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PACE General Rapporteur on media freedom urges Albanian parliament to drop changes to media law

Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on media freedom and the protection of journalists, has today expressed his serious concern regarding the possibility that the Parliament of Albania may adopt a number of amendments to current legislation targeting online media, despite severe international criticism, including from media freedom organisations and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.

“The legislation proposed by the Albanian Prime Minister as an ‘anti-defamation package’ aims to create an administrative body that will be empowered to order media to take down news reports over issues such as ‘infringing the dignity of individuals’, under the threat of heavy fines. It is obvious that such a law may have a chilling effect on media freedom due to its broad terms,” said the rapporteur.

“I refer to Venice Commission Opinion No. 980/2020 of 19 June 2020, which clearly states that the law suffers from vagueness and would be likely to have a ‘chilling effect’, suppressing free discussion and political speech in the Albanian sector of the internet. I share the Venice Commission’s view that the text of the draft amendments, unless heavily revised, risks doing more harm than good to freedom of expression in Albania, insofar as the online media are concerned,” added Mr Schennach.

“Therefore, I urge the Albanian parliament to drop the current proposals and restart the whole process,” concluded the rapporteur.