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AMI Newsletters             2014

January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December

Dear readers,
The Albanian Media Institute is presenting you with the Albanian Media Newsletter.  This electronic monthly newsletter tries to keep you updated on the developments of the Albanian media and training activities for journalists at the Albanian Media Institute and elsewhere in Albania.  We attempt to provide a glimpse on the evolution of the Albanian media landscape, bringing closer to you the media situation in our country, hoping to provide useful information.

AMI NEWSLETTER - November 2014


PARLIAMENT ELECTS AMA CHAIR

The Parliament elected on November 6 the new chair of the regulator on audiovisual media, Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA.) His name is Gentian Sala, holding a law degree, as well as a master’s degree in “European Studies.” He comes from a legal background, switching then to commercial business activities, working as a manager and co-owner of different companies. He has also been part of the structures of Digitalb, the main commercial multiplex in the country. During the voting Sala received most votes, namely 79 votes pro and 1 against. This election took place after short listing of the four candidates for AMA chair in the Parliamentary Commission on Media. After the repeated calls to the opposition to return to the parliament and participate in the process of eliminating the candidates, there was no positive response. Hence, the ruling majority decided to proceed with the selection process on its own, as completing the number of missing members and chair in this institution was an urgent matter that could not longer wait. The opposition responded by emphasizing Sala’s previous involvement in Digitalb as a sign that indicates that the government aims to capture the regulator.

ROUNDTABLE ON MEDIA OWNERSHIP AND TRANSPARENCY

A roundtable on media ownership and media financing transparency was organized on November 11, with the participation of journalists, editors, journalism associations’ representatives and civil society. The roundtable focused on the presentation of the research carried out on this topic by the Albanian Media. The research identifies the main patterns of the main ownership schemes in Albanian media, their structure and changes through the years, and their impact on the media landscape and especially on media independence. The research focuses on such issues as relevant legislation and its implementation through the respective regulatory authorities, a description of the media landscape and its development through the years, following with a documentation and description of the ownership structure of the main media outlets. Other sensitive and important topics that the research has addressed include transparency of financing sources of media outlets, the advertising market and state advertising, as well as self-regulation process and status of journalists in this regard. The main speakers were Ilda Londo, author of the research on the topic, who presented the process of drafting the research and its main findings, and Aleksander Cipa, head of the trade union “Union of Albanian Journalists,” who analyzed the current media ownership schemes, with special emphasis on their influence over labor relations’ implementation in the media sector. He described the existing situation regarding labour relations in the media and called upon the participants for a greater involvement and participation for improving the situation. This roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute with the support of European Union.

INDIREG STUDY ON AMA PUBLISHED

The Council of Europe Office in Tirana, in cooperation with the Assembly of Albania, published on November 25 a study on the formal and de facto indicators of the independence and functioning of the Albanian Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), prepared by three international experts according to the INDIREG methodology.  The study was commissioned by the Council of Europe on request of the Albanian Parliament and it was drafted by Dr Kristina Irion, Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam, Michele Ledger, Cullen International, Brussels, Dr Sara Svensson, Department of Public Policy, Central European University, Budapest.
The scope of the study was to apply the INDIREG methodology to the AMA and provide contextual interpretation of the results with policy recommendations. The participants were addressed by the Speaker of the Assembly of Albania Mr Ilir Meta, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Tirana Mr Marco Leidekker, and Charge s'Affaires of the European Union Delegation to Albania Yngve Engstrom.

THREE TRAINING COURSES ON IMPROVING REPORTING ON CHILDREN

Albanian Media Institute organized this month three training courses that focused on improving reporting of children in the media. The courses took place respectively on November 5-7, 12-14, and 24-26, with the participation of 15 journalists in each.  The main aim of the courses was to introduce journalists to the main topics, angles, and ethical considerations to have in mind when reporting on minors. Lecturers were professors at Department of Journalism, media experts and well-known journalists, and representatives of NGOs dealing with children issues. Some of the main topics addressed during the course included discussion of new topics that have not been covered on children, legislation in place protecting children, legal issues to have in mind when reporting on children, ethical considerations when interviewing them, etc. Participants discussed with lecturers specific examples and challenges they had had during their work. The courses were supported by Save the Children.

TRAINING COURSE ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION

A training course on access to information and the media took place at the Albanian Media Institute on November 17-18, with the participation of 15 journalists from mainstream media and spokespersons. The course aimed for both journalists and spokespersons to discuss the new regulation on access to information, become familiar with the new criteria for accessing official information and identifying ways of improving media access to official information. After providing a brief overview of the international standards in access to information, the lecturers focused on the Albanian legal provisions in this area. Special attention was paid to the novelties introduced by the law approved in September, such as the supervisory authority, exhaustive list of criteria for refusing information, the role of information coordinators, the extension of the subjects that are required to provide information, etc. Journalists presented their problems in receiving information from public officials in the course of their work. On the other hand, the spokespersons explained to journalists the context of their work and specified the need to build a relationship of mutual trust. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of the European Union.

TV DEBATE ON SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVISM IN KORCA

The Albanian Media Institute organized a television debate at the University of Korca on November 20. The debate addressed the role of different actors in the democratic process, identified the main obstacles and needs and aimed to raise awareness among the local public opinion on the need for greater activism and participation. Participants in the debate included students, local journalists, and representatives of civil society. The debate focused on subjects such as the role of different actors in catering to local communities, such as civil society and media, the impact of national and local media on local communities, the image of these media in the communities, etc. Specific attention was paid to social media and new civic groups in the local level, attempts at activism for local benefit, etc. The debate was broadcast by local television TV Lobi. The organization of the debate was supported by Balkan Trust for Democracy.

