From: Alice Taylor
Media Orgs: Albanian “Anti-Defamation” Package Undermines Albania’s Pursuit of EU Membership

The Media Freedom Rapid Response organisation and other leading press freedom organisations have written to the Albanian government to ask them not to pursue the controversial “anti-defamation” package as it could undermine Albania’s pursuit of EU accession.

The open letter addressed to Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruci, and parliament voiced “grave concerns” over the apparent plans of the government to ignore the issues raised by the Venice Commission regarding the law. This, they said will further threaten press freedom and the right to freedom of expression and information in the country.

Signed by MFRR, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Article 19, European Federation of Journalists, Free Press Unlimited, International Press Institute, South East Europe Media Organisation, and the Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transueuropa, asks parliament to reconsider the laws which they say “fall short of international law and standards”.

They highlighted particular issues that the Venice Commission said suffer from vagueness and fundamental flaws. They include:

“An overly broad scope of application that may include individual bloggers and social media users;

  • Requiring de-anonymisation of all Albanian online media resources, which is especially problematic in light of the overly broad scope of application;
  • Entrusting weighty administrative powers to the Albanian Media Authority and the Complaints Committee, without first ensuring that these institutions are sufficiently independent; and,
  • A lack of adequate procedural safeguards in the complaints procedure.

This, they said will cause a “chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression online” and it will further restrict Albanian citizens’ right to access information.

The organisations said that the proper way to target irresponsible media behaviour on the internet is through the establishment of an independent self-regulatory body that would involve all stakeholders in the media community.

They urged the government to rethink the current legislative procedure and put in place a “transparent process that leads to the appropriate legislation that addresses all the Venice Commission’s recommendations, and to include civil society and representatives of the media in the process.”

Furthermore, they said that going ahead with the law as it is shows a “blatant disregard” for the Venice Commission recommendations, the issues raised, and will “further damage hopes of progress on press freedom and undermine Albania’s pursuit of EU accession.”