OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir warns that freedom of press remains threatened in too many places within the OSCE region.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated already existing issues, including economic difficulties many media outlets face.
In his biannual report to the OSCE Council, that spans the period from November 1, 2019 to July 2, 2020, Desir noted 132 cases he intervened wherein the physical safety of journalists was endangered, as well as 200 cases where their legal safety was at risk.
Desir strongly encouraged States to provide comprehensive financial support for the media. Income losses come primarily as a result of a loss in advertising revenues. The pandemic has worsened the condition of already financially struggling outlets, with some of them risking closure and liquidation, and thousands of journalists having lost their jobs.
As a result, media pluralism is directly threatened and the public risks losing reliable sources of information, at a time when it needs it most. “This is a democratic emergency,” Desir warned.
With respect to Albania, Desir focused on the government’s controversial so-called ‘anti-defamation law’ and his recommendations to modify the law in order to safeguard freedom of speech and expression. The report also noted the government’s concerning attempt to close down RTV Ora for allegedly violating coronavirus restrictive measures and that “other media outlets had only received a warning and no fine in similar situations.”