TRAINING ON IMPROVING REPORTING OF ROMA AND EGYPTIANS
A training session on reporting diversity, with a specific focus on Roma and Egyptians, was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on November 4, with the participation of 20 journalists from mainstream print and electronic media. The main aim of the course was to introduce the journalists to the most relevant issues related to Roma situation in the country and analyze with them the media coverage on Roma and identify ways to improve it. The lecturers introduced the participants to a brief history of Roma in Albania, the existing stereotypes in society and in media regarding Roma, and addressed specific ways to improve Roma coverage in the media. Specific attention was paid to the language used vis-à-vis Roma, and the space devoted to them in mainstream media. Other important issues discussed including the lack of official statistics on Roma and the way this affects media coverage on them, the official Strategy for the Roma community, the civil society attempts made in this regard, etc. A special analysis was made on media coverage of Roma minority, bringing examples that had sparked media interest on Roma population, and analyzing the reasons for this interest and ways to increase and improve media coverage on Roma. This training session was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of UNDP.

TRAINING COURSE ON NEW MEDIA AND LOCAL JOURNALISM

A training course on the topic “New media and local journalism” was organized in Korca on November 20-21, with the participation of 14 journalists from the local media. The training course discussed with the journalists the current development of journalism as a profession, addressing the range of problems journalists face, especially in local media. Participants also discussed the emergence and development of new media, its values, challenges, and expectations, focusing on the way the work of journalists has been transformed. The efficacy of new media in testing opinion of citizens and confronting it to traditional sources of information was another topic discussed during the course. The participants also were introduced to the concept of citizen journalist and professional journalist, discussing the differences and opportunities. The lecturer and journalists discussed different ways of incorporating new media in local journalists’ work, such as obtaining new sources of information from the public, making use of opinion of citizens and shaping the reporting, etc. However, the course focused also on the need for local journalists to provide the necessary context and background, independently of the form of publishing or whether the media is traditional or online. This course was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the US Embassy.

REGIONAL WORKSHOP “PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA AND BUILDING TRUST WITH PEOPLE”

Public broadcaster RTSH hosted the regional workshop on “Public service media and the trust with people” on 20 to 21 November. 50 representatives from more than 10 countries discussed and exchanged experiences on how to increase the trust of audiences and be accountable to them. The workshop was organised by the EBU in cooperation with the OSCE Presence in Tirana, in the framework of an EBU-EC Action plan for support of public service media in the EU accession countries. The main topic of the workshop was increasing trust of the people in public service media by exchanging information and experiences on how various broadcasters do this across EBU members. The participants discussed such issues as challenges and experience of ombudsmen in PBS, having an ethics department, ways and tools of promoting public service media values, using research for accountability and marketing of PBS, using audience research to get closer to the people needs, increasing accountability, etc. At the end of the workshop the participants agreed that while there is not one model of PSB accountability mechanism, all PSBs should try to adapt a mechanism that increases their transparency and accountability.

PUBLICATION ON ALBANIAN LEADERS THROUGH “TIME” MAGAZINE

“Three Albanian periods in TIME (1923-2013) from Ahmet Zogu to Enver Hoxha and  Sali Berisha” is the title of the new book by Belina Budini, media and communication expert and academician. The book was launched in an event organized on November 6, by the European University of Tirana and UET Press, the publishers of the book. Participants in the event included politicians, academicians, journalists, media experts, and civil society representatives. The book studies the way Albania, its leaders, and the Albanian-U.S.A. relations have been depicted in the TIME magazine in the last 80 years.


AMI NEWSLETTER - January 2014


NEW PROPOSALS FOR AMENDING AUDIOVISUAL MEDIA LAW

New amendment to audiovisual media law by the ruling majority has sparked debate in the Parliamentary Commission on Education and Public Information Means. The amendment aims to proceed with starting of election of new members and chair of the regulator. According to the law, the current members shall continue to hold their positions after this law enters into force, until the termination mandate set in their appointment. The chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Media, coming from the opposition, claimed that this amendment aims to threaten continuity and independence of the regulator. He also wrote a letter in this regard to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic. She responded that her office is closely monitoring the matter. Underlining that it is crucial for the regulator to act as an independent body, she replied that her office is ready to assist with legal analysis of the amendment. In this context, the discussion of the amendment in the commission has been postponed until OSCE review of the amendment is received. Meanwhile, the ruling majority has called on the regulator to refrain from making decisions, as they do not have the mandate for this at the moment.

CONSULTATION ON KICK-OFF OF NEW PROJECT ON MEDIA

Representatives of media industry, media regulators, and academicians engaged in media studies, along with organizations working in media development gathered on January 16 in Tirana to discuss the new project “Improving media freedom and media professionalism in Albanian media.” The project will be implemented by the Albanian Media Institute and two partner centers based in Zagreb and Budapest. The project will combine components that monitor the environment that conduces to freedom of media and expression to those that aim to further improve professionalism of journalists. Specific attention will be paid to monitoring implementation of new media legislation and to training of key actors in improving implementation of legislation. The project also has a component that is devoted to investigative journalism. The participants welcomed the idea of such an initiative, stressing that the attempt to have an all-encompassing project in terms of monitoring, research, and training, is always needed in the Albanian media context. 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 project is funded by European Union.

TRAINING COURSE ON ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR DIGITAL JOURNALIST

A training course aiming to provide reporters with the basic skills needed in the digital era was organized on January 20-24 at the Albanian Media Institute, with the participation of reporters and photojournalists, from the main news agencies in the country and other print and electronic media. This course focused on introducing the participants to the essential skills needed in journalism's digital age, such as mastering the basics of audio, video and other multimedia tools. Apart from these key skills and usage of basic equipment, journalists also discussed the ethical dilemmas and problems that emerged with the increasing use of technology in the media. Significant attention was also paid to the way that storytelling changes and should be adapted with the acquisition of new skills and use of new equipment for reporters. The main aspects addressed during the course included multimedia skills, including audio and video; how to recognize and negotiate the ethical issues specific to multimedia; what it takes to survive and thrive in a constantly changing landscape; how and why you need to build your brand as a journalist; adopting the skills learned to the overall vision and philosophy of the media outlet, etc. This course was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the European Union.

