From: Alice Taylor
Lega: No Santos, the Albanian Government Have Not Withdrawn the ‘Anti-Defamation Package’

Following the statement from Isabel Santos in a press conference last week that the Albanian government has withdrawn the controversial anti-defamation law from parliament, MEP David Lega has responded stating that this is not true.

Exit asked Santos how she could say the Albanian government had satisfied the recommendation to bring the law in line with the Venice Commission standards when its latest draft was still pending, she stated “As for the defamation law, it was withdrawn.”

She then added:

“I was on the front line in that battle. I was very clear that this is a red line that should not be passed. The government has withdrawn it from parliament.”

This caused surprise in Albania as the draft law is still on the agenda of parliament and the veto from President Ilir Meta has not been accepted or rejected. In January 2021, Exit learned that it was still being worked on and reviewed with the Council of Europe.

Koloreto Cukali from the Albanian Media Council confirmed that there was no evidence of it being withdrawn.

Exit contacted Santos via email to ask where she had got the information that it had been withdrawn. She did not reply.

Looking for answers, Exit contacted MEP David Lega, the Shadow Rapporteur for Albania to ask him if he was aware the law had been withdrawn.

“According to the latest information, the proposed draft amendments to the media law, the so-called ‘anti-defamation package’ is still pending and has not been formally withdrawn.”

Lega added that following the scathing Venice Commission recommendations on the package in June 2020, nine months later, the government still has not acted.

“Nine months late, the government has not yet taken appropriate action and the draft law is still on the agenda of parliament- it has not been formally withdrawn.”

He noted that the adopted text of the European Parliament resolution on 25 March 2021 stated that they “welcome the commitment of authorities to withdraw the proposed draft amendments to the media law, and fully implement the Venice Commission’s recommendations of 19 June 2020.”

Santos was the rapporteur for the report and the report makes no mention of it being withdrawn, rather referring to a commitment from the government to do so. This is significantly different from what Santos said on two occasions during the press conference.

Lega added:

“It seems as if we have different views on the importance of media freedom. Obviously, Ms Santos wasn’t ready to express regret over the non-compliance of the Venice Commission recommendations.”

The MEP has submitted three questions to the European Commission regarding their assessment of Albania, including the media law, the functioning of the courts, and the lack of proceedings against high-ranking public officials and politicians in the vote-buying scandals.

Lega reiterated that “the media laws are not yet sufficient; the proposal which is still on the table, must be withdrawn”.