Copyright: Albanian Media Institute - Instituti Shqiptar i Medias, 2011
News & info
EU Annual Progress Report on media situation in Albania
According to the EU Progress Report for Albania the country made some progress in the field of the information society and media, particularly in aligning legislation on audiovisual media services and electronic communications with the acquis and enhancing competition in the electronic communications market. However, problems still persist. The report noted that "the appointment procedure of the members of the media regulatory authority - Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), provided for by the law, does not fully guarantee their independence." In addition, progress on the process of digital switchover has been halted, due to a court case of broadcasting operators. The report notes that efforts to achieve timely implementation of digital switchover should be stepped up, including the freeing of illegally used frequencies and improving regulator's capacities and independence. The report also states that "the public service broadcaster's editorial independence and fee collection system have not improved."
In the area of freedom of expression, the report notes that "the moratorium on the use of defamation suits by government officials has been observed," but more specific guidelines are needed to ensure the proper implementation of amendments on defamation, as well as better training of the judiciary. The report states that some cases of violence against journalists have been reported. In addition, according to the report "media continue to be used as a tool to promote political and private economic interests. Public advertising is still not regulated in a way that guarantees transparent and non-discriminatory allocation of funds. The lack of transparency of media financing remains an important challenge." The report also draws attention to the need to guarantee proper enforcement of labor rights for media workers, as part of the efforts to prevent self-censorship. The report also called for a more professional treatment of ethical matters in the media, as well as the need to address complaints from the public.
Survey identifies challenges in access to information
On October 18, ResPublica center organized a roundtable on the implementation of the right to information on official documents in the country. For a year the center filed 202 requests for information, completing all steps, to the administrative complaint and lawsuits. The center declared that the survey clearly showed that the law, unchanged from 1999, is slow and inefficient. Out of 202 filed requests, only 59 received the information they requested. After 142 administrative complaints, the authorities responded to 53 of them. The average response time was 24 days to initial requests and 10 days to administrative complaints. Judging the current law and its implementation inadequate, the center stated that these findings should urge for an amendment of the law, as well as for steps that can ensure proper implementation of the right to access to information.
This month Albanian Media Institute organized a series of in-house training sessions on ethical issues and implementation of Code of Ethics in the newsrooms of four daily newspapers. The sessions took place at the Mapo, Tirana Observer, Gazeta Shqiptare and Shqiptarja.com newspapers respectively on October 7, 9, 21, and 28. Participants were reporters and editors of each newsroom. The trainer and the reporters addressed the main criteria established in the Code of Ethics for a correct and fair coverage of events and persons. The training sessions were in the form of discussion between the trainer and the newsroom on several problems and criteria of ethical coverage, such as fairness, accuracy, language used, intrusion into privacy, coverage of sensitive events, etc.
The main discussion evolved around the challenges of implementing the Code of Ethics against a background of fierce competition with many other daily newspapers, while having a small newspaper staff, with modest salaries. In principle, the newsrooms agreed on the need to step up efforts to improve ethics, but they had doubts on the potential ways to do this in practice. The participants also discussed in detail the ethical dilemmas in their everyday profession, especially focusing on ways to report on police statements or on serious accidents or crimes.
Specific attention was paid to online media ethics. In the framework of a project to strengthen media accountability in South East Europe, these newsrooms have tried to establish the reader's editor in their newspapers. These editors spoke of their difficulties in carrying out this new duty, due to the novelty and lack of rules in this new, scarce interest from audiences, and the tendency to deal directly with the journalists with online comments, rather than address problems to the editor. The reporters in newsrooms discussed potential techniques to avoid offensive and violent comments. The problem of plagiarism and republishing of material from other websites was also a concern. These sessions were organized by the Albanian Media Institute, in the framework of a project supported by UNESCO and EU.
Start of procedures for election of regulatory authorities
On October 16 the Parliamentary Media Commission issued a call for proposals for new members of the Audiovisual Media Authority and the Steering Council of public broadcaster. The mandate of all 11 members of the Steering Council is over for at least a year now. The ruling majority has maintained that the public broadcaster is politicized, non-professional, and is having an illegal moment, since the mandate of all members of the council has expired for more than a year.
The regulator, Authority of Audiovisual Media (AMA) also has one member with expired term, as well as two vacancies.
Along with the routine completion of these bodies, the procedure has started a new controversy. The ruling majority claims that the current set-up of the AMA council is also misbalanced, since both the chairwoman and her deputy belong to the current opposition, while, according to the law, they are elected with simple majority votes. The opposition maintains that the current composition should change, in accordance with the formula that the current opposition insisted to vote last March.
On the other hand, the law contains a transitory disposition that states that current AMA members will complete their mandate to the end. In this case, the ruling majority in the media commission stated the need for a legal interpretation on whether the chairwoman could continue her mandate, since this situation would preserve the misbalance in the regulator. In an effort to prevent the tension created, the deputy head of AMA resigned on September 28, while claiming he would still serve as a member. The deadline for nominations is November 15, while there have been no further statements on the proceedings.
In-house training sessions in daily newspapers' newsrooms