PROJECTION OF DOCUMENTARY MOVIE “GOOGLE AND THE WORLD BRAIN”

The documentary movie “Google and the world brain” was projected for students of the Department of Journalism at the public University of Tirana on January 20. The documentary focuses on Google’s project started in 2002, consisting in scanning millions of books in an effort to create a giant global library. But even as authors whose copyrighted work was being scanned launched a campaign to stop Google in its tracks, the real intention of the project was being called into question. The documentary is full of information, interviews and startling facts, but the people whose business it is to collect and organize information provide some of the most sanguine statements here. as we get closer to developing a near-omniscient form of artificial intelligence, can companies like Facebook and Google really be trusted to direct such staggering changes in human communication? With the future of all human knowledge in the control of an organization that promises to do no evil, isn’t this where all science fiction dystopias begin? This documentary was projected by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club. 

REGULATOR ORGANIZES CONFERENCE ON CHILD PROTECTION

The Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) organized on January 17 a conference titled "Protecting children’s rights in the media.”  Participants included representatives of relevant state bodies, organizations working on child protection, People’s Advocate, Commissioner for Protection of Personal Data, Commissioner Against Discrimination, etc. The chairwoman of the regulator stressed the importance of raising awareness regarding child protection matters in terms of media coverage. The participants noted the important role of the media in informing the public regarding problems and challenges related to children. However, they also noted that media coverage of these cases should be dealt with carefully. The participants also discussed specific ways of achieving these goals.

COURSE ON MEDIA LEGISLATION

A training course on media legislation took place at the Albanian Media Institute on January 29-30, with the participation of 15 journalists from mainstream media. The course aimed for journalists to become familiar with the existing legislation regarding various media aspects and the situation of its implementation. The specific aspects tackled were defamation, access to information, and labor relations in the media landscape, viewed in a comparative manner with EU standards in this area. After providing a brief overview of the international standards in access to information, the lecturers focused on the Albanian legal provisions in this area. Special attention was paid to a joint initiative with Justice Initiative to make further amendments to the law on access to information. The participants presented their problems in receiving information from public officials in the course of their work. The participants also became familiar with the main legal provisions regarding defamation as changed in 2012 in the Penal and Civil Codes. The main issues addressed were related to the main defamation court cases and to the changing of mechanism of fines with the new amendments. Finally, the participants discussed the situation of labor relations in the media, referring to the regulation in Labor Code and the respective provisions in audiovisual media legislation. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of the European Union.

REGULATOR APPROVES BROADCASTING CODE

The Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) organized on January 24 a meeting aiming to discuss the draft regulations on broadcasting with the media representatives, state bodies overseeing human rights, and other related organizations. The representatives of the regulator stressed the need to reach a broad consensus among actors in approving these regulations. The regulations were related to broadcasting programs rules, audiovisual communications of a commercial nature, unpaid broadcasting of messages of high public interest, determination of events of great importance, etc. This regulation is part of the efforts to complete the legal framework after the approval of the Audiovisual Media law in March 2013. The regulator decided to approve the Broadcasting Code on January 27. However, the deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Media Commission has warned that the regulator should not proceed with making important decisions without completing the membership, claiming that it does not have the quorum to make these decisions.


AMI NEWSLETTER - February 2014


PRESS FREEDOM IN ALBANIA IMPROVES ACCORDING TO REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS

According to Reporters without Borders, which has recently published the Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2014, Albania’s ranking went down from 102nd in 2013 to 85th in 2014. The report stated that the Socialist Party of Albania, who won the June 2013 elections, had an ambition program for the Albanian media: draft new legislation that improves media ownership transparency, reinforce the Albanian public broadcaster’s independence and guarantee media access to information held by state entities. In October 2013, the 11 members of the public broadcaster’s board of governors had exceeded their term of office by one year. According to the report, this gives an idea of the scale of the challenge faced by the new government, which aspires to be accepted as a candidate for European Union membership.
In the Balkans Macedonia marked the lowest ranking, in the 123rd position. The Index also noted that the European Union’s members are becoming more dispersed in the index, a development accelerated by the effects of the economic crisis and outbreaks of populism. Greece was the most notable example, while Hungary was also noted as an example that is deflecting from EU values in terms of freedom of expression.

US DEPARTMENT OF STATE REPORT ADDRESSES MEDIA SITUATION

The US Department of State Report on Human Rights Practices for 2013 for Albania 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. Journalists, on the other hand, practiced self-censorship. The report concluded that government controlled the editorial line of the public Albanian Radio and Television. Independence of commercial media was also not strong, with business owners freely using media outlets to gain favor and promote their interests with both major parties. A major source of concern this year has also been the distribution of public funds for advertisements to media outlets, which was based on personal and political favoritism rather than viewership or readership. In addition, several incidents against journalists were noticed. Journalists complained that publishers and editors censored their work directly and indirectly in response to political and commercial pressures. Furthermore, many journalists complained that a lack of employment contracts frequently hindered their ability to report objectively and encouraged them to practice self-censorship.

DOCUMENTARY MOVIE PROJECTION

“Syria: Across the lines” was the documentary movie that was projected to an audience of journalists, academics, and civil society representatives on February 25. The documentary focuses on the Orontes River valley, describing how it turned from a place of peaceful coexistence for Syria’s many sects and religions to a sectarian frontline. On one side, the rebel Free Syrian Army holds ground in Sunni villages whose residents are calling for the fall of President Assad and his regime. But less than a mile away, Alawite villagers remain fiercely loyal to the government, and gladly host army checkpoints that daily fire shells and mortars into the Sunni villages across the valley. The movie resulted from unprecedented access to both sides from director, Olly Lambert, who lived along this frontline for five weeks, offering a raw and unflinching look at a nation that is breaking apart. The director was also present at the screening and participated in the discussion that ensued afterwards with the participants. This documentary was projected by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.

