TIRANA, December 10
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir urged further amendments to the law On Audiovisual Media in Albania and the Law on Electronic Communications. Desir sent on Monday all the needed improvements to the Albanian authorities on the recent legal review, while highlighting that his office will monitor the improvement of the draft-amendments carefully.
Among others, the legal review pointed out the following to clarify safeguards to freedom of expression and avoid any risk of undue restrictions or sanctions on electronic media providers.
“It is paramount to introduce a provision that guarantees that all of AMA’s decisions can be appealed before the competent judge immediately after their adoption,” Desir said.
Secondly, fines in case of breaches to the law are considered high.
“Article 133 keeps referring to very high, and excessive, economic fines in cases of contraventions. Such fines could lead to the closure of media and be seen as indirect pressure. In line with the principles of proportionality and necessity, sanctions should only be adopted after proper consideration of the size and economic capacity of the media in question. This article should be amended.”
Further on, the references to “political belief” and “union membership” should be removed in article 33/1 which relates to racism and discrimination, as they could be used to prosecute legitimate, even harsh, criticism against political groups and ideas. Possible specific abuses in this area can be properly solved using the provisions and mechanisms already in place in the area of defamation, and adjudicated by the judiciary.
“Finally, as already raised in the previous legal analyses, concerns remain about the powers granted to Electronic and Postal Communication Authority (AKEP) in the proposal to amend the Law on Electronic Communications, regarding the adoption of measures to protect a wide range of interests, including the country’s interests, public security, fundamental rights and any provision included in the Albanian legal system. These notions remain too broadly defined and do not include specific rules on how to ensure protection for freedom of expression. This is why the legal review recommends amending the related article of the draft law,” the legal review pointed out.
Based on the previous recommendation, Albanian authorities made the following addition to the law:
“No provisions in this law shall be interpreted in such a way as to accord the right to censor or restrict freedom of expression, or the right to speak out. This law shall be interpreted in accordance with the principles of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as applied in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights”.
“The possibility of blocking access to online content will now be limited to three grave “criminal offenses: child pornography; promotion of terrorist acts; breaches to national security”. The legal review nevertheless recommends replacing “block access to the Internet” with “order the takedown of a specific piece of content”.
Moreover, the current draft amendments clearly state that electronic media providers will not be submitted to a compulsory registration mechanism to perform their activities in Albania, but only to a voluntary one.
Further on, the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), will not have the same competences on the content of online publication as the broad competences it currently has on broadcasting systems.
It is important to point out that regarding the Freedom of Expression on the Internet, UNESCO recognizes that the principle of freedom of expression and human rights must apply not only to traditional media but also to the Internet and all types of emerging media platforms, which will contribute to development, democracy and dialogue.
Source/Photo Credit: OSCE