Albania: Journalists' association pushes President to veto "censorship" law

The President of Albania, Ilir Meta, has vetoed a proposed law that would stifle online media following the pressure from the Association of Professional Journalists of Albania (APJA), who denounced the bill as "authoritarian". The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) welcomed the decision, stressing that anti-defamation laws must not be used as tools to restrain press freedom.

The President of Albania, Ilir Meta. Credit:Gent Shkullaku / AFP

The proposed amendments to the Law on Audiovisual Media and the Law on Electronic Communications would have granted new government bodies such as the Albanian Media Authority (AMA) and Albanian Communication and Postal Authorities (AKEP), the power to instantly block media websites and impose excessive fines for any violations of dignity and privacy. It would have also introduced mandatory registration requirements for online media.

According to news reports, President Meta feared that Albania would become more authoritarian and would violate the Albanian constitution if the proposed package of reforms was passed. Parliament can now either accept the decree and restart the process to amend the law, or it can reject the project with a simple majority.

The President's refusal to approve the package was due in large part to the work of the APJA and international pressure. On December 10, 2019, the IFJ backed the APJA in its call to reject the proposed amendments. Other international organizations issued a joint call to Prime Minister Edi Rama to withdraw the bill and restart the process with the assistance of the Council of Europe in Tirana. 

The APJA announced it will keep monitoring the process: “We repeat our deep concerns about this “censorship package” and encourage again Prime Minister Edi Rama to withdraw this initiative. Self-regulation is the only democratic option for independent media, supported by the relevant international bodies in Albania.”

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “We welcome the veto of the President of the anti-defamation package which would have put media freedom at serious risk. We urge the parliament to consider the APJA's views when drafting further laws affecting media activity”.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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