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Albania passes anti-slander law despite media protest calling it censorship – National Post

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TIRANA — Albania’s parliament on Wednesday passed an anti-defamation package criticized by journalists and the Council of Europe as an attempt to muzzle the media while the government countered it was merely regulating “a jungle of misinformation and hate.”

Parliament adjusted two laws to empower the Albanian Media Authority (AMA) and the Authority of Electronic and Postal Communications to hear complaints about news websites, demand retractions, impose fines of up to 1 million leke ($9,013.88), and suspend their activity.

The journalists, who protested by wearing black scarves outside parliament, said that the measures were tantamount to censorship.

More than a dozen media organizations condemned the law and said they would start an information campaign that would also aim to kill those bills or nullify them with litigation.

“We call on journalists to keep working by reporting truthfully and correctly and fear not the existence of these regressive laws,” the media organizations said in a statement.

The package was initially meant to cover some 700 to 800 online news sites that have sprung up over the last decade, but may also apply to TV stations, according to last-minute changes.

“This law says ‘if we do not like your news story, we can remove it and fine you’,” said editor Enton Abilekaj.

Prime Minister Edi Rama told parliament the move intended to stop fake news or slander from causing loss of life or pressing businesses for bribes by shaming the quality of their products.

The law did not violate at all the right to free speech and opinion, but restored dignity to the slandered, Rama added.

“This is a jungle that takes money right and left … A jungle that produces hate, misinformation and despair,” he told the chamber.

Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said the laws were in urgent need of improvement.

The powers given to AMA, the possibility of excessive fines and the blocking of media websites without a court order “may deal a strong blow to freedom of expression and media.”

“Several provisions are indeed not compatible with international and European human rights standards which protect freedom of expression and freedom of the media,” she said. ($1 = 110.9400 leke) (Reporting by Benet Koleka; editing by Grant McCool)

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Liberty Media-backed SPAC prices IPO at $10 apiece to raise $500 mln – Financial Post

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Liberty Media Acquisition Corporation (LMAC), a blank-check company backed by Formula One-owner Liberty Media Corp, said on Thursday it priced its initial public offering (IPO) at $10 a share to raise $500 million.

The special acquisition purpose company (SPAC), which is due to begin trading on the Nasdaq on Friday under the symbol “LMACU,” sold 50 million shares in its U.S. IPO.

SPAC – shell companies that raise money in an IPO to buy another company – was looking for a target in the media, music, entertainment, communications and technology industries.

Several high-profile investors such as Bill Ackman and Michael Klein raised billions through their SPACs last year.

LMAC’s management team will be led by Liberty Media Corp Chief Executive Officer Greg Maffei.

Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC acted as joint book-running managers for the IPO. (Reporting by Shreyasee Raj in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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Google says it will remove search function in Australia if media code becomes law

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SYDNEY — Google said on Friday it will disable its search function in Australia if the government proceeds with a media code that would force it and Facebook Inc to pay local media companies for sharing their content.

Australia is on course to pass laws that would make the Big Tech giants negotiate payments with local publishers and broadcasters for content. If they can’t strike a deal, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide the price.

“The code’s arbitration model with bias criteria presents unmanageable financial and operational risk for Google,” Mel Silva, managing director for Australia and New Zealand, told a senate committee.

“If this version of the code law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.”

Australia announced the legislation last month after an investigation found Alphabet Inc-owned Google and social media giant Facebook held too much market power in the media industry, a situation it said posed a potential threat to a well-functioning democracy.

The United States government this week asked Australia to scrap the proposed laws, which have broad political support, and suggested Australia should pursue a voluntary code instead.

Google’s threat to limit its services in Australia came just hours after the internet giant reached a content-payment deal with some French news publishers.

Google’s testimony “is part of a pattern of threatening behavior that is chilling for anyone who values our democracy,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology .

(Reporting by Renju Jose Editing by Byron Kaye and Gerry Doyle)

Source: – Financial Post

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Google says it will remove search function in Australia if media code becomes law – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would block its search engine in Australia if the government proceeds with a new code that would force it and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for the right to use their content.

Google’s threat escalates a battle with publishers such as News Corp that is being closely watched around the world. The search giant had warned that its 19 million Australian users would face degraded search and YouTube experiences if the new code were enforced.

Australia is on course to pass laws that would make tech giants negotiate payments with local publishers and broadcasters for content included in search results or news feeds. If they cannot strike a deal, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide the price.

“Coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk if this version of the Code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Mel Silva, managing director for Australia and New Zealand, told a senate committee.

Silva made no mention of YouTube in prepared remarks.

Google’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said the country makes its rules for “things you can do in Australia.”

“People who want to work with that in Australia, you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats,” Morrison told reporters.

Google has called the code overly broad and said that without revisions, offering even a limited search tool would be too risky. The company does not disclose sales from Australia, but search ads are its biggest contributor to revenue and profit globally.

The United States government this week asked Australia to scrap the proposed laws, which have broad political support, and suggested Australia should pursue a voluntary code instead.

Australia announced the legislation last month after an investigation found Google and social media giant Facebook held too much market power in the media industry, a situation it said posed a potential threat to a well-functioning democracy.

Google’s threat to limit its services in Australia came just hours after the internet giant reached a content-payment deal with some French news publishers as part of three-year, $1.3-billion push to support publishers.

Google’s testimony “is part of a pattern of threatening behaviour that is chilling for anyone who values our democracy,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Byron Kaye and Gerry Doyle)

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