DECISIONS ON REGULATORY AUTHORITIES POSTPONED

The Parliamentary Commission of Media and Public Information Means has convened several times this month, but there has been no further progress in election of Steering Council of public Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (KDRTSH.) After interviewing 65 candidates for 10 vacancies, as well as four candidates for the post of chairman of KDRTSH in December, the commission has not agreed on the procedure for electing new members of Steering Council, lacking consensus. The process has been further delayed by the withdrawal of one of the candidates for chair of KDRTSH, opening the process to new candidates again.
Meanwhile, on February 14 the Parliamentary Commission on Laws held a meeting to analyze the amendment proposed by Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Commission on Media Alfred Peza, on the election of new members of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA.) The Commission recommended that the Parliamentary Commission on Media approve the amendment and take it to the plenary session for voting. However MPs of the opposition suggested that the Commission of Laws should wait for foreign expertise and then give a recommendation on the matter, stating that the independent institutions were being affected by this amendment and procedure.

TRAINING COURSE ON WEB DESIGNING PRINCIPLES

A training course on web designing principles was organized on February 17-21 at the Albanian Media Institute, with the participation of journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The main aim of this course was to introduce the journalists to the essential elements that make for a well-designed webpage. The lecturer covered during the course such elements as layout of the webpage, use of color and animation elements, understanding navigation, accessibility to the public, archive building, use of visually attractive elements, reader-friendly methods in navigation, etc.
The main topics of the course included: critique of different sites from the navigator’s point of view; identifying the strengths and limitations of the web medium; explaining the difference between style and design in a webpage; defining the target audience and tailoring content and presentation to the audience needs, polling the audience on the website progress, etc.  The journalists also analyzed several media websites and blogs from the technical point of view. This course was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of European Union.

COUNCIL OF EUROPE HOLDS ROUNDTABLE ON DEFAMATION LAW

The Council of Europe (CoE) Office in Tirana, within the regional Project “Promoting freedom of expression and information and freedom of the media in South-East Europe”, organized on February 21 a roundtable on “Defamation Contemporary Case Law, Standards and Best Practices”. Participants in the event discussed the current state of case law on defamation, after the Albanian Assembly amended the penal and civil provisions on defamation in 2012. Attending the roundtable were the Head of the CoE office in Tirana, Marko Leidekker, the Minister for Innovation and Public Administration, Milena Harito, the Norwegian Ambassador to Albania and Kosovo, Jan Braathu, and the Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) in Albania, Ambassador Ettore Sequi. In her address, Minister for Innovation and Public Administration Milena Harito noted the progress made by the country in terms of the freedom of media and expression, adding that in some cases things are going to the other extreme, because people think that they can write and say whatever they want without any limit. The Head of the CoE Office in Tirana, Marko Leidekker, pointed to the importance of discussing such issues, especially in view of the 2012 amendments to the defamation provisions. The Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Albania, Ambassador Ettore Sequi acknowledged the progress made by the country in this area, and added that the full decriminalization of defamation was needed for truly free media. Afterwards, Gavin Millar, lawyer with a broad experience in defamation suits against media outlets, provided his own views and background on the main issues on defamation proceedings. Gent Ibrahimi, director of Institute for Policy and Legal Studies, went through the main amendments to the Albanian Penal and Civil Codes on defamation in 2012 and their expected impact on defamation and freedom of expression. The participants discussed several key points related to freedom and expression and brought their own experience in this field.

TRAINING COURSE IN NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND ICT

A training course for journalists on new technologies and Information and Communication Technology was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on February 10-12. Participants included 15 journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The proposed project is based on the high demand and need from the journalists’ community in the area of new communication and information technologies and their impact on journalism. The course aimed to provide Albanian journalists with some advanced concepts of modern use of communication and information technologies in journalism practices. The training course combined knowledge training with journalistic professional skills training. Some of the topics addressed included receiving advanced knowledge on the advantages and novelties in news distribution through smartphones and tablets and the specific nature and techniques of website design for mobile phones.  Ways of increasing web interactivity for mobile phone readers was also discussed with the participants. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of AMC.

NEW PUBLICATION ON HISTORY OF RADIO BROADCASTING LAUNCHED

The latest publication in the field of radio broadcasting, “Dynamics of radio broadcasting in Albania: 1938-2013” by Arben Muka, was launched in a presentation on February 13. Participants included journalists, academicians, and media experts.  The author made a brief presentation of the book content, which follows the development of the radio landscape in the country in 75 years, from the first radio established to the current days, where there is a variety of radio outlets. The book draws a sketch of the profiles of all radios that have broadcast in the country, including those that do no longer exist, marking the evolution trace of this landscape. The publication ranges from detailed analysis of the propagandistic role of Radio Tirana under communism, to the emergence of numerous private radio stations that challenged the hegemony of public radio. Specific attention has been paid to the role of foreign radio stations and to the prospects for the radio landscape in the eve of digital switchover. The local radio stations, their evolution, and the opinions of some of the well-known radio experts in the country have also been covered by the author. The event was organized by Albanian Media Institute.

REGULATOR ORGANIZES CONFERENCE ON DISCRIMINATION IN THE MEDIA

Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) organized on February 7 the conference on the topic “Media and discrimination.” Participants included journalists and representatives from different institutions, such as People’s Advocate, Commissioner for Personal Data Protection, Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination, Union of Journalists, etc. The aim of the conference was to draw attention to the need to protect from discrimination against vulnerable groups in media coverage. The speakers from different institutions that participated in the conference stressed several violations noticed during monitoring of media coverage and underlined the importance of raising awareness on the need for the media to respect human rights and refrain from discrimination. While emphasizing the important role of the media in informing the public, they also added that efforts to monitor any potential violations in the media should be stepped up. 

SECOND EDITION OF RRATHE COMPETITION

The second edition of “Rrathe,” a competition for young people and aspiring journalists to produce video-documentaries on social issues, was concluded with the award ceremony on February 13. Out of 160 applications, 26 were selected to be produced as video documentaries. The final products aim to combine elements of journalism, social media, and citizen reporting. The competition is in the framework of Soros Open Society Foundation for Albania, aiming to increase media coverage of social issues in the country and build capacities and promote new forms of citizen reporting.


