From: Alice Taylor
Parliament Claims Journalistic Restrictions in Assembly had EU Approval, Diplomats React

The Albanian Assembly has reacted following a protest and outrage over its decision to reduce access of journalists in Parliament.

In an official response, the Assembly writes that the decision is not intended to censor the media but is due to the introduction of new audio-video equipment for covering the work of parliamentarians. It then states that this system was designed, approved by, and paid for by the European Delegation in Tirana, strongly implying that the controversial decision has EUD approval.

The Presidency of the Assembly issued a decision this week whereby it states that media employees will no longer be able to attend parliamentary sittings. Rather, they will be able to watch them via an audio-video system in a designated room.

The new audio-video system was recommended, funded, conceived, and built by the EU Delegation to Albania, according to the Assembly. Construction of the system began in January 2018 and was completed in July 2019. In June 2020 the system was certified by the EU audit mission.

The statement claims there is no central directorate and journalists are free to follow and select footage they want to see.

They also claim that journalists have been consulted throughout the entire process, something Albanian media workers say is not true.

The decision to tighten rules around journalists’ access and movement around Parliament, with the exception of ATH and RTSH, the two-state broadcasters, has been met with fury from journalists who say they are being treated unfairly.

EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca reacted to the statement’s claims, stating that the new rules are not within EU guidelines.

“These rules are not in response to EU guidelines or advice provided under the auspices of IPA, launched in this context in 2014,” he wrote.

He added that attending such events without restrictions is an important part of democracy.

“Public hearings and media access to Parliament to cover the work of its sessions and committees are important elements of a liberal democracy,” he added.

French Ambassador Elisabeth Barsacq also commented in support of the EUD in Tirana.

She retweeted the EU’s reaction and expressed regret for the decision taken.

“Let us uphold the freedom of the press, it is the basis of all other freedoms, through which we enlighten ourselves mutually.”