SafeJournalists Network sent a letter of concern to the Speaker of the Albanian Parliament and international organisation

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SafeJournalists Network sent a letter of concern on 1. July 2021 to the Speaker of the Albanian Parliament Gramoz Ruçi and international organisations in Albania (OSCE, Delegation of EU and Council of Europe), regarding its concern about the election of the Head of Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) and its board members that might hinder media freedom in Albania.

Dear Mr Gramoz Ruçi,

I am writing on behalf of the SafeJournalists Network, that gathers more than 8,200 members in the Western Balkans, including journalists from Albania, we act upon violations of journalists’ rights, endangering their safety and limitation of media freedoms.

SafeJournalists Network expresses its concern about the election of the Head of Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) and its board members that might hinder media freedom in Albania. We are concerned about the independence and professionalism of the two candidates for the Head of AMA, both criteria are essential for media freedom and for the democratic processes in Albania. Also, we express our concern about the shortcomings in the procedure for their selection, considering that the process is formal with no meaningful competition and done in a haste within the current Parliament whose mandate expires soon, and without actual opposition.

We remind you that the Head of AMA and its board members must be legally non-partisan and politically independent, while the legal formulas for their selection have given parliamentary majorities and oppositions the right to propose or reject candidate which guarantees diversity in the composition of the AMA board with representatives of various parliamentary parties. With the current Parliament, without actual opposition this cannot be guaranteed.

Also, we are concerned about amendments to the Audiovisual Media Law (referred to as the ‘online media law’) which were opposed by the civil society, media organizations, and regional and international media networks and associations, and were rejected by the President of Albania and the Venice Commission in June 2020. The changes envisaged extensive power to regulate media content to AMA, whose independence and professionalism could not be assured as stated also by the Venice Commission. One year after the Venice Commission issued its opinion on the matter, the above-mentioned legislation still has not been amended to meet the required standards and still is listed as in process in the Albanian Parliament registry while the Government claims it has been withdrawn.

SafeJournalists Network urges the Albanian Parliament to conduct a genuine race for the Head of AMA that will ensure full independence and professionalism of the next Head of this vital authority for media freedom and its members, and to postpone the filling in of the vacancies until the new parliament starts its work in September 2021. Also, we urge the Parliament according to amendments to the Audiovisual Media Law to respect European standards and to amend it in accordance with the opinion and standards of the Venice Commission. In that manner to ensure safeguarding the non-partisan and independence of key institutions such as Audiovisual Media Authority.

Signed:

BH Journalists Association

Trade Union of Media of Montenegro

Croatian Journalists Association

Association of Journalists of Kosovo

Association of Journalists of Macedonia

Independent Journalists Association of Serbia