Venice Commission opposes ‘anti-libel package’

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 5, 2020 18:34

Venice Commission opposes ‘anti-libel package’

TIRANA, June 5 - The 'anti-libel package' of the Albanian government has been opposed by the Venice Commission. In the draft opinion published today, the Commission stated that the law is not ready for implementation, as there is uncertainty about it and it affects the freedom of speech significantly.

"The Venice Commission considers that the draft amendments are not ready for approval in their current form. The law suffers from vagueness and is likely to have a 'chilling effect' by suppressing free discussion and political discourse," the report states

"The composition of the AMA and the Complaints Committee, which is elected by the AMA based on the rules drafted by the AMA, may raise legitimate concerns about the independence of these two bodies. The presence of representatives of the media community and civil society who are not directly linked to the main political forces may be a step that strengthens the independence of this body."

The report further points out that "it is unclear whether members of the AMA and the Complaints Committee are sufficiently independent of the large media industry, based on the rules on incompatibility and conflict of interest.

The Venice Commission also criticizes the high fines in case of violations of the law by the online media, which range from 100 thousand to 800 thousand lek. "Extremely problematic for the freedom of the media in the Albanian context is the harsh nature and with great negative effects of fines. Extremely high fines pose a threat with almost as chilling an effect as imprisonment, although more insidious.

Furthermore, the report states that the Venice Commission also does not support legal provisions which do not guarantee the suspension of fines against online media in the event of an appeal to the court.

Following the Opinion, the President's Spokesperson Ted Blushi stated that these laws are not only inconsistent, but in violation of the basic principles of the Constitution. According to Blushi, they are not in line with the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.

'Anti-libel package'

In January, the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approached the Venice Commission to seek an opinion on the so-called "anti-libel package" proposed by the Albanian government which has been widely criticized, not only by the community of Albanian journalists, but also by international journalist organizations as well as international institutions. 

Albania is among the member states still under surveillance and the last mission of two rapporteurs for Albania last October spoke of the necessity for amendments regarding the two laws "On audiovisual media" and "On electronic communications", one of the topics highlights of the meetings they had in Tirana.

The decision to seek the Venice Commission's opinion came at a time when  the parliament began reviewing the decrees of President Ilir Meta, who rejected the latest package adopted at the end of December as threatening media freedom, while the majority is insisting on passing the package as it is and amending it in the future. 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 5, 2020 18:34