VIENNA, 18 October 2018 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, today expressed concern about the announcement of a new registration system for 44 websites in Albania and their potential closure.
On 15 October, the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority in Albania published a list of 44 media websites required to register with the National Business Centre and to acquire their tax number (business registration number) within 72 hours, which they must then publish online. Failure to comply would result in the websites being closed down. This initiative, supported by the government, reportedly aims to address concerns about online defamation.
“States should not impose mandatory registration to online media as a precondition for their work which can have a very negative effect on media freedom. This practice, when applied, could seriously restrict public access to diverse sources of information, the plurality of voices, and erode the right of freedom of expression and information online,” said Désir.
The Representative appealed to the Albanian authorities to reconsider these actions, to examine all possible alternatives to address the defamation issue and launch an inclusive debate with relevant civil society and media stakeholders.
“It is of crucial importance to have more information about the exact objectives of the announced measures, as well as the criteria based on which these 44 websites have been selected,” said Désir. He further asked for clarification on the legal basis for requiring these websites to publish their business company’s tax number and the legal basis for the closure of websites.
In a letter addressing this issue sent to the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, the Representative offered his legal assistance. Désir also recalled his Office’s recommendations on protecting media freedom and freedom of expression in the regulation of online content in South-East Europe, emphasizing that any regulation of online content needs to take into account international obligations, including OSCE commitments. /noa.al/