OSCE Media Representative presents a new review of laws on online media in Albania, recommends improvements

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, sent Prime Minister Edi Rama a legal review on the amendments to the Law on Audiovisual Media in Albania, the Law on Electronic Communications, and other relevant provisions regarding the regulation of certain types of content provided through the internet. This legal analysis is part of a long process of consultation between the Office of the Representative and the government during the drafting of the legislation.

“I note that there have been important improvements compared to the drafts prepared earlier in the year. The last version of the draft Law on Audiovisual Media incorporates new provisions, which better and more precisely define the object and scope of the law, and mentions the need for the Audio-visual Media Authority (AMA) to respect international and regional standards when adopting its decisions. It is positive that the problematic provisions regarding domain name registration and blocking of online content have been removed, and that the proposal includes a specific adaptation of the right to reply to the new environment of electronic publications,” Désir said.

He acknowledged that the draft does not confer competence to the AMA Compliance Committee with regards to the respect for moral, ethical or professional norms for electronic publication service providers. Furthermore, the current draft does not contain the general provision included in previous versions which seemed to give the AMA broad and discretionary blocking powers in cases of “violations of the dispositions of this law”, which will be restricted to cases of criminal offenses of child pornography, encouragement of terrorist acts or national security breaches. In his letter, Désir pointed to several remaining issues that still need to be addressed, which he recommends to amend in the legislative process.

The legal review proposes, in particular, to modify article 132/1 and suggests a new wording for article 132/3. The legal review raises concerns about the powers granted to Electronic Communications Authority (AKEP) in the proposal to amend the Law on Electronic Communications, regarding the adoption of measures to protect a wide range of interests, including the country’s interests, public security, fundamental rights and any provision included in the Albanian legal system. Moreover, article 133 in the draft law still refers to the very high economic fines to be imposed in cases of contraventions. “I hope that the legal analysis, that includes a number of recommendations, will be useful in further discussions. My Office will continue to be closely engaged in this process, which needs to be inclusive for all relevant stakeholders until its conclusion,” Désir concluded.