In a press conference in Vienna today, where he presented Albania’s OSCE chairmanship priorities, a journalist from the Spanish News Agency (EFE) asked Prime Minister Edi Rama about the “anti-defamation package”. Rama falsely replied that the OSCE has not criticized the said media laws.
“In December, the Albanian parliament passed a controversial media law that has been criticized to some extent by the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom. You have also spoken to OSCE representatives here in Vienna. I would like to know what the experience has been so far?”
Prime Minister Rama responded:
“Your information is not up to date because the OSCE has not criticized the law. We have been working with the OSCE to ensure, to clarify, any minor uncertainties. You called it a critic [but it was expressed] during the discussions. The law [passed] in parliament has the support of the OSCE. [It’s] A law in line with OSCE standards to find solutions to what we are experiencing with the online media, and it is part of our priority to remove hate speech.”
But there is a false claim in Rama’s statement.
In an interview with Exit News a few days after the laws were adopted in parliament, Harlem Desir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said that they still have disturbing aspects regarding media freedom:
“I clearly indicated that there were improvements in the latest version of the draft laws compared to the previous ones, but that there was still work to be done, in particular on the level of the fines. I added that the application of the law must, in no way, impede freedom of expression and media freedom and that my Office will closely monitor this.”
When asked if he had concerns about the law that had been passed, he said, “yes, I still have concerns,” adding “However, as I stressed before, we will have to continue to work on the reduction of the level of the possible fines. A sub-legal instrument should be discussed with the government, to ensure respect for the principle of proportionality as enshrined in international law.
Now that the vote has passed in Parliament, we will assess the version as adopted. We, therefore, do not consider our work to be finished.”
On December 18, 2019, the Assembly passed two laws that essentially risk to put the online media under government control. Despite criticism by a number of international and local organizations, national ombudsman, and protests by journalists, the ruling Socialist majority passed the laws in parliament.