Albania has ranked 84th in the Reporters without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index, dropping two positions from last year. According the RSF in 2019, the government stepped up attempts to take control over the media with the excuse of fighting fake news. In December, the governing majority voted in Parliament an “anti-defamatory” package tightening the regulation of online media. Limiting freedoms of expression, information and press and running against international best practice, the two laws risk increasing censorship and make journalists more vulnerable vis-à-vis government pressures. Vetoed by the Albanian president, the laws are again in the Parliament which can overrun the Head of State’s refusal. As of mid-March, they seem, however, to be put on hold following the criticism by seven press freedom organisations including RSF and the visit of the European Parliament President to Albania. The laws would further deteriorate the situation of press freedom in a country where government regularly restricts access of journalists to official information and controls the TV market via the attribution of broadcast licences.
The year 2019 was also marked by the abuse of a crisis situation for the sake of curbing press freedom. In the context of the devastating earthquake, two journalists and an activist were arrested for spreading “fake news” and “causing panic”, while online media critical of government’s action were closed by government bodies.
As the coronavirus crisis broke out in March 2020, Prime Minister Edi Rama called on citizens to protect themselves against, among other things, the media. Physicals attacks and defamation cases increasingly filed by officials against journalists continue to maintain the climate of insecurity and intimidation. This – in combination with the denigrating language of politicians – turns reporters into possible targets of aggression.
Meanwhile, the authorities of the country, which aspires to enter the European Union, fail to resolve and sanction various cases of physical attacks and serious threats against journalists.
Regarding other Balkan countries BiH was ranked 58th, Kosovo 70th, North Macedonia 92nd , Serbia 93rd, and Montenegro 105th.