European People’s Party members express concern over media freedom in Albania

European People's Party logo; Photo: Flickr / EPP

BRUSSELS – Following the adoption of a highly controversial media law by the Parliament of Albania on Wednesday, two high-ranking members of the European People’s Party (EPP) expressed concern over their impact on media freedom in the country.

The so-called anti-libel package was adopted by the ruling majority on 18 December. Critics say that the it will enable the government to penalize critical media, especially online portals. Journalists staged a protest against the package a day ahead its adoption in the parliament, which was abandoned by most of the opposition MPs earlier this year.

”We note with deep concern that the parliamentary majority of the Albanian government led by Socialist Prime Minister Rama approved two media laws yesterday in open contradiction with specific recommendations of the international community. The European Commission, the Council of Europe as well as Albanian and international media and civil society organisations had voiced strong objections against these laws”, stated Member of the European Parliament Michael Gahler, EPP Coordinator on Foreign Affairs.

He noted that the opposition Democratic Party of Albania, an EPP associate member, expressed strong resistance against the adoption of these laws and supports the European and international recommendations.

David Lega, MEP and EPP Rapporteur on Albania, warned that media freedom and the right of information are fundamental freedoms in Europe and an indispensable part of the Copenhagen criteria for EU membership.

“The adopted legislation threatens these freedoms that were acquired long ago by the Albanian people. Free media have been a consistent reporter of abuse of power and exposed many corruption scandals. The adoption must therefore be seen as a serious set-back for Albania on her path towards rule of law and democracy”, Lega emphasised.

He urged the Albanian authorities to reconsider the decision and reverse it.

Last month, EPP adopted a Resolution on Albania during its Congress in Zagreb. The document supported the Democratic Party of Albania “in its efforts to address the legitimate concerns and European aspirations of the people of Albania.”

It also emphasised worrying developments with regards to democracy in the country, such as vote buying, corruption and stagnating electoral reform.