21 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 29 Jul 2019 n° 87/2019 Albania

New “Anti-defamation” Legislative Package Threatens Online Media Freedom

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner RSF Article 19 AEJ ECPMF EFJ/IFJ IPI
No state reply yet
Partner RSF Article 19 AEJ ECPMF EFJ/IFJ IPI
On 3 July 2019, as part of a reform of the judiciary, the Albanian Council of Ministers approved a series of amendments known as the “anti-defamation package” and aiming, according to the authorities, at fighting against defamation.

If passed by Parliament, the proposed amendments to the laws No. 9918 “On electronic communications in the Republic of Albania” and No. 97/2013 “On Audio Visual Media in the Republic of Albania” would empower a state administrative body (the Audio Visual Media Authority) to regulate content published by online media. The draft bills seek to tighten the control over online media, as the Complaints Council, which is part of the Audio Visual Media Authority, could increase censorship by ordering the removal of online content on grounds of protecting the citizens’ “dignity and privacy”.

Several international organisations joined Albanian civil society and independent media in calling the government to withdraw these bills.
Updates
New 21 Sep 2020
On 16 September 2020, “alarmed by reports that the Parliament plans to reconsider the Amendments to Law No. 97/2013 ‘on Audio Visual Media in the Republic of Albania’ on the basis of article 86 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, which prescribes that the Parliament considers only the issues introduced by the President of the Republic”, seven international rights organisations sent an open letter to the Albanian parliament. They fear that the Assembly would ignore the problems raised in the Opinion of the Venice Commission and by domestic and international civil society organisations. They asked the parliament to reconsider the laws which they say “fall short of international law and standards” and to include civil society and representatives of the media throughout this process
14 Jan 2020
On 12 January 2020, Albanian President Ilir Meta vetoed the latest amendments to the two laws “on audiovisual media” and “on electronic communications” arguing that both laws violate the fundamental constitutional principles of a democracy, the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to information, the previous decisions of the Constitutional Court, the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the President, the new legislative package “would produce intimidation and self-censorship, unlawful closure or suspension of electronic media, directly affecting the quality and objectivity of information, which would result in providing the public with information other than facts, which would mislead the society not only in seeking their rights, but in fulfilling civic responsibilities for building and preserving the democracy.” Following the President’s decision, the parliament can either accept his decree and start over the legislative process, or dismiss it with a simple majority. support document http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143898
20 Dec 2019
On 18 December 2019, the Albanian parliament approved the two media laws known as the “anti-defamation package”. 82 MPs voted in favour, 13 against and 5 MPs abstained. Media freedom organisations caution that the package is likely to replace the current self-regulation of online media by state-regulation, and argue that cosmetic changes made at the last minute do not address all the concerns raised by the European Union, the Council of Europe and Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic. They have urged the President of Albania not to enact these laws.
26 Nov 2019
On 20 November 2019, a majority of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) board voted against the so-called “anti-defamation package”. The authority was consulted in the framework of the legislative process.
Follow-ups
21 Sep 2020
New General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on media freedom and the protection of journalists urges the Albanian parliament to drop the current proposals and restart the whole process.
24 Jun 2020
On 19 June 2020, the Venice Commission adopted an opinion on draft amendments to the Law n°97/2013 on the Audiovisual Media Service. While acknowledging "the efforts of the Albanian authorities to be transparent, to respond to the criticism and to improve the text of the draft amendments", the Commission considers that "the draft amendments are not ready for adoption in their current form. The law suffers from vagueness and would likely to have a “chilling effect” suppressing free discussion and political speech in the Albanian sector of the internet."
24 Jan 2020
On 22 January 2020, the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly requested an opinion of the Venice Commission concerning the Albanian Law no. 97/2013 ‘on Audiovisual Media Service’.
14 Jan 2020
OSCE Media Freedom Representative expresses readiness to continue working with Albanian authorities to improve media legislation.
17 Dec 2019
CoE Human Rights Commissioner urges Albania’s Parliament to review bills which restrict freedom of expression.
10 Dec 2019
OSCE Media Freedom Representative recommends further improvements to laws on online media in Albania.
29 Jul 2019
OSCE Media Freedom Representative presents new review of laws on online media in Albania, recommends further improvements
Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer
26 Jun 2020
Venice Commission, Opinion No. 980/2020 on draft amendments to Law No. 97/2013 on the Audiovisual Media Service, CDL-AD(2020)013-e (19 June 2020)
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