Albania’s government will not give up the so-called ‘anti-defamation’ legislation, despite EU concerns over freedom of speech and press.
In an interview, Prime Minister Edi Rama claimed that the anti-defamation legislation he has been pushing was misrepresented by the media. “Of course we will go ahead with that law,” he added.
The anti-defamation legislation in question consists of amending 30 articles of the Law on Audiovisual Media and 4 articles on the Law on Electronic Communications. The changes were passed by the Albanian parliament on December 18, 2019. However, in January, President Ilir Meta returned the laws to the parliament, arguing they infringe upon freedom of speech.
On January 30, the government pushed back a second parliamentary vote on the laws to wait for an opinion from the Venice Commission, that was requested by the Council of Europe on January 23. Nonetheless, on February 3, one of the two amended laws was published by the government in the Official Gazette and went into force on February 18.
The Venice Commission was expected to give its opinion on the anti-defamation laws on March 20, but the date was pushed back indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
CoE Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, European Federation of Journalists, CoE, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, ARTICLE 19, MEP David Lega, the EU Delegation in Tirana, the OSCE, German politician Doris Pack, and countless other citizens, journalists, activists, members of the public both in Albania and abroad, and the Albanian Ombudsman have come out against the law.
The government’s anti-defamation package was also cited as a threat to media freedom in annual reports from Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the Council of Europe.