AMI NEWSLETTER - March 2014


DOCUMENTARY MOVIE PROJECTION “PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER”

"Pussy Riot: A punk prayer" was the documentary movie that was projected to an audience of journalists, academics, and civil society representatives on March 25. This film looks at the real people behind the now famous group of female artists. Following the bizarre and intricate twists of the trial, the movie observes the three young women fighting back against a justice system that seems impervious to logic. The movie shows what transformed these women from political activists in to modern day icons. Moving from farce to tragedy and back again, the film explores how political and religious forces contrived to make an example out of three young artists who stepped out of line. Mike Lerner, the director of the documentary, was also present at the screening and participated in the discussion that ensued afterwards with the participants. This documentary was projected by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.

MEDIA TALK ON CURRENT AFFAIRS IN UKRAINE

A media talk focusing on current affairs in Ukraine took place on March 12, with the participation of journalists, editors, civil society representatives, and academicians. Key speaker was Alessio Vinci, former correspondent of CNN in Moscow. Some of the key topics addressed included internal economic and political situation in Ukraine as well as a brief look on historical relations with Russia. Specific attention was paid to he developments in Crimea, analyzed in the geopolitical context. The role of other countries involved and the potential for diplomatic agreement and influence was another topic addressed. The speaker discussed with participants also the potential developments in the future in this region and the role of Russia in the current global affairs, too. The media talk was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.

RULING MAJORITY RETRACTS AMENDMENT TO AUDIOVISUAL MEDIA LAW

The Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Alfred Peza, of the Socialist Party, withdrew on March 25 his proposed amendment to the Audiovisual Media Law, in a letter sent to the Assembly’s Administration. Peza’s amendment to the said law envisaged the total restructuring of the Audio-visual Media Authority (AMA) Council. However, it remains to be decided whether the current chair of AMA, Endira Bushati, will continue to serve in the council. A memo of the Assembly’s Service for the Oversight of the Independent Institutions concludes that the current term of the chairwoman has expired. According to the memo, Bushati cannot remain Chair, because her term as a member of the AMA Council has already expired. Bushati has opposed this claim, stating that the interpretation is not correct and that her term has not expired yet.

COURSE ON MEDIA LEGISLATION

A training course on media legislation took place at the Albanian Media Institute on March 4-5, with the participation of 15 journalists from mainstream media. The course aimed for journalists to become familiar with the existing legislation regarding various media aspects and the situation of its implementation. The specific aspects tackled were defamation, access to information, and labor relations in the media landscape, viewed in a comparative manner with EU standards in this area. After providing a brief overview of the international standards in access to information, the lecturers focused on the Albanian legal provisions in this area. Special attention was paid to a joint initiative with Justice Initiative to make further amendments to the law on access to information. The participants presented their problems in receiving information from public officials in the course of their work. The participants also became familiar with the main legal provisions regarding defamation as changed in 2012 in the Penal and Civil Codes. The main issues addressed were related to the main defamation court cases and to the changing of mechanism of fines with the new amendments. Finally, the participants discussed the situation of labor relations in the media, referring to the regulation in Labor Code and the respective provisions in audiovisual media legislation. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of the European Union.

REGIONAL CONFERENCE ON INDEPENDENCE OF MEDIA REGULATORS 

A regional conference on the indicators for independence of media regulatory bodies, organized by the Council of Europe (CoE), in the framework of the regional Project “Promoting freedom of expression and information and freedom of the media in South-East Europe (SEE)”, took place in Tirana on March 6-7. The conference gathered representatives of the media regulatory bodies, relevant Ministries, parliamentary committees and non-governmental organisations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo to discuss indicators for formal and actual independence of regulatory bodies and related challenges. The main speakers addressed the key indicators for formal and de facto independence of regulators, focusing also on specific countries. The participants also shared their own experiences regarding the biggest challenges to independence of regulator, such as legal framework, law implementation, staff rules, accountability, conflict of interest, internal culture of independence, transparency, etc.

REGULATOR’S DECISION SPARKS CONTROVERSY

On March 26 the regulator Audiovisual Media Authority issued a decision on must-carry content, allowing other networks to rebroadcast programs of national TV stations without payment for the viewers. The regulator claimed that this decision was made in view of the failure of commercial TV stations to cover the required territory as stated in their license. The television stations opposed the decision, stating that this decision comes at a time when all these television channels have strongly protested against piracy from cable operators, and added that this is AMA’s second attempt to harm national televisions.

MULTIMEDIA STORYTELLING COURSE

A training course on multimedia storytelling was organized on March 17-21 at the Albanian Media Institute, with the participation of 15 journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The main aim of the course was to teach journalists how to adapt to the new technologies and merge with new media, at least in specific formats. The training course aimed to cover all aspects of multimedia news production; from basic storyboarding to hands-on instruction with hardware and software for production of multimedia stories. Participants also reported on relevant topics of the moment and then constructed a multimedia presentation based on that coverage.

This, and other practical exercises, enabled participants to acquire the main skills they need to produce quality multimedia stories including video recording and editing, photography and audio slideshows, audio recording and editing, voice coaching for narration or stand-ups, Photoshop and web design concepts; producing Adobe Flash Web site packages, etc. The skills learned during the course better prepared journalists to increasing convergence and interactive nature of the media outlets. The course was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the European Union.

COURT RULES TO DISMISS FORMER CULTURE MINISTER’S LAWSUIT

The Tirana District Court ruled in favour of Top Channel TV in a lawsuit filed by the former Minister of Culture Ylli Pango, who sought damages amounting to 1 million Euros over an alleged violation of privacy, caused by a secret video shot and aired by Top Channel’s satirical/ investigative show Fiks Fare, in which he appeared as soliciting sexual favours from a young girl in return for employment. This was the second judicial review of this lawsuit by the first instance court after the High Court overturned a previous ruling that imposed a 400,000 Euros fine on the TV broadcaster.


