In Albania, editorial independence is threatened by partisan regulation. Journalists are victims of organised crime and, at times, police violence, spurred on by the government’s failure to protect them.
The most influential Albanian private-sector media are owned by a handful of companies that have links to the political world, while operating in highly regulated sectors such as construction. While there are hundreds of online media outlets, only a small number have a sustainable business model with transparent funding. The leading media include RTSH, Top Channel, Klan, and RTV Ora.
Journalists are under political pressure that was exacerbated in 2021 by attempts to control information during parliamentary elections and the Covid-19 pandemic. Politicians limit editorial independence by means of heavily politicised media regulators and by appointing those in charge of the public media. Journalists critical of the government are often subjected to political attacks designed to discredit them, and they have trouble accessing state-held information. A recent centralisation of government communication could result in further restrictions on access to state-held information.
Although Albania’s constitution and international legal commitments guarantee press freedom, protections for the confidentiality of sources are insufficient. An anti-defamation bill that was dropped from the Albanian parliament’s agenda in 2022 would have given the state disproportionate control over online media content and reinforced self-censorship. As a result of a prosecutor’s controversial decision, the media was banned from covering the repercussions of a 2022 cyberattack on state institutions.
The ownership of much of the Albanian media landscape is concentrated in the hands of just four or five companies. State funding represents a major source of revenue for the media, but it is distributed in an opaque and discriminatory manner that raises suspicions of influence peddling.
Journalists investigating crime and corruption are especially threatened. Women journalists, who make up the majority of the profession, face online harassment and in some cases gender-based discrimination within news organisations, although there has been progress in this area. Self-censorship is widespread, but media outlets have nonetheless created a platform for ethical self-regulation, the first of its kind in Albania.
Reporters covering demonstrations and police operations are sometimes victims of police violence. But organised crime represents one of the biggest threats to journalists’ safety. Although the police recently took steps to investigate attacks against journalists, the impunity for these crimes, combined with political attempts to discredit journalists, has created a climate likely to encourage further attacks. In March 2023, Top Channel headquarters was the target of an unprecedented attack with automatic weapons that killed one of its security guards.