President Ilir Meta has expressed his deep concern over Albania’s continuing regression in relation to media freedom.
Meta released a statement shortly after it was announced the country fell a further two places in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, now ranking at number 84.
“Deterioration in the World Media Freedom Index, according to the annual conclusions of Reporters Without borders is unacceptable and requires an immediate response from everyone,” he said.
He referred to the warning from RSF that the so-called “anti-defamation” package will worsen the situation for media freedom in Albania. Meta called on the government to withdraw and review the package of adopted laws which he says are unconstitutional and violate the principles of a democratic state.
The President previously vetoed the law, returning it to Parliament. The laws are now being reviewed by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and the government has said it will wait for their response before passing the law.
The package would bring all online media under the control of the state, giving them the power to shut down and levy fines against portals without a court order.
Meta said that “freedom of expression is a fundamental human rights, an irreplaceable pillar of modern democratic society, and vital to ensuring accountability by all public institutions.”
He highlighted the concerns of RSF that the government was using the earthquake disaster and the COVID-19 epidemic to justify serious violations of media freedom.
Lastly, he praised journalists and media workers for their “excellent heroic work” on the front line of reporting during these times.