President Meta has shown solidarity with journalists regarding the decision of the socialist majority to approve, without changes, the law on media. This law which, among other things, will censor and provide high fines for journalists and media without any investigation or court decision.
These laws are not only inconsistent but contradict:
– Basic constitutional principles of building a democratic state, legal certainty and proportionality;
– Constitutional provisions protecting the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to information;
– The jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Albania, whose decisions constitute mandatory norms for implementation;
– Are not in line with the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights;
– They are not in line with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Meta called on the government to withdraw from the law, which he compared to Lukashenko’s Belarusian autocratic model:
“I urge the government and the one-party Assembly to withdraw from Lukashenko’s disgusting model of media censorship and not to go into the dark with plans to enact a law that clearly contradicts the Constitution and the Opinion of the Venice Commission.”
On Friday, 17 civil society organizations warned that the assembly would adopt the media law without making the changes recommended by the Venice Commission.
The anti-defamation package includes the amendment of 30 articles of the law “on audiovisual media” (AMA) and 4 articles of the law on “electronic communications” (AKEP).
After insisting it would reaffirm them unchanged on January 30, the government said it withdrew from re-voting the initiative on the grounds that it would await the opinion of the Venice Commission, requested by the Council of Europe on January 23.
On February 3, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, sent to the Venice Commission reviews of the OSCE’s “anti-defamation” package for a legal opinion.
The legal package has been widely opposed by the EU, CoE, OSCE, journalists, local and international media organizations and MEPs, despite the government’s claims that the proposals have been supported by the OSCE.
Recommendations of the Venice Commission
In its opinion published in June , the Commission states that granting extended powers to the AMA violates media freedom. They also said that online media should have a fair process from any administrative decision before the court and sanctions should be in proportion.
The commission stated that “it is necessary to ensure that legal and judicial measures are effective in combating defamation and hate speech.”
In conclusion, the Venice Commission supported the idea of ”functioning with self-regulation and respect for the online media accountability system.”