Albania: RSF and Albanian Media Council’s conference show the urgency of action

Following the one-day discussion on press freedom with Albanian journalists, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its local partner will work on specific proposals addressed to national and European institutions about safety of journalists, media sustainability and trustworthy journalism, as well as online censorship. They will be compatible with the requirements of Albania’s integration into the European Union (EU) of which media freedom is a key prerequisite.

While journalists from Albania’s key media were convening on the morning of 3 April in Tirana at a conference on the right to information organised jointly by RSF and the Albanian Media Council, they discovered yet another attack on a local outlet : on 2 April, the content of Citizens Channel was being systematically taken down from Facebook, an unavoidable digital platform for the Albanian media. 

Systematically reported as “spam” and allegedly violating the social network’s rules, the outlet’s content dating all the way back to 2021 was removed from Facebook. According to the non-governmental platform SafeJournalists Albania, “this campaign seems to be a coordinated effort to silence [Citizens Channel’s] voice, particularly after [it] published an article critical of the construction of the National Theater and the issuance of permits for skyscrapers by the Tirana municipality.”

Online censorship by digital platforms caused by opaque and harsh moderation policy has been identified by journalists present at the Wednesday event as one of the main obstacles to public-interest journalism in Albania. 

“Not a week goes by without an attempt on press freedom and right to information in Albania. There is an urgency for resolute action based on trust and transparency. The EU accession process offers a unique opportunity for change. Following a very honest and detailed discussion, RSF and the Media Council will proceed to drafting proposals which will be submitted for comments to the Albanian media. We aim for a publication, in June 2024, of specific policy recommendations addressed to the national and European institutions.

Antoine Bernard
Director of Advocacy and Assistance at RSF

The solutions discussed include the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI), deployed by RSF. The certification underlines the transparency of the news media and respect for journalistic best practices. More than 1,200 media in 80 countries have already signed up to the JTI to restore trust with the public.

“While quality journalism is giving way to propaganda, the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) developed by RSF is a beacon of hope. It is one of the best things that appeared in the media landscape for quite a long time. An international standard of quality and ethical media, JTI will be very beneficial to the public in general and in Albania in particular. I can’t wait for the Albanian media to be certified and the Albanian public to distinguish between trustworthy and non-ethical media.

Koloreto Cukali
Chairman of the Albanian Media Council

EU integration as an opportunity

In his opening remarks at the conference, the Head of the EU Delegation to Albania Silvio Gonzato stressed that a vast majority of Albanians want their country to join the EU. "It is a political fact that the government cannot ignore. By adhering to the EU, Albania is joining a community based on values and the rule of law. The integration process will lead to more transparency and greater media freedom,” the ambassador said.

Apart from the dangerous moderation policy of the digital platforms, the recommendations will address the following issues raised by the Albanian media professionals: 

  • various aspects of safety of journalists from physical attacks to smear campaigns to gag lawsuits (SLAPPs);
  • insufficient implementation of the legislation on access to information and protection of confidentiality of journalistic sources;
  • lack of sustainable revenue models of media associated with distorted independence, copyright enforcement and advertisement market;
  • concentration of major media in the hands of owners using them as tools of political and economic influence coupled with low ownership and funding transparency;
  • low level of independence of the media regulator and of the public media;
  • breaches of journalistic ethics and of trust of the public in the media.
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