Around 20 members of Resistenza Rinore, a student youth group, have protested outside Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office against the “anti-defamation package” passed by Parliament last night.
The group congregated at around 11 am, placing television sets on the ground. They placed handcuffs on the screens and labels with the word “fine” emblazoned on them, in reference to the large financial penalties that can be imposed on journalists and online media portals. Protestors also tied black scarves across their mouths and carried placards with anti-censorship messages.
They also held a large banner with a photo of Rama who stuck his middle finger up in front of a crowd of children at an event in Tirana last week.
After placing the items on the ground and lying beside them, they then moved to the bins next to the office and deposited them inside- a symbol of their feelings about the new laws.
One of the organisation’s representatives, Arben Meta explained that the symbolism used called on those who support the law, to think of its impact on their children and grandchildren.
“Restitution of Article 55 of the People’s Republic of Albania for agitation and propaganda. This law was one of the reasons that the dictatorship stood so long. There are two main pillars of democracy: the first is the judiciary and justice, that we know how it ended, and the second is the free media that we are watching as it is suffering. These TV sets are to tell Mr Prime Minister that if we only had one channel a few years ago that was TVSH, today we have a TV channel that will broadcast all the news that is ERTV. We cannot accept this, otherwise, we would turn our back on our EU aspiration. I have a message for all the supporters of this package: Think about your kids. This is the return of a modern dictatorship,” said the student representative.
Following the approval of the bill by the Socialist Party majority last night, journalists and journalism organisations released a statement condemning the news and laying out their next steps.
They state that the laws are not in line with the European Commission and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and they made a public appeal to President Ilir Meta to return the law to Parliament.
They also announced a public campaign to educate and increase awareness of freedom of speech and freedom of the media with the intention of bringing down the law and making them invalid. They said that they would take the matter to Albanian courts and the European Court of Human Rights.
Journalists were also called upon to “continue their valuable work to report accurately on things that matter including corruption and organised crime and not to be afraid of such regressive laws.”
The organisations pledged to support any journalist who faces injustice as a result of the new regulations.
It was signed by the Albanian Media Council, League of Albanian Journalists, Media Look Centre, Centre for Qualitative Journalists, Albania Professional Journalists Association, Union of Albanian Journalists, BIRN Albania, Citizens Channel, Faktoje, Albania Media Institute, Civil Rights Defenders, Albania Institute of Sciences, Albanian Helsinki Committee, Res Publica, and thee Albanian Group for the Protection of Human Rights.