Government Fails to Clarify Legal Ground for Asking Vodafone to Play Rama’s Voice Message during Pandemic

The Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) asked Vodafone to play a voice message from Prime Minister Edi Rama before any outgoing or incoming call during the pandemic in March.

This was confirmed by AKEP Chairman Tomi Frashëri in parliament on Thursday.

“In the absence of coordination, the Prime Minister proposed that his voice message be played. This was to raise awareness, and the Prime Minister himself, with the approval of the operators demanded that it be limited in time, only for the weekend. There is no legal regulation in any country to determine which authorities can send voice messages,” Frashëri said.

In March, Vodafone played Rama’s voice message to all its subscribers and those of other companies who called a Vodafone number. In his message, Rama warned everyone not to trust the media, and to protect themselves from Covid-19.

AKEP and Frashëri have not clarified the legal ground and procedure followed in requesting Vodafone, and other companies whose subscribers had to listen to the audio, to play Rama’s message.

Frashëri justified the action by saying that “even in Canada, the state entrusted artists with distributing the messages, in France they left it to the prefects”.

The law on Protection of Privacy allows the disclosure of private phone numbers in preventative medical cases. However, the disclosed numbers must be used by authorized personnel from public medical institutions certified to preserve and carefully handle such data.

Assuming that Vodafone did not handle the list of  phone numbers to the Prime Minister’s staff, but it programmed Rama’s voice message to play before each call, the company and the government should still have made public the legal grounds for their actions.