Reports Without Borders have urged the ruling Socialist Party (PS) to wait until the newly-elected Parliament is convened in September before electing new members of the Audio-Visual Media Authority (AMA).
On May 24, the Albanian Parliament announced four vacancies with AMA.
In a statement released Friday on Twitter, RSF expressed its concern over the PS’s potential political takeover of AMA, that by law, is meant to be an independent authority.
#Albania: @RSF_inter is concerned by the risk of political takeover of the media regulator. The ruling Socialist Party should not press for election of AMA's 4 board members now, but wait for the session of the new Parliament elected in April & including also opposition parties. pic.twitter.com/eKKFUFUUhw
— RSF in English (@RSF_en) May 28, 2021
In its statement, the RSF reminded the PS that “[a]ccording to the law, the parliament must maintain a balance between candidacies supported by the government and the opposition.”
In early 2019, the Democratic Party (PD) and the Movement for Socialist Integration (LSI) “burned” their mandates and refused to serve in parliament due to allegations of vote rigging. A number of the lower ranked deputies that filled their emptied seats have mostly gone over to the ruling PS. This raises concerns that, under the current parliamentary composition, any newly elected members of AMA will help solidify the PS’s control over the board.
AMA will have full authority to supervise and fine online media, if the PS’s “anti-defamation” package passes.
The controversial bill, which was first proposed by the Albanian government in 2018, has been condemned nationally and internationally for its measures that hinder online media’s freedoms. The government was also warned that if the package passes, it will impede Albania’s EU accession process.
In 2020, President Meta, who is currently facing dismissal by Parliament for allegedly violating the constitution, vetoed a version of the bill.