Copyright: Albanian Media Institute - Instituti Shqiptar i Medias, 2011
News & info
Freedom House global press freedom ranking
This month Freedom House released its global ranking of freedom of the press all over the world. Albania was ranked 96th out of 197 countries, qualified as partly free. This marked an improvement compared to last year, when it was ranked as 107th. Out of Balkan countries, it shared the same position with Kosovo, succeeded only by Macedonia, which was ranked 120th. The report stated that mainly due to European financial crisis notable declines were seen in Southern Europe, including in Greece, which fell into the Partly Free category, and Spain. According to the report, the problems that have emerged in Southern Europe come on top of financial pressures that are plaguing press outlets in the Baltic states and elsewhere in Europe.
Roundtable on strategy to digital switchover
A roundtable on existing policies on digital switchover was organized on April 17, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media, civil society, and media experts. The roundtable focused specifically on the Strategy to Digital Switchover that was approved in May 2012, the situation of digital broadcasting in the country, and the challenges and expectations in implementation of the strategy. Journalists became familiar with the main traits and problems in emergence of digital broadcasting platforms, parallel to the ongoing reform in legislation.
They were briefed on the process of drafting of legislation, on the consultancy efforts to bring legislation and strategy in line with the situation and with EU standards, and the contribution and feedback of local stakeholders in the overall process. Journalists learnt about the deadlines on digital switchover, the criteria that have to be met, the building of public and private transmission networks, criteria for granting licenses, and the different kind of licenses. Participants discussed with speaker the impact the implementation of the strategy would have on the current media landscape and main players in the field, as well as on the public. Conditional access, subsidies of decoders, free to air programs were some of the additional topics tackled during the discussion. This roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Open Society Institute.
Two training courses on reporting on elections were organized at the Albanian Media Institute on April 9-10, and on April 25-26, in view of the coming general elections. This main aim of these training courses was to improve reporting skills of journalists that report on elections by covering all important aspects of the role of media in this process. Participants included political reporters from print and electronic mainstream media. On the first day, journalists were introduced to legal framework on elections, especially the Electoral Code and system. They were briefed on the novelties it presented as compared to the previous systems. They were also introduced to the evolution of electoral system and laws through the years, from establishment of Albanian state to date, highlighting the most noteworthy events of general and local elections, as well as referenda.
On the second day, specific attention was paid to professional dilemmas in media coverage of elections, such as preserving independence, declaring media affiliation with a political wing, taking sides, covering defaming speeches and statements, reporting having in mind the battle of interests from all sides, reporting having in mind the role of independent institutions, etc. In this aspect, special issues of focus included main sources of information, on-field reporters and collaborators, headquarters of competing subjects, official authorities, NGO representatives, international institutions, etc. In addition, journalists became familiar with and discussed the main legal provisions in media coverage of elections, discussing the main challenges and difficulties these obligations posed for their work in covering electoral campaign. Specific attention was paid to the publication of polls, surveys, and exit polls in the media. The participants also focused on cases of media coverage in the last elections, discussing politicization of the coverage vis-à-vis community or public interest. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
A roundtable on current regulation of audiovisual media services was organized on April 3, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media, civil society, and media experts. The roundtable focused specifically on recently-approved Law on Audiovisual Media, which aims to regulate all aspects of audiovisual media and services, filling the gap of the old law that focused only on electronic media. The participants became familiar with the main changes from the old regulation, such as regulation of non-linear services, re-definition of rules on advertising, sponsorship, tele-shopping, and product placement, and the regulator's obligation to draft up codes for advertisement. Other issues discussed regarding the new law included the list of important events, regulation of on-demand services, European audiovisual works, the re-definition of the regulator and its competencies, the establishment of a public's council near the public broadcaster, etc. Special attention was also paid to the kind of licenses available in the new law, the sanctions applicable, and the new rules on community radios. This roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Open Society Institute.
Roundtable on audio-visual media regulation
US Department of State Report addresses media situation
The US Department of State Report on Human Rights Practices for 2012 for Albania stated that freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by law and the government generally respected these rights in practice. The report stated that independent media were active and largely unrestrained, although there were cases of direct and indirect political and economic pressure on the media, including threats against journalists. At times political pressure and lack of funding constrained the independent print media, and journalists reported that they practiced self-censorship.
The report stated that the government controlled the editorial line of the public Albanian Radio and Television, while private stations generally operated free of direct government influence, but most owners believed that the content of their broadcasts could influence government action toward their other businesses. Business owners also freely used media outlets to gain favor and promote their interests with both major parties and many media owners courted government leaders to gain favors or avoid taxes, according to the report. Broadcasters and publishers complained that the government used its purchases of advertising to leverage favorable reporting from media outlets. Private advertisers tended to do the same for fear of tax inspections. The report mentions several incidents of violence against members of the broadcast media during the year, and journalists were subjected to pressure from political and business actors. Many journalists complained that a lack of employment contracts frequently hindered their ability to report objectively and encouraged them to practice self-censorship, the report stated.
Training course on reporting elections
Consultation on kick-off of new regional project on media
Representatives of media industry, media regulators, and academicians engaged in media studies, along with organizations working in media development gathered on April 30 in Tirana to discuss the new regional initiative "South East European Media Observatory: Building Capacities and Coalitions for Monitoring Media Integrity and Advancing Media Reforms". The project was presented by Albanian Media Institute, which is the Albanian partner in this regional project involving five Balkan countries. The participants welcomed the idea of such an initiative, stressing that the attempt to have an all-encompassing project in terms of research is badly needed in the Albanian context. Almost all participants pointed out that the lack of data on media market, newspaper circulation, audience measurement, and advertising, has turned into a real problem for the further professionalization of Albanian media.
Some of the participants suggested that the trend of traditional media losing slowly their role as the main source of information to new media should also be reflected in the research project. They also stressed that as wider involvement of stakeholders as possible during the whole project was key to the success of the project. In addition, several participants also suggested new sources of work in progress that could be useful for the project research, expressing the desire to share the information during the research process. The speakers at the event also suggested ways of improving grant-giving scheme for investiative reporters and media NGOs, as well as on the advocacy field for media policies. Overall, the participants said this was a much-needed, but also ambitious project. The event was part of activities of an EU-supported project.