Protesters seek OSCE Ambassador’s resignation during ‘Media Development Forum’

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 3, 2019 21:37

Protesters seek OSCE Ambassador’s resignation during ‘Media Development Forum’

Story Highlights

  • Albanian women and girls entered the hall as the forum was about to start, carrying signs that asked Borchardt, who two weeks ago made a shameful public act, to resign from his post.

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TIRANA, Nov. 3 – During the ‘Media Development Forum’ organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Europena Union on Friday, OSCE Ambassador Bernd Borchardt faced again protests by citizens who entered the hall, seeking his removal.

Albanian women and girls entered the hall as the forum was about to start, carrying signs that asked Borchardt, who two weeks ago made a shameful public act, to resign from his post.

More concretely, Borchardt was strolling on a weekend evening when he was suddenly found amid calls of “Rama Go” and “Shame on you” on the street near the capital’s police department, where relatives of some of the detainees were protesting the release of their relatives.

Borchardt lifted one finger without turning his head to see to whom his gesture was actually directed.

“I respect the right of Albanians to protest peacefully. I would like to sincerely apologize to those I may have offended yesterday,” said Borchardt last week. 

The protesters called for Borchard to leave Albania by shouting ‘shame on you’ and ‘leave Albania’ and carrying cards which read ‘Borchard in Albania, a shame for Albania.’

The protesters stayed only for a few minutes and left the hall, where the forum continued. 

The OSCE and the EU said they are still waiting for a new version of the draft amendments to the media, being prepared by the government, to respect international standards of freedom of expression.

OSCE and EU backed Albanian independent, professional online media on Friday and called on lawmakers to ensure the highest standards of freedom of expression in drafting amendments to this area through an open debate on the concerns of all parties. 

OSCE and EU representatives called for transparency and public debate on government-proposed legal changes to media regulation.

“Officials should respond to letters and questions they have received and keep receiving from press representatives on these concerns,” Borchardt said.

“There is growing awareness of the importance of decriminalizing media violations,” said Borchardt. 

“We want them to remain outside the Criminal Code and we will continue to seek decriminalization. Also the concentration of media ownership does not help their development and can be restricted by law,” Borchard added. 

Meanwhile, the head of the European Commission Delegation Luigi Soreca said that journalists work in difficult conditions and are often under political pressure.

“Our funding is also addressing labor rights issues for Albanian journalists. We want to support independent investigative journalism. Journalists’ organizations have all the support of internationals to improve the state of the press,” said Soreca, highlighting comments on the government’s recent legal initiative on the media.

“The EU has called for this initiative to be fully within the European directives on audio-visual media. A new version of the reflected concerns was introduced, but that is not enough. A project that is fully aligned with freedom of expression standards and with EU policies still needs to be secured. The European Commission shares the same concern with international organizations as regards the lack of legal certainty regarding the audio-visual media and the authority dealing with media regulation. We believe that this will affect freedom of expression. The European Commission believes in self-regulation efforts, which puts journalists and users first,” said Soreca.

The annual OSCE Forum aims to facilitate professional dialogue on the most important topics of the Albanian media and today held its fifth edition.

A group of international press freedom organizations visited Tirana and issued a joint report expressing concern that the government’s new draft amendments could limit press freedoms and the activity of Albanian journalists.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 3, 2019 21:37