The Media Council reacts with great concern about the 2 draft laws proposed by the Council of Ministers of Albania and distributed by AMA on 11 December to Media Interest Groups, respectively: “On Amendments and Additions to Law No.97 / 2013″ Abouty Audiovisual Media in the Republic of Albania”, as amended, as well as “For some additions and amendments to Law no. 9918, dated 19.5.2008 “On electronic communications in the Republic of Albania”, as amended.
These 2 draft laws, especially the first one (called the “AMA draft”), are a repressive and regressive law proposal that severely affects freedom of speech, freedom of information and the process of self-regulation of the media in Albania.
The first roundtable discussion took place only 6 days after the law was adopted, on December 17, and it seems that there is a hurry to close the 4 open debate forums on the two drafts (as required by law) at a record time during the period of holidays when internationals shut down their offices and people leave on winter vacation.
Legal media experts consulted by the Albanian Media Council note that the AMA law is mainly focused on creating a mechanism of control for the new media (online media) and that, the body in charge of imposing tough fines (up to 1,000,000 Lekë) and shutting doen the online portals (up to 1 year) is the AMA Complaints Council, which DOES NOT guarantee impartiality and political independence, being part of a state institution.
A big concern is the fact that the draft law on AMA entitles the AMA Complaints Council to shut down portals registered in Albania (AKEP register) in a record time for up to one year and, even permanently block access to any website registered abroad, whether this portal is NY Times or CNN.com (if these portals fail to respond to 4 requests by AMA’s Complaints Council).
This approach undermines one of the basic foundations of the individual’s freedom of speech in Albania.
If these law pass the consequences will be disastrous for the self-regulation process where EU and UN institutions have been invested to create for years. Also, the direct consequence of this law will be the media’s self-censroship for fear of disproportionate reaction or even direct censorship by anyone dressed in enough power to influence the decisions of an already political institution such as AMA and its Council of Complaints.
Online media in Albania has many ethical issues, but these 2 draft laws do not provide realistic solutions, but only legal framework to impose censorship and auto-censorship.
Time has come to solve these problems by pushin forward a serious process of self-regulation to solve media problems.
The Media Council, on behalf of the journalists and media it represents, asks the EU, the OSCE, the organizations of journalists, human rights organizations and the media community to unite and react to these 2 draft laws that affect freedom of the new media in Albania, and put pressure on the Government and the Parliament to push to solve the online media issues through self-regulation.
The press is free! But according to these draft laws, not for long.
On Behalf of Albanian Media Council,