REACTION: The new draft-law on media, worse than the previous one!

The Albanian Media Council reacts with concern about the new draft-law on media, the so-called “defamation package”, passed by the Government on July 3rd, 2019, which is expected to be submitted for approval to the Parliament soon.

First, the draft-law, being completely a new draft, has not been offered for any consultation or round-table with the stakeholders, which goes against the law for the public consultation.

Second, this draft-law breaks the principle of self-regulation of media ethics in Europe. This draft-law puts the resolution of ethical issues in the hands of an administrative body, namely AMA (Audiovisual Media Authority), whose Board in turn is chosen by political parties, therefore violating the European principle on media freedom.

Third, the draft-law gives the authority to sanction the media to an office within AMA, namely Council of Complaints Office. But,

a) AMA, does not have the proper capacity to operate this duty. AMA is already failing to perform its own duties (such as collecting payments from television operators) so it cannot cope with tough and complicated tasks such as controling, judging and sanctioning the ethical violations.

b) AMA does not provide any guarantee that the employees of the Council of Complaints Office have the integrity, the independence and the right qualifications required to conduct a judgement on ethical violations.

Fourth, this draft-law puts the right to judge on topics of freedom of expression to an Administrative Body. This right should only lay in the jurisdiction of the Albanian Courts. The judgment about where the freedom of expression ends and where the other rights start, such as the right to privacy or the right to protect the honor and dignity of a person, cannot be left on the hands of an Administrative Body such as the Office of the Appeals Council AMA. This is only in the competence of the Albanian Courts that possess all the instruments to judge and decide on these cases.

Fifth, the law has a lot of technical problems on itself, starting from the formulation, the tight deadlines set for reaction, the high sanctions and the imposition of fixed sanctions which are unconstitutional.

Sixth, this draft is politically made on bad faith, because it contains principles that it supposedly seeks to respect, but through formulations it violates them, indeed. High sanctions, tight deadlines, and AMA’s lack of warranty for an independent judgment will induce  self-censorship among media and journalists.

Therefore, the Alabanian Media Council requires that the Government urgently withdraws this draft law*.

Also, the AMC invites international organizations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union to exert the necessary pressure not to pass this law because of the violation of the media and the freedom of self-censorship.

A joint declaration in block  of a group of Media stakeholders and organizations will be available soon.

* We came of late to the alert of another attempt to impose extraordinarily fines from the ammendments made to the Law of AKEP, adjacent to the AMA draft-law. That draft passed unnoticed, and merits a detailed analyses and rejection.