Albania should reject bill introducing imprisonment for libel of public officials, says OSCE Representative

Albania should reject bill introducing imprisonment for libel of public officials, says OSCE Representative

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović calls for full decriminalization

Tirana, 12 November 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today expressed concern about draft amendments to Albania’s Criminal Code, and called on members of the Parliament to reject the bill which establishes imprisonment as a penalty for libel against public figures.

“Public bodies and officials should not enjoy additional protection from critical speech, on the contrary they should tolerate a larger degree of criticism than ordinary citizens,” Mijatović said.

“Criminal sanctions for libel or defamation are excessive and disproportionate. They should be replaced by effective and appropriate civil or administrative law remedies.”

If adopted, the proposal by the Council of Ministers would introduce prison terms of up to three years for “libel against a high state official or elected person”.

The bill will come up for a vote in the Parliament on 13 November.

“I call on members of the Parliament to reject the new proposal and instead consider fully repealing criminal defamation,” Mijatović said.

In 2012, the authorities in Albania decided to abolish prison sentences for defamation offences, a decision that was welcomed by the Representative.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States.

She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. /ibna