The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) General Rapporteur on media freedom has joined the chorus of local and international voices, asking the Albanian government to drop changes to the media, or “anti-defamation” law.
Stefan Schennach expressed his serious concern regarding the possibility that parliament may adopt the amendments that will target and limit online media, despite “severe international criticism” including that of the Venice Commission.
“The legislation proposed by the Albanian Prime Minister as an ‘anti-defamation package’ aims to create an administrative body that will be empowered to order media to take down news reports over issues such as ‘infringing the dignity of individuals’, under the threat of heavy fines. It is obvious that such a law may have a chilling effect on media freedom due to its broad terms,” said the rapporteur.
“I refer to Venice Commission Opinion No. 980/2020 of 19 June 2020, which clearly states that the law suffers from vagueness and would be likely to have a ‘chilling effect’, suppressing free discussion and political speech in the Albanian sector of the internet. I share the Venice Commission’s view that the text of the draft amendments, unless heavily revised, risks doing more harm than good to freedom of expression in Albania, insofar as the online media are concerned,” added Mr Schennach.
“Therefore, I urge the Albanian parliament to drop the current proposals and restart the whole process,” concluded the rapporteur.