AMI NEWSLETTER - April 2014


THE PARLIAMENTARY MEDIA COMMISSION STILL LACKING CONSENSUS ON REGULATORS

On April 28, the Parliamentary Commission of Media finally made a decision on the procedures for electing the new members of the Steering Council of RTSH (KDRTSH.) The Commission agreed for both the opposition and ruling majority MPs to each shortlist 20 candidates out of the 57 applicants. Then, each side will proceed to shortlist five candidates from the list of the opponent, which is expected to produce the final list of persons to be voted in the parliament. This agreement came after weeks of disagreements and lengthy discussions in the commission on procedures and steps that the commission should take. However, it is not the first time that the members of the commission agree on a solution and then fail to act accordingly and revert to the discussion.

In addition, the members of the commission have not been able to agree on a common decision on the annual reports of the regulator and of the public broadcaster, deciding to draft two separate resolutions on these matters. The disagreement on the number of missing members of the Audiovisual Media Authority has further delayed their election. The opposition MPs accused the ruling majority that its actions betrayed its intent to politically control the regulator. On the other hand, the ruling majority claimed that the actions of the opposition MPs in the commission clearly showed that their intention was to delay the process of electing missing members, hindering the whole work of the regulator and public broadcaster.

NEW DOCUMENTARY MOVIE PROJECTION: FORBIDDEN VOICES

"Forbidden Voices" was the documentary movie that was projected to an audience of students, academics, and civil society representatives on April 10 at the University of Tirana. The film evolves around three bloggers that live in repressive societies, where voices are suppressed, prohibited and censored. The film focuses on world-famous bloggers Yoani Sánchez, Zeng Jinyan and Farnaz Seifi. These fearless women represent a new, networked generation of modern rebels. In Cuba, China and Iran their blogs shake the foundations of the state information monopoly, putting them at great risk. Tracing each woman's use of social media to denounce and combat violations of human rights and free speech in her home country, “Forbidden Voices” attests to the Internet's potential for building international awareness and political pressure. This documentary was projected by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.

TRAINING COURSE ON NEW PRACTICES ON WEB JOURNALISM

A training course on new practices on web journalism was organized on April 14-18 at the Albanian Media Institute, with the participation of 15 journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The main aim of the course was to introduce journalists to new techniques in information gathering, building and developing sources, and different ways of practicing web reporting. More specifically, the training focused on the specific features of online reporting compared to traditional media, particularly on immediate reporting, interaction with readers, flexibility, and multimedia tools of reporting on the web. The course dwelled on particular types of news websites, the rise of citizen journalism, the importance of frequent updating, etc. More specifically the course introduced the participants to the change in reporting mode with web journalism, focusing on the shift from linear to non-linear news and the impact in has on the profession. Specific attention was paid to the importance of sources of information, their verification and management, and to applying professional standards in online journalism. The participants also became familiar with the changes in form of news reporting and publishing, focusing on the different graphic and visual elements. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of the European Commission.

POLICE ASSAULT JOURNALIST DURING PROTEST

On April 12 the police was involved in an incident with a reporter of daily Panorama, during a protest related to the death of an Albanian prisoner in a Greek camp. As the police claimed that the protesters deviated from their plan, the police tried to stop them, clashing with the protesters. Journalist Armand Bajrami of daily Panorama reported that he was taking pictures of a special unit of the police that was beating up one of the protesters inside their van. When the police spotted the reporter, Bajrami said they approached him and forced him to go inside the yard of the police department. The reporter said that even though he was wearing his badge and repeated several times that he was a journalist, they still insisted on bringing him in. Afterwards, according to the journalist, they threatened him and made him delete all pictures he had taken, documenting their violence against the protester.  Two of the policemen insisted that the journalist should be taken inside the police department, but in the end they let the journalist go after making him delete all pictures.

The journalist denounced the act and the newspaper filed a complaint with the police’s Internal Control Service. A day later, the police, in a meeting with the journalist, made an apology on behalf of the police forces for the pressure he suffered and for hindering him from doing his job, while stating that an investigation on this matter was in course.

DOCUMENTARY MOVIE PROJECTIONS

“Syria: Across the lines” was the documentary movie that was projected to an audience of journalists, academics, and civil society representatives at the University of Shkodra and University of Elbasan, on April 29 and 30 respectively. The documentary focuses on the Orontes River valley, describing how it turned from a place of peaceful coexistence for Syria’s many sects and religions to a sectarian frontline. On one side, the rebel Free Syrian Army holds ground in Sunni villages whose residents are calling for the fall of President Assad and his regime. But less than a mile away, Alawite villagers remain fiercely loyal to the government, and gladly host army checkpoints that daily fire shells and mortars into the Sunni villages across the valley. The movie resulted from unprecedented access to both sides from director, Olly Lambert, who lived along this frontline for five weeks, offering a raw and unflinching look at a nation that is breaking apart. This documentary was projected by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.

NEW PUBLICATION ON PRINT MEDIA CRISIS

“Newspapers, crisis management in print media” is the latest publication in the media field in Albania. The author is Sami Neza, with a long experience as editor in print media. The book analyzes the current crisis of print media in the country and addresses the potential tools and solutions to this crisis. The author has built his book on case studies of current newspapers in the country, identifying respective failures and successes, attempting to draw lessons for the future for the survival of newspapers in the country and identify the changes that need to be made. The book includes specific recommendations on print media in relation to the market, newsroom transformation, content distribution, etc.


AMI NEWSLETTER - May 2014


DOCUMENTARY MOVIE PROJECTIONS: HERE BE DRAGONS

"Here be dragons" was the documentary movie that was projected to an audience of students, academics, and civil society representatives on May 16 in Tirana and on May 27 at the University of Durres. Well-known critic and filmmaker Mark Cousins has crafted this essay film, which researches the political and cultural landscape of Albania. ‘Here Be Dragons’, as he explains, was what cartographers used to write on maps of areas they hadn’t visited yet, in fear of what could lurk there. Cousins explores the nation’s art and cinema, finding along the way an endangered film archive and a society still recovering from a devastating dictatorship. In his work he has combined film clips with painterly shots of the city, landscapes and people, conveying a personal journey that opens new horizons. This documentary was projected by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.

