From: Exit Staff
European Commission Spokesperson Calls on Albanian Government to Improve Media Laws

European Commission (EC) spokeswoman Ana Pisonero said in Brussels today that the government should use the President’s decrees to improve the two media laws known as “anti-defamation packages”.

Pisonero, the spokeswoman for neighbourhood and enlargement, urged the government and the parliamentary majority to enact all Council of Europe recommendations.

“[…] we see it as an opportunity to reflect the changes [in the laws] to the fact that the President returned the law to Parliament. And this is something we still hope they will make [the changes]. “

Pisonero stressed that she supported the recommendations for promoting media self-regulation, guaranteeing judicial independence in reviewing complaints and enhancing the transparency of media ownership.

On January 12,  President Ilir Meta returned to parliament two laws – “On Audiovisual Media” and “Electronic Communication” – labelled by the government as “anti-defamation packages”. He argued that they violate constitutional principles, the right to freedom of expression, the press and the right to information, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

Meta called on Parliament to revise the laws accordingly. His decision was welcomed by Reporters Without Borders .

On January 13, the leader of the Socialist parliamentary group Taulant Balla said President Meta  was ordered by  opposition leader Lulzim Basha not to promulgate the laws and that “in the first session they will be overthrown.” The closest first session is that of January 30.

After parliament approved the anti-defamation package, despite criticism and protests from journalists, Prime Minister Edi Rama stated that OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, had agreed with the final version.

However, in an  interview with Exit News that took place after the laws were passed, Desir said that despite improvements made to the drafts prior to approval, his office still had concerns about some of the content of the laws.

Following President’s decrees, Desir’s office at the OSCE then called on the government to review the laws.

The Albanian constitution provides that the President may return a law to Parliament only once. Most lawmakers can overhaul the laws or overturn the president’s decree and pass the law by a simple majority.

Euronews analyzed that if parliament adopts the laws again without making any changes, this would have consequences for the country’s European path as media freedom is one of the key priorities to be respected in the integration process.