While editorial independence is threatened by partisan media regulation, the physical integrity of journalists is undermined by organized crime, the state’s failure to protect them and even by police violence.
The most influential Albanian private media are owned by a handful of companies which have links to politicians and at the same time operate in highly regulated sectors such as construction. While there are hundreds of online media in the country, only a small minority has a sustainable business model with transparent funding. The dominant media include RTSH, Top Channel, Klan and RTV Ora.
Journalists face political pressures which were exacerbated in 2021 by attempts to control information during the parliamentary elections and the Covid-19 pandemic. The political class threatens the independence of editorial offices through very politicized media regulation institutions and public media management. Journalists critical of the government face regular political attacks aiming to discredit them, and they have trouble accessing public information, which is at risk of further restrictions by a recent centralisation of government communication.
Although Albania’s constitution and international legal commitments guarantee press freedom, protections for the confidentiality of sources are insufficient. Moreover, the so-called anti-defamation package, which would give the state disproportionate power over online media content and reinforce self-censorship, has still not been clearly taken off the political agenda, although its initial version has been slammed by Council of Europe, the European Union–which Albania wants to join–and by international press freedom organizations.
A major part of the Albanian media market is highly concentrated in the hands of four or five companies. Public funding represents a major revenue for media, but it is distributed in an opaque and discriminatory manner, which raises suspicions of influence trafficking.
Media professionals investigating crime and corruption are especially threatened. Female journalists, who in fact make up most of the profession, face online harrasment and in some cases gender-based discrimination in editorial offices, an area which has nevertheless seen progress. Self-censorship is wide-spread. Despite this threat to their editorial independence, media outlets created a platform for ethical self-regulation, the first of its kind in Albania.
Organized criminal networks do not represent the only danger to the physical security of journalists. The impunity of crimes committed against journalists combined with political attempts to discredit them creates a climate of violence which may encourage new attacks against media professionals. In 2021, reporters covering protests and law enforcement operations suffered several acts of police violence.