ROUNDTABLE ON CHALLENGES OF MEDIA REFORM IN ALBANIA

A roundtable focused on challenges of media reform was organized on 20 May, with the participation of journalists, media experts, and academicians. This activity was a follow-up of the findings of Balkan Media Barometer – Albania 2013, which identified the main problems and challenges on media development in Albania.

The roundtable focused on some of the main challenges and steps that must be made in reforming the media system in Albania. Ilir Aliaj, from Centre for Development and Democratization of Institutions focused his speech on freedom of expression and access to information: from legislation into practice. Mirela Oktrova, Director of TVSH, emphasized the challenges of reforming the public broadcasting and the problems in implementing the new law. Lutfi Dervishi, Director of Information of Vizion Plus TV, discussed on media diversity and how the media relates to its public mission. Aleksander Cipa from Union of Journalists gave an overview on professionalism of Albanian journalism by focusing on training, ethics, independence and social situation of journalists. The participants discussed some of the main challenges that media faces in the country, both internally and externally, as well as potential ways of overcoming them. The roundtable was organized by AMI, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

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 98th out of 197 countries, qualified as partly free. This marked a slightly lower rank compared to last year, when it was ranked as 96th. Out of Balkan countries, it shared the same position with Kosovo, followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Turkey. The report stated that the notable decline is still focused in Southern Europe, mentioning the cases of Montenegro and Turkey, but also more established democracies such as Greece, Italy, and Hungary. In general the report emphasized that this year marked a decade low for media freedom in the world.

PARLIAMENT DECIDES ON NUMBER OF VACANCIES OF REGULATOR

The Members of Parliament debated on May 22 on whether to pronounce the vacancy of the chair of Audiovisual Media Authority, a topic that has resulted in a deadlock between the two political wings in the last months. The opposition maintained that the ruling majority’s wish to publish such a vacancy pointed to the aim of politically controlling the regulator. On the other hand, the ruling majority claimed that the chair of AMA was holding her position illegally, arguing that her mandate was over and she had not been re-elected as an AMA member. Finally, the parliament passed the decision to publish the vacancy of the chair of the regulator only with the votes of the ruling majority. While the process of applications for missing members of AMA is open, there has been little progress on the election of new members of Steering Council of public broadcaster, a process that has started since December 2013.

TRAINING COURSE ON SOCIAL NETWORKS AND JOURNALISM

A training course on the topic “Social networks and journalism” was organized on May 20-23, with the participation of 15 journalists from print, electronic, and online media.  The course aimed to inform the participants on the concrete possibilities existing in social media for the promotion of their media outlets and their work, for expanding audiences on various beats or stories, and for collecting the public’s perceptions and opinions on them. The course provided knowledge about the creation of institutional pages on Facebook and Twitter, their structure and effective management, organizing online campaigns for the needs of authors and their products, techniques of increasing the number of visitors in a news website stemming from the social networks, increasing the visibility of various groups in social media, the publication of advertising in their space, etc. Some of the most popular options of social media were explored, such as Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Wordpress, focusing on their specific nature and techniques of using them for journalists. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of the European Commission.

DOCUMENTARY MOVIE PROJECTION: THE LOST SIGNAL OF DEMOCRACY

"The lost signal of democracy" was the documentary movie that was projected to an audience of students, academics, and civil society representatives on May 22 at the University of Tirana. The film records from beginning to end everything that happened in the case of ERT, condensing within an hour, a period of five months. It features all people who played a decisive role in this case, both in Greece and the European Union. They analyze the reasons that led to the sudden death of Greece’s public broadcaster, and open the debate on the dark and uncertain future of public service broadcasting in Europe. It was an unprecedented occurrence in world history. Nowhere and never in well-governed democratic states, had the public broadcaster been silenced in such a manner that was characterized as "autocratic" and “undemocratic”. The closure of ERT was an unheard-of political act that shocked Greek citizens bringing back memories from the dark period of the dictatorship. It also caused a fierce international outrage from all around the world. This documentary was projected by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.

MEDIA TALK ON TRANSPARENCY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE

On May 8th, Albanian Media Institute, with the cooperation of the Albanian Center for Economic Research, the Albanian Media Institute, organized a media talk on the topic of “Lobbying, Transparency and Good Governance,” with the participation of journalists and civil society. Distinguished lecturer was Mark Fagan of the Harvard Kennedy School. The main focus of the talk evolved around the importance of transparency in good governance and the role of the media in increasing transparency and involving citizens in monitoring government. He also addressed the importance of public interest reporting from media in relation to good governance and transparency. Finally, he also referred to the new technologies and tools available for media as well as for making citizens more engaged with governance and for communicating with politicians.

“DRITAN HOXHA” FOUNDATION AWARDS JOURNALISM STUDENTS

The foundation “Dritan Hoxha” distributed awards for journalism students for the third year in a row. Julian Hoxhaj, student in cultural heritage, was proclaimed the winner for print media. Multimedia reporting category was won by Xhentjana Muskaj, journalism student, while Arisa Liço won the category of social video reporting. About 250 applicants participated in the competition. The ceremony of the awards took place on May 23.


AMI NEWSLETTER - June 2014


REGIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE SEE MEDIA OBSERVATORY IN TIRANA

The regional conference “Media and journalism in South East Europe – Captured by particular interests or turning to serve the public?” was held in Tirana on June 12-13. About 70 journalists, editors, media owners, public officials, and civil society representatives from the Balkans and other countries participated in the conference. The conference was hosted by the Albanian Media Institute, in the framework of regional project of the SEE Media Observatory. The Observatory, a regional partnership of civil society organizations from seven countries, organized the regional conference to discuss issues of media integrity with prominent researchers, media professionals, public officials and non-governmental organizations from these countries, but also other countries in the region. High representatives of relevant European institutions and of international organizations working in the media field as well as distinguished academics had also have an important role in the program.  

