Two articles from draft laws of the ongoing judiciary reform sparked the concern and a joint statement from four Albanian media associations. The Union of Albanian Journalists, the Association of Professional Journalists, the League of Albanian Journalists, and the Association of Electronic Media drafted and signed a joint statement on August 17 condemning the current proposed draft of provisions that affect media.
More specifically, the concerned article was in the draft law on Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’ Office and read that “every inappropriate influence exercised against special prosecutors and their activity on concrete cases by public authorities, media or in any kind of way and any other person which might have an impact on prosecutors’ independence during their work activity shall be considered illegal and will be punished by law… This illegal activity is punishable by three years in prison”. A similar article was contained also in the Law on Organization and Functioning of Prosecution’ Office.
The four organizations in their joint statement expressed their concern on these articles, considering them “as an attempt aiming at shutting down free media and creating a censorship situation”. They considered the articles as an open threat to freedom of expression and called on the parliament to remove the articles from these draft laws.
The Chair of the ad hoc Parliamentary Committee on Justice System Reform, Fatmir Xhafaj, confirmed that the articles would be reformulated in order to eradicate any doubts over the right to free speech. He explained that the aim of the articles was not to limit the media freedom but rather to eliminate any possible sources of pressure on this judiciary body.
In a meeting that took place in the parliament with the representatives of the four associations, the Albanian Media Institute, and BIRN Albania, three versions of the reformulated drafts were presented and explained, which were considered acceptable by all members present in relation to guaranteeing freedom of expression.
The article was contributed by the Albanian Media Institute, a SEENPM member.