From: Exit Staff
Socialist Majority Set to Pass Media Laws Despite Criticism in Public Consultations

The Socialist parliamentary majority is firm in its goal to pass the two controversial laws considered to have been designed by the government to restrict the freedom of online media, despite criticism by OSCE, European Union, Council of Europe, UNDP, international and local media organisations and journalists.

In the last two days, the Parliament Media Committee held consultations with civil society and journalists, on December 10 and 11 respectively, on the “anti-defamation package”. At yesterday’s hearing, government representatives told those in attendance that the law will pass in Parliament on December 19.

Socialist MPs stated that the laws were in line with international standards, despite representatives of the OSCE, EU, Council of Europe, and UNDP reiterating unanimously that this is not the case. One Socialist Party MP went as far as to say that the government had softened the law too much in its current revised form. They tried to claim that the law is in line with EU and US laws, according to BIRN.

Committee Chair Ulsi Manja said they “will consider some of the suggestions made by international and local organisations.”

A union of local journalists and journalism organisations read out a declaration on both days, in which they called for the law to be thrown out. They then left, stating that they will not partake in a consultation for a law that they do not feel is required, adding that the current draft will violate the freedom of expression in Albania.

Exit journalists were excluded from attending the public consultation with journalists at Parliament today.

On 13 November, Exit confirmed attendance of two journalists and received a confirmation via email. Following the postponement of the event due to the earthquake on 26 November, Exit sent another email confirming attendance for two days- civil society and media. Identity documents and full details of attendees were submitted as required and requested.

Staff were able to attend the hearing on the 10 December but the attendance of two journalists the following day was cancelled by a parliamentary secretary last night. Via email, Exit was told that priority was being given to other registered attendees and that they could send a letter with their comments instead. 

When they inquired further, they claimed they were not excluding them from participating as they could still send a letter, but that their presence was not allowed “due to procedure”.

The government have reiterated their plans to move forward with the law, regardless of the concerns of international organisations, local and international media freedom groups, journalists and members of civil society. It is expected to be passed in Parliament on 19 December.