The Socialist Party have withdrawn the voting of the draft “anti-defamation” package that they were expected to pass in Parliament today.
Following the announcement from the Venice Commission that they would offer an opinion on the constitutionality of the law, and significant pressure from the EU, CoE, OSCE, MEPs and local and international press freedom organisations, the Majority have decided to wait.
Speaker of the Assembly Taulant Balla said that the Venice Commission will discuss the package in an accelerated procedure on 21 March following an expected visit from a delegation in February. The Socialist Party will postpone the vote until after the Venice Commission issues its opinion.
Balla tried to frame the decision in a way that suggests they sought the opinion of the Venice Commission when this is not the case. It was, in fact, the Council of Europe that made the request after President Ilir Meta vetoed the law and said it was unconstitutional.
“I would like to inform you that I have just received communication from the Venice Commission. The Venice Commission has agreed to review it expeditiously at its March 21 session,” Balla told parliament.
The draft law has been widely condemned as having a “chilling effect on media freedom” and infringing on the rights of Albanians. Stakeholders have also warned it could affect the opening of Albania’s EU accession talks as it is not in line with EU or Council of Europe standards or best practices.