Albania: Media Legislation

International Standards

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the:

Right to freedom of opinion and expression: Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

The resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 adopted by the General Assembly came into force on the 10th of September 1978. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was ratified by Albania on 4 October 1991. It states:

Article 19

  1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
  3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
    (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
    (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public   health or morals.

Article 20

  1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.

  2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

European Regional Agreements

Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

Section 1: Rights and Freedoms

Article 10: Freedom of Expression

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
  2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Constitution

The Albanian Constitution (pdf available here) guarantees the freedom of expression, media, and information, trough Article 22:

  1. “Freedom of expression is guaranteed.
  2. The freedom of the press, radio and television are guaranteed.
  3. Prior censorship of a means of communication is prohibited.
  4. The law may require the granting of authorization for the operation of radio or television stations.”

Article 23 of the Constitution specifically guarantees freedom of information:

  1. “The right to information is guaranteed.
  2. Everyone has the right, in compliance with law, to get information about the activity of state organs, as well as of persons who exercise state functions.
  3. Everybody is given the possibility to follow the meetings of collectively elected organs.”

Article 17 of the Constitution provides that the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of information can be restricted by law “in the public interest or for the protection of the rights of others”. The Constitution specifies that such restrictions must be “in proportion to the situation that has dictated them” and “in no case may exceed the limitations provided for in the European Convention of Human Rights”.

Laws

Albania’s print media are regulated by the Law on Press (law n. 8239) which was approved in 1997 with one article stating: “The press is free. Freedom of press is protected by law”. There have been attempts to draft a new law along with debates on how to introduce new regulations.

The law “On the right to information over the official documents” (law n.8503, issued in June 1999) is the law regulating freedom of information in the country. According to Article 3 of the Law:

“Everyone is entitled, upon his request, to get information on an official document without being obliged to explain the motives of such request.

Public authorities shall grant any information in relation to an official document, safe when the law provides differently.

Information on an official document, granted to a person, shall not be refused to any other person, excluding the case when this information consists of personal data about the person himself, to whom the information was granted before”.

The law provides some limitations to this right at Article 4, stating that if the requested information is restricted by another law, the authority can refuse to provide it but must provide a declaration expressing the reason for its refusal.

Article 8 of the law also states that “public authorities shall make available to the public in sufficient quantity and appropriate formats, official documents which facilitate the information of public on their activity”. The implementation of the law is supervised by the People’s Advocate (often defined as the “Albanian Ombudsman”), an independent office elected by the Parliament for a five-year term.

There is a specific law concerning “Information classified as State Secret Act”, issued in 1999, but there is no specific provision concerning journalists or their disclosure of restricted information. As noted in a 2007 publication by the Media Development Center of Sofia (available in pdf here), there is no national law protecting journalists from sanctions if they refuse to disclose their sources of information. Journalists, though, are listed in Article 159 of the Code of Criminal Procedures stating that professional journalists cannot reveal information regarded as professional secret.

A new bill on Audiovisual Services was approved on March the 4th 2013, after 7 years of discussion on how to modernize the law on Public and Private Radio and Television (law n.8410), approved in 1998. The new law changes some functions of the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRT or KKRT), which had been established by the old law n.8410.

Defamation remains criminalized in Albania but recent changes to the Penal Code cancels the provision of imprisonment so that the current version of the code only provides for fines. Article 119 of the Penal Code, as amended in March 2012, at establishes that:

“Intentionally insulting a person shall be a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine from 50 thousand to one million lek.

The same offence, when committed publicly to the detriment of several people, or more than once, shall be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine from 50 thousand to three million lek”.

Article 120 establishes the crime of calumny:

“The deliberate dissemination of utterances as well as any other information that harms a person’s honour and dignity, committed with knowledge of their falsity, shall be a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine of 50 thousand to 1.5 million lek.

The same offense, when perpetrated publicly, against several persons or more than once, shall be a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine of 50 thousand to 3 million lek”.

Articles providing a special protection to public officials with up to 3 year prison terms were repealed from the Penal Code.

Provisions related to defamation in the Albanian Civil Code (pdf here) have also been amended. A new formulation of Article 125 reduced the term for the statutory bar of tort actions for compensation of non-pecuniary damage to honor, personality or reputation from three to one year.

Article 625 of the Civil Code establishes that a person who has suffered non-pecuniary damage shall be entitled to compensation when:

“…
(b) his honor, personality or reputation has been harmed;

(d) the memory of a dead person has been defamed. In such cases, the surviving spouse or relatives of the dead person to the second degree may request compensation of the non-pecuniary damage”.

A new Article 647/a has also been added to the Code; it establishes guidelines for courts to follow in determining civil liability.

The law on Protection of Personal data (law n.8517) was approved in June 1999 and amended in 2008 and 2012. The main scope is to guarantee the enjoyment of the right to information (to which everyone is entitled, according to the law) on data of public interest, as well as protection of personal data while observing the fundamental rights and freedoms, personal dignity and confidentiality.

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