24 Jan 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
No state reply yet
Partner RSF Article 19 AEJ ECPMF EFJ/IFJ
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 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
New 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
24 Jan 2020
New 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
New OSCE Media Freedom Representative expresses readiness to continue working with Albanian authorities to improve media legislation.
17 Dec 2019
New CoE Human Rights Commissioner urges Albania’s Parliament to review bills which restrict freedom of expression.
10 Dec 2019
New 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
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