From: Exit Staff
Opposition Pledges Solidarity with Albanian Journalists, Plans to Repeal Laws If Elected

The Democratic Party (PD) organised a roundtable this morning to discuss the government’s plan to censor online media via its so-called “anti-defamation package”.

Journalists, members of civil society and media organisations, and politicians came together to discuss their concerns over the two laws and the impact it will have not just on journalism in Albania, but human rights as well.

Leader of the PD Lulzim Basha said that the actions of Prime Minister Edi Rama and his government are a “continuous pursuit against the media, against journalists, and against freedom of expression.”

He added; “I want to tell you from the beginning that we have not just called this invitation to show solidarity with you, nor are we here to take you under the wing of the Opposition because you do not need it. You have made a tremendous war and we have the duty, the honour, and the privilege to be on your side in this battle because without media freedom and without freedom of expression, there is no political freedom.”

Head of the Albanian Media Council, Koloreto Cukali described the law as “evil”, adding that there is no such thing as a democratic country that restricts freedom of the press. He explained how the law has been revised three times yet is still not in line with international media and freedom of expression best practices.

He added that in January the Council will announce an alternative to self-regulation in the form of a platform that can be used by all journalists. 

Journalist and President of the Association of Professional Journalists of Albania Armand Shkullaku voiced his concerns that the only reason Rama is implementing this law is that he wants to protect a group of people by ensuring that scandals do not surface. He also spoke of the army of government employees that are alleged to work solely to “bring good news” as a form of propaganda to Albanian people.

Leader of LSI Monika Kryemadhi said that the law would have “the AMA as an investigator and AKEP as an executioner.”

“To silence journalists is a violation of human rights. We need solidarity with each other,” she said.

She compared the current situation to the end of WWII when a “cleansing of intellectuals took place” prior to Communist rule.

Lecturer Agron Gjekmarkaj spoke to those in attendance, calling on all of Albanian society to react to the laws with protests.

“Until this law is abolished, we live in a limited democracy. Protests must be done by society, not just two or three thousand journalists,” he said.

Exit journalist Alice Taylor addressed the participants and voiced her concerns that after these laws, the government will seek to pass more bylaws that will increase the threat to media freedom in Albania.

“This law is unnecessary and is a thinly veiled attempt to erode not just our human rights as journalists but the rights of the public who are entitled to independent and most importantly, critical information,” she said.

Basha stated, “I am ready to make a solemn pledge to abolish this or any other act that violates European standards.”

“My pledge is to put an end to any practices aimed at weakening the role of the media in conveying messages to the public, and to put together a regulatory framework which will come into force in the first week of a new majority,” he added. He also welcomed any form of cooperation with local and international media freedom experts.

While the roundtable was taking place, the the Parliamentary Laws Committee approved the controversial laws. The Socialist majority is now expected to pass them in Parliament on 19 December.