The Central Election Commission (CEC) in cooperation with the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the OSCE Presence in Tirana organized a consultation table on the topic “Electoral Campaign – Financing, the role and responsibility of the media, as well as hate speech and ethical standards during the election campaign”.
The event was attended by the People’s Advocate, Mrs. Erinda Ballanca, Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination, Mr. Robert Gajda, representatives of political parties, the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), media, and civil society.
The consultation focused on the reporting of political advertising expenditures by electoral entities, AMA monitoring, and reporting, as well as hate speech and ethical standards, during the election campaign.
State Election Commissioner, Mr. Ilirjan Celibashi emphasized the lack of legal provisions for regulating the behavior of electronic and social media during the election campaign. “Our legislation does not have any regulation to impose on the behavior of social media. Therefore, I hope that within the framework of the new electoral reform, this aspect will also find its solution. Even though online media and social networks, which are a novelty, do not have the regulation they should have, I think this does not prevent the political parties and the Parliament of Albania from addressing the relationship among political parties, election campaigns, and social media.”
Commissioner Celibashi also spoke about political advertisements, where he brought to attention the ambiguities evidenced by the experiences of the past elections. “There are cases when certain media have justified some kind of imbalance about political advertisements by broadcasting them for free, but they cannot do this for political parties, as it is not allowed by law,” he said.
The Head of the OSCE Presence in our country, Ambassador Guido De Sanctis brought to attention the ODIHR’s recommendations regarding the guarantee of equal rights for advertising, for everyone from the Electoral Code. “The money spent by political parties can be significant, this investment can be an influence, there is a risk that the candidates with more money will influence the media more. Therefore, the OSCE encourages greater monitoring of media activity and funds used by candidates and parties to finance their media campaigns,” he said.
Acting Head of the Office of the Council of Europe in Tirana, Mr. Olsi Dekovi emphasized the support of the Council of Europe and the EU to Albanian institutions in initiatives to avoid hate speech as a promoter of separation, intolerance, and discrimination. He underlined that hate speech during election campaigns influences and discourages citizens to vote, and marginalizes and incites hatred among different groups of citizens. Therefore, civil society and the media have an important role in promoting respect, banning hate speech and discrimination, and discouraging political parties and candidates from using hate speech.
Deputy Head of the Political Section of the Delegation of the European Union in Albania, Mr. Jean-Baptiste Le Bras underlined the importance of local government elections within the European Union integration and the essential role of the media, especially during election campaigns. He added that the challenges raised at this table should be addressed by the responsible institutions so that the electoral processes reach the required standards.
The participants analyzed the problems encountered, the legal regulations, the implementation of normative acts in force, and the CEC’s approach to the parties involved, and also evaluated the regulatory framework as a whole.