Prime Minister Edi Rama has requested the Parliament to extend the state of natural disaster for three months, until March 31, 2020.
In his request, Rama argues that “although at a lower frequency and intensity, quake shocks continue to be felt in the said districts” and that taking emergency measures under the “state of natural disaster is urgent in the same way as it was when the [state of natural disaster] measure was taken,” according to a report by Reporter.al’s Gjergj Erebara.
The government request seems to have been taken down from the Parliament website after the media reported on it.
The government can declare emergency measures for 30 days only, which in this case expire on December 28. Extension of this period can be done only by Parliament, and only if conditions creating the emergency state still exist. This seems to be the reason why the government has justified their request to Parliament with the questionable general statement that “quake shocks continue to be felt” in affected areas.
In his request, the prime minister is reported to have included measures against the media: “the media and other public information outlets are obligated to refer to official sources regarding the number of victims, name lists and predictions on probability for further occurrences of similar situations, thus avoiding to broadcast sensitive information, and not creating panic with the public under any circumstance.”
Rama has repeatedly threatened the media before and after the quake. He has been trying for months to pass two laws that openly restrict media freedom in the country, despite harsh local and international criticism.
After the earthquake, Rama repeatedly threatened the media with closure, arrested individuals and closed down a website, citing special powers given by the questionable “state of emergency”.
Under the “state of natural disaster”, the government has proposed a law that will restrict citizen movement, surveil and search without court warrant.
Without a functioning Constitutional Court at place, neither the extension of period for emergency measures, nor the draft law mention above can be appealed, or their implementation suspended until a final court verdict.