Berlin, December 19, 2019 — Albanian President Ilir Meta should reject proposed legislation that would restrict news websites and stifle the free press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, the Albanian parliament approved a set of media laws known as the “anti-defamation package,” which would greatly increase state regulation of online media outlets, according to news reports. The proposed laws, which have been published on the parliament’s website, are now with Meta, who can decide to pass them or send them back to parliament for revision, according to those reports.
The legislation would require news websites to register with the government and would empower the country’s media regulators to hear complaints about news websites, demand retractions, impose fines of up to 1 million leke ($9,013), block foreign websites, and order websites to be suspended, according to Reuters and a December 9 letter co-signed by CPJ urging the country’s parliament to reject the measures.
“Albanian President Ilir Meta should see the country’s proposed media laws for what they are: a giant blow to press freedom,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said, in New York. “Meta should reject the proposals and ensure that any future media laws passed by the government take the concerns and recommendations of local press freedom groups into account.”
In a statement emailed to CPJ, 16 Albanian journalists’ associations and rights groups condemned the legislation and vowed to support journalists and outlets prosecuted under the laws, if they come into effect.
Prime Minister Edi Rama defended the laws in a speech to parliament yesterday, saying that they were intended to stop fake news and slander, according to Reuters.
CPJ emailed the office of the president of Albania for comment, but did not receive any response.