meeting between journalists and media organisations to discuss the way forward, in light of the Socialist majority’s plans to pass the controversial “anti-defamation law” on 19 December.
Journalists and representatives from human rights organisations discussed their reaction to the government’s plans which they said would “imprison free speech” if approved.
Aleksander Cipa, the head of the Union of Journalists stated that if the government does not reconsider their plans, journalists should consider radical positions to ensure their right to carry out their work is not infringed upon. Journalist Enton Abilekaj described the law as a “seizure of power” and called on media workers to call for the law to be dropped. When considering next steps, Exit journalist Alice Taylor called for protests involving all print and visual journalists as well as civil society, stating “this law threatens every person in this country, not just journalists, by denying them the right to information.”
Those in attendance also decided on a new declaration that reiterated the call on the government to repeal the draft laws “immediately and unequivocally”, noting that if enforced, the law would be an “unprecedented act in the democratic world.”
They pushed again for self-regulation of the media, in line with EU and international standards and added that the current Criminal Code and Civil Code both provide redress in cases of defamation.
The declaration states that: “Albania has enough laws that regulate issues when the media violates the rights of others and any other interference, including the creation of an administrative body, is completely unnecessary in a democratic society.”
In addition to this, signatories of the declaration confirmed that they feel the law is an “attempt to replace the courts with bodies directly subordinate to political power” which they say constitutes the basis for “serious violations of fundamental human rights and can be transformed into the cornerstone of a dictatorial regime.”
Proposed ways forward include protests at Parliament, officially requesting that the President does not approve the law, appealing to the Constitutional Court, meeting with foreign ambassadors to request their engagement in stopping the law, and creating a self-regulatory platform with the participation of media organisations and international partners.