Joint declaration of Albanian media organisations – Defamation law and media freedom

Association of Professional journalist in Albania
Union of Journalists of Albania
Albanian league of Journalists
BIRN Network
AIS/open data Albania 

Subject: Request for support freedom of media in Albania 

Tirana, 12th November 2015

To the international organisations,

We are deeply concerned by the proposal of the Prime Minister to add a provision to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania, that will criminalize defamation against senior officials.

We are particularly concerned on the following part that is proposed by the Prime Minister of the Republic: “defamation committed publicly to a high official or elected representative, to attribute him or her an act that is considered as a criminal offense, will be punished by a fine or imprisonment up to three years.”

We are deeply concerned that this provision may be used against the media in their work, when the media is reporting on the abuse of power by public officials.s

Criminalisation of defamation will be a huge setback in terms of freedom of expression, as slander and defamation has been removed from the Criminal Code of the Republic of Albania in February 2012. This happened with the consent of the majority and the opposition at that time, after media associations and international organisations pushed for years to do so.

Decriminalization of defamation was welcomed by the Council of Europe, the European Union and media organizations, as it confirmed the right of freedom of expression in Albania guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic (Article 22), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19 ) and the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 10).

This led to critical reactions from all media actors in Albania and led to a clarification of the Prime Minister of Albania. In this clarification the Prime Minister stressed that this law would not apply for the media. But as long this is not specified in this law, proposed by the Albanian government, the media has all the right to gratitude their deep concerns on this initiative of the Prime Minister of Albania.

It is important to note that this proposal of the Prime Minister took place without any form of transparency, it was not published on the official website of the Council of Ministers, was passed without any discussions with interest group and was forwarded directly to the Albanian Parliament to get reviewed.

We would like to request to publicly support us in this concern, using all your influence that this proposal will be clarified by specifying that the media does not apply.

Unfortunately, even without such a provision, the progress report of a recent EU report of the OSCE/ODIHR regarding the local elections have identified cases of censorship and intimidation to the media in Albania. We have to underline the fact that this article, in the form presented today by the Prime Minister is a serious threat in our daily work of journalists.

Your sincerely,

Aleksandër Cipa, Unioni I Gazetarëve të Shqipërisë

Armand Shkullaku, Shoqata e Gazetarëve Profesionistë të Shqipërisë

Ylli Rakipi, Lidhja e Gazetarëve të Shqipërisë 

Gjergj Erebara, Birn Albania

Aranita Brahaj, AIS/Open Data Albania