Sunday, December 18, 2016

Albania considers clamp down on online media

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An MP from Albania's ruling Socialist Party has called for greater state control of online media, decrying what he calls “electoral propaganda”.

On Tuesday, MP Taulant Balla proposed that news sites be obliged to register during election campaigns, and that those that fail to do so should be blocked.

“The usage of web portals that are not controlled by the Media Monitoring Board for electoral propaganda is prohibited,” read a draft proposal sent by Mr Balla to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).

According to a report by BIRN, the Albanian government normally dubs all online publications “portals”, which in Albanian refers to websites generating clickbait content.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who generally receives favourable coverage from the traditional media, has also levelled vitriol at online publications, calling them “waste bins”, “charlatans” and “propagandists”.

The proposal would see an extension of the powers of the Media Monitoring Board – a commission established within the Central Election Commission before elections with the aim of monitoring television stations and analysing the distribution of news coverage.

While Darian Pavli, programme director for the Soros Open Society Foundation for Albania and an expert on freedom of information, states that Mr Balla's proposal would be challenging to implement, this development could be concerning for media freedom in a country where online media is becoming an increasingly popular news sources.

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