Alma Lama, a member of parliament in Kosovo and a delegate at the Inaugural Women in Public Service Project Summer Institute at Wellesley College, recently drafted and proposed a law to her parliament. The first reading of the law will be in September and a decision will be made by the end of the year. The law, if passed, asks for the right of journalists to protect their sources of information.
When asked about her bill, Lama said, “the freedom of the media in Kosovo is very fragile and we need to create a better environment for journalists, we need
to protect their work.” Lama, before entering parliament, had an extensive background as an investigative journalist. In 2010, she came to Washington, DC for a leadership program and was impressed by the protections journalists were able to have in the United States.
But the idea to draft this law came to her after a big debate in Kosovo about the freedom of the media. “During the process of the approval of Criminal Code [in Kosovo], I saw that at least three articles violated the freedom of the media,” Lama said, “so I spoke up and prepared amendments to delete [from the Code], but the members of the parliament refused.” She knew that it was time to protect the journalists’ sources and their materials by law.
Right now, there are no absolute laws protecting journalists in Kosovo from being required to reveal their sources of information. Currently, journalists are not obligated to reveal their source if they are accused for defamation; however, journalists can still be required by a judge to reveal the confidential sources in other cases.
Lama says that this has serious implications for journalists’ access to sources and, as a result, in doing their job of reporting the truth to the public. “If journalists are required to reveal the identity of their sources, sources will refuse to talk to journalists because of the fear that they will be revealed,” Lama says. She predicts that self-censorship will increase and much of the information which journalists secure in confidence will remain unknown to the public.
This law will offer an almost absolute protection for journalists and other professionals of the media, and they will not be held responsible if they publish national or professional secrets. Lama is working with colleagues in other countries, especially in Albania, to get similar laws passed.
Lama is ranked as the fourth most active member of the Kosovo parliament.
Click here to view an English version of the drafted law.