OSCE Media Representative: Ready to continue working with Albanian authorities to improve media laws

OSCE Media Freedom Representative Harlem Désir issued a press statement on Monday expressing his readiness to continue working with Albanian authorities to improve media legislation. The statement informs on Désir having received from the President of Republic of Albania Ilir Meta’s Office explanatory documents on the reasons for the return to Parliament of the laws on Audiovisual Media and the Law on Electronic communication in the Republic of Albania. In view of the new examination of the laws by Parliament, the Representative confirms that he stands ready to continue working with Albania’s authorities to improve the laws, in particular on the issue of the level of the fines and the respect of the principle of proportionality as enshrined in international law. The Representative recalls that nothing in the new legislation should impede the freedom of expression and media freedom. He hopes that the new reading will allow for further clarification and improvement of the laws to ensure their full compliance with international standards and OSCE commitments.

In related news, President of the Republic Ilir Meta commented on his Sunday’s decree aimed at returning to the Assembly for further review of the above-mentioned laws. Inviting everyone to read carefully the constitutional and legal arguments in support of the decree, he wrote the following: “Freedom of speech, press freedom, and the right to information, apart from being constitutional basic right, are closely linked to the principle of building and functioning of a democratic state. Albania has deteriorated in the last two years, according to the conclusions of prestigious international journalists’ organizations, as well as international institutions that monitor respect for media freedom. It is, therefore, time to reflect and to not stubbornly pursue the path of censorship and authoritarianism, which would pose a threat to Albania’s European future.”

In addition, the President shared a Twitter posting by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in regards to his presidential decree: “RSF welcomes the decision of Albanian President Ilir Meta to return to Parliament two laws of the so-called “anti-defamation package” seen as a government attempt to control the media in violation of the Albanian Constitution and Human Rights Conventions.”

Commenting on the above presidential decree, Socialist Party Parliamentary Group Chair Taulant Balla said that the President had decreed the return of the law back to the Assembly obeying the orders of Democratic Party Chair Lulzim Basha. He said that the two laws were an important step to fight disinformation as a threat to the quality of democracy and that they had been fully certified by the OSCE. He said that the presidential decrees would be promptly repealed by the parliament.