Venice Commission condemns Albanian government’s bill censoring online media – Exit
The Venice Commission criticized the Albanian government’s controversial bill, aimed at regulating online media in the country, for suppressing freedom of expression.
In their draft opinion on May 28, the Commission considers that the draft amendments “are not ready to be adopted in their current form”, adding that the law “suffers from vagueness and would probably have a” chilling effect “removing the free discussion and political speech […]”
They urge the Albanian government to support the establishment of a self-regulatory body instead, which would ensure accountability of online media.
This is the second draft opinion in a few days which refutes the actions of the Albanian government and the socialist majority. Last week, another draft opinion castigated decisions on justice reform in the country.
In the latest opinion, the Commission notes that the “anti-defamation package” extends the competence of the Albanian Media Authority (AMA) and the Complaints Committee (CC) to the online media sector and gives them new administrative powers. . However, the Commission urges the government to revise the method of selecting members of these bodies, so that they are qualified individuals who represent the media community and are independent of government and corporate oversight.
The Commission recognizes the efforts of the government to improve the law, but specifies that the public consultations “were not always well structured”.
Some of the other main flaws in the bill, according to the Venice Commission, include:
- There is a risk that individual bloggers, users of social platforms, etc. are also covered by this law. It is essential that the government exclude non-professional online media from the scope of the law.
- The government’s demand for online media to disclose the identity of those behind them flies in the face of international standards and “the will of Internet users not to disclose their identity should normally be respected.”
- The administrative powers conferred on the CC / AMA are problematic when it comes to freedom of expression. These bodies are not independent and, therefore, the additional power given to them can be abused on behalf of government and politically-related businesses.
- There is no guarantee for those who want to complain about the hefty fines and CC / AMA internet content removal orders, which are immediately enforceable. The fines are disproportionate to the economic capacity of the media, which “would amplify the deterrent effect” of government measures and “lead to self-censorship to the detriment of the political debate essential to any democracy”.
Finally, the Venice Commission recommends that the Albanian government “reconsider the adoption” of the law because it “could do more harm than good to freedom of expression” in the country.