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EU Award for Investigative Journalism in Albania
TrajnimiJournalists Aleksandra Bogdani and Flamur Vezaj were awarded first prize in the EU Investigative Journalism Award 2014 for Albania contest, for their series of three articles on recruitment of Albanians fighting as jihadists in Syria, published in reporter.al news portal and republished in other newspapers and portals. Second prize went to Juli Ristani of investigative program "Fiks Fare" of Top Channel TV for her story on judiciary treatment of drug users and smugglers. The third place went to Besar Likmeta from BIRN Albania, for his story investigating the use of public funds from previous government in order to denigrate the leader of the opposition, published in Balkaninsight.com and republished in other media.

Award ceremony was held on July 16th, 2015, at Tirana Times Bookshop, Tirana. A total of 19 investigative stories were nominated for this year's EU Award in Albania. Jury consisted of five prominent media professionals and civil society representatives: Lutfi Dervishi, media expert, Iris Luarasi, professor of journalism, Arben Muka, Deutsche Welle correspondent, Aleksander Cipa, head of Union of Albanian Journalists, and Zef Preci, Director of the Center for Economic Research.

"Investigative journalism in particular can play an incredible role in exposing wrongdoing, inspire reform, and ultimately change people's lives. I firmly believe that these awards we are announcing today will further contribute to the strengthening of media standards and ultimately become a benchmark for media quality in Albania," said the EU Head of Delegation, Ambassador Romana Vlahutin.

Remzi Lani, director of Albanian Media Institute, said: "This competition is an important encouragement to investigative journalism, which faces many difficulties and serious challenges in Albania, too. This year's winners, and not just them, but all participants, have shown that these difficulties and challenges can be overcome."

Lutfi Dervishi, chair of the jury, said that many of the applications were of good quality, and it was a difficult job for the jury to decide. He also stressed the fact that many of the journalists were young, which is a good sign for the future of investigative journalism in the country. The EU award for investigative journalism will be given each year in the period of three years in each of seven EU-Enlargement countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, rewarding the investigative journalistic work published in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Investigative stories contributing to transparency and reporting on societal issues related to abuse of power and fundamental rights, corruption and organized crime that otherwise would not have been brought to the public's attention will qualify for the award. The award fund for seven beneficiary countries for three years in total is 210,000 euro. Annual award fund for each country is 10,000 euro; 1-3 journalists shall be awarded in each country each year; 3000- 5000 euro per individual prize is to be awarded.
ConferenceThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Centre of Excellence, in conjunction with the Council of Europe (CoE) Office in Tirana, organized a Conference on "Freedom of Expression and the Media" on May 11. The conference was held on the occasion of Albania's 20th anniversary of Albania's CoE membership. Delivering opening remarks at the Conference were Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM) Dunja Mijatovic, UNESCO Deputy Director General Getachew Engida, Head of the CoE Office in Tirana Marco Leidekker, Chair of the Parliamentary Media Committee Genc Pollo, Deputy Chair of the Media Parliamentary Committee Alfred Peza, etc, and Remzi Lani, director of Albanian Media Institute. In his address at the event Foreign Minister Bushati underscored Albanian government's staunch commitment to the overall improvement of the media freedom legal framework, as a vital instrument for the further democratization of the country.

The conference addressed issues related to freedom of expression and its relation to other fundamental rights, such as the right to faith and religion, focusing on the role of the media in pluralist democratic societies. OSCE RFOM Mijatovic said that the world was sliding back in terms of media freedom. She also said that the achievements Albania made in these two decades are great, and that progress is tremendous for a country that had to struggle with the legacy from the previous system. However, she added that there are things that need to move quicker and forward. She referred to what she said was a key point she had addressed in her morning meeting with Foreign Minister Bushati, and that was related to the Audio-visual Media Law amendment submitted by the ruling majority recently. She said she had a clear message for the government and that was the following: the last thing Albania needs at the moment is this amendment, since it can have a very negative effect, long-term, when it comes to media pluralism. According to her, there is a need for politicians and businesses in Albania to let go of media freedom. The same media law amendment was mentioned in his speech by the Head of the CoE Office in Tirana Marco Leidekker, who remarked that the repeal of ownership limitations in audiovisual media "seems to open the door for certain media owners to obtain more national licenses." He added that the repeal of such regulation should be carefully reviewed.
MFA conference on freedom of expression and media
Investigative Journalism Summer School
Summer School

Albanian Media Institute organized a Summer School on Investigative Journalism in Tirana, from June 1 to 12. The participants were introduced to the main principles of investigative journalism, such as use of sources and their attribution, interviewing techniques, establishment of pool of contacts and databases, corroboration of information, in-depth reporting, etc.

A major emphasis was devoted to the access to official documents and other sources during investigative reporting, in the framework of implementation of the Access to Information Law. The Summer School was also focused on teaching participants how to use Computer Assisted Reporting as a tool in their investigative reporting. Special lecturer was Balasz Weyer, supervising editor at Direkt36, a Hungarian investigative journalism center with the mission to expose wrongdoings and abuse of power, by producing stories based on tough questions and hard facts.
Series of seminars on media conduct during elections
TrajnimIn view of the local elections on June 21, Albanian Media Institute and OSCE Presence in Albania organized a series of seminars with local journalists on media conduct during local elections. The seminars were organized in Durres on May 12, in Elbasan on May 14, in Fier on May 22, and in Burrel on May 28, respectively. Participants were journalists working in local media and as correspondents of national media. The main aim of the seminars was to improve reporting of media on local elections, in view of the changed electoral Code. In this context, Florian Hobdari, National Electoral Reform Officer at OSCE Presence in Albania, explained the changes to the Electoral Code, focusing on new territorial reform and on the impact it has on electoral outcome. Lutfi Dervishi, media expert, addressed the necessary elements for a professional reporting of elections, with particular emphasis on the role of local media in reporting local elections. Specific attention was paid to professional dilemmas in media coverage of elections, also against the background of the main legal provisions in media coverage of elections.
Documentary movie projection
"The agreement" was the documentary movie that was screened for an audience of students, academics, and civil society representatives on May 8 at the University of Tirana, Department of Journalism. The documentary focuses on the difficult process of negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, with EU mediation. In 2011, representatives from Serbia and Kosovo met for the first time since Kosovo declared independence in 2008. And the chief European Union negotiator, Robert Cooper, allowed cameras to record the action. The screened documentary showed those delicate talks. The film documents the follies and frustrations the proceedings take and how the three main representatives in negotiations work to try and get consensus, despite the unpopular nature of the talks back in their home countries.The movie projection was followed by a round of discussion among participants in the event. The screening was organized by Albanian Media Institute, in cooperation with Frontline Club.
- Aleksandra Bogani and Flamur Vezaj win the first prize -