Hundreds of journalists and media freedom campaigners have come out onto the streets of the Albanian capital Tirana, protesting against a new draft law. Called the ’anti-defamation law’. If passed it would mean that a regulator appointed by the state would control online media through a process of registration. This is to say that self-regulation of online media will be replaced with state regulation. The main setback of these laws is that they abandon self-regulation. Additionally, the new provisions would also widen the powers of the Authority of Postal and Electronic Communications (AKEP), so that they could impose fines of up to 100,000 Lek (around 820 EUR) in the case of breaches or complaints.
When it was drafted, the new law was condemned in a joint statement of media freedom organisations back in July 2019. That was followed by the international press freedom mission to Albania, during which Prime Minister Edi Rama met mission representatives including the Legal Advisor of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), Flutura Kusari. In early December the organizations renewed their concerns.
Advocating for press and media freedom, Ms Kusari joined the demonstrations against the anti-defamation laws when it came back to the Albanian Parliament on 18 December 2019. She stressed: “This is a demonstration of solidarity. We are asking the parliament of Albania not to rush to adopt the controversial draft laws. We invite them to consult instead with local journalists, the Council of Europe, the European Union and other local and international media freedom organisations.“
Meanwhile Member of the European Parliament (MEP) David Lega, a Swedish representative of the European People’s Party (the largest political group in the European Parliament), has publicly warned Albania’s planned accession to the European Union will be put at risk, if its parliament approves the new media laws. In a tweet, Lega shared that the Copenhagen standards of press freedom and freedom of expression must be upheld before Albania could become an EU Member State.
ECPMF is working closely with local organisations and will continue to support them in addition to monitoring the situation in Albania.