The conference also presented a book containing the results of the regional research on media integrity, a major work of the SEE Media Observatory. The current situation of the media and journalism in the countries of South East Europe is critical. Especially the patterns of media ownership and financing seem to appear as key instruments for obstruction of democratic role of the media. Why the media systems in the region do not provide conditions and mechanisms to enforce the media to function as transparent, independent and responsible institutions?  What are the reforms needed to turn them to serve the public interest? These issues were in focus of the South East European Media Observatory research, which applied the concept of media integrity and focused on the situation in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. The Observatory also supported six investigative journalism projects to bring to the light concrete cases of relations and practices harmful for media integrity.
The current project SEE Media Observatory has been financed mainly by the European Union’s program “Civil Society Facility”.  The organisation of the central regional conference has also been supported by the Central European Initiative (CEI) and Technical Assistance for Civil Society Organisations (TACSO).

OSCE AND ALBANIAN JOURNALIST ASSOCIATIONS CONDEMN VIOLENT ATTACK ON JOURNALISTS IN ALBANIA

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, condemned an attack on journalists reporting on a police raid in Gjirokastra’s Lazarat village in southern Albania on June 16. “Violence against journalists is unacceptable, safety is a basic pre-condition for their work,” Mijatović said.
According to media reports, a vehicle carrying a journalist, a camera operator, a broadcasting technician and a driver from A1 Report TV channel was shot at by masked armed individuals and later set on fire. The car, with a visible logo of A1 Report, along with the media equipment inside it, was completely destroyed. The journalist Gerti Xhaja was also briefly held hostage and released with the assistance of local citizens.
“It is positive that public officials have already condemned this incident, and that a police investigation is underway. There must be no impunity for attacks on journalists, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice as soon as possible,” Mijatović said. “Over the last years, safety of journalist in Albania has improved and it is important to do everything possible to make sure that this case does not set a bad precedent.”
Local journalists' associations, such as Union of Albanian Journalists and Free Media Forum, League of Albanian Journalists, Association of Professional Journalists have also condemned the assault against the TV crew, calling on the authorities and other actors involved to guarantee the safety of journalists during their duty.

LEGAL LEAKS TRAINING WORKSHOP

The Legal Leaks workshop for journalists was organized on June 4-5 in Tirana for 50 Albanian journalists, civil society representatives, and journalism professors. The Legal Leaks training was meant to empower journalists to use their national freedom of information laws as a regular part of their work. The training provided guidance on how to file freedom of information requests and contribute to protect media freedom by delivering techniques by which journalists can protect the security of their data and of confidential sources of information. Lecturers addressed topics such as the concept of right to information, EU standards and practices in this field, and analysis of Albanian legislation regarding access to information. The workshop also focused on practical aspects of applying right to information in journalism, such as data journalism, as well as balancing it with ethics, self-regulation, and codes of ethics. Specific attention was also paid to ethical journalism in the information era, focusing on the right to reuse data, leaks, and whistleblower protection. Participants also received the Albanian version of the Legal Leaks Toolkit, which provides guidance on how to file freedom of information requests and how to appeal refusals in Albania. The workshop was organized by Albanian Media Institute, UNESCO, and Access Info.

TRAINING COURSE ON PHOTOJOURNALISM

A training course on photojournalism took place at the Albanian Media Institute on June 16-20, with the participation of 15 reporters from Tirana-based media outlets. The main aim of the course was to introduce the participants to the basic principles of photojournalism, the notions of reporting through images, and digital photo editing. The course started by reviewing the role of photos, layout, and graphics in present Albanian media scene. Then the course focused on the main elements of good photographs and on the different genres in this area, such as concept, silhouette, colour and black and white, texture, etc. Special attention was paid to learning to make portraits, focusing especially on the different formats of photographing, editing for different purposes and media, cropping, etc. The training followed with an introduction to the basics of digital photography, providing examples from news photography in Albania and in the world. Other topics addressed included the concepts of photo news and photo story, illustrating the different genres with an archive of photos from domestic and international media. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the EU.

HUMAN RIGHTS WEEK TRAINING FOR JOURNALISTS

The training of Human Rights Week for journalists was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on June 23-27, with the participation of mainly social reporters from mainstream media. The main aim of the training was to provide journalists with the basic standards, laws, regulations, and conventions that protect human rights and guide their reporting on issues related to human rights. For this purpose, the course addressed such issues as international legislation and conventions on human rights, Albanian legislation on human rights, the specific fundamental rights set out in documents such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as the way that these are interpreted and guaranteed in Albanian legislation.

Apart from fundamental human rights, the journalists were also trained on more specific issues, such as gender equality and the law against domestic violence, the rights of minorities and media coverage of minorities, and the fundamental right to faith and the way media reports on faith and religion. Specific attention was paid to media freedom and freedom of expression as one of the cornerstones of a democracy, on the situation in Albania, the factors that affect its current status, and the media coverage of this topic. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

STUDY TRIP FOR JOURNALISTS AT EU INSTITUTIONS

A study trip for a group of ten journalists from mainstream media was organized on June 26-27 in Brussels. The study visit served as an opportunity for the journalists to learn more about the European Union and better understand the process of EU integration. For this purpose, the visits during the study trip included meetings with senior officials from the Directorate General for Enlargement, in order to discuss Albania's integration process and get acquainted with the work of the Unit for Albania. Apart from the political topics of the meeting, the journalists also had meetings of a technical nature, closer to their work, such as with the Information and Communication Unit and with representatives of the European Audiovisual Services.

After being acquainted with the work done by each institution and office represented and with the current situation in Albania and in the region regarding enlargement, both speakers and participants focused on the main factors that led to Albania becoming a candidate country and the process ahead of the country in the integration process.

Specific attention was paid to the media section, both from the technical point of view, and to media situation and the way it affects Albanian integration process. The journalists had a meeting with the Principal Adviser, Media and Civil Society at DG Enlargement, who briefed the participants on the main problems and current trends of media situation in the Balkan region and what this meant for the enlargement process. The participants also voiced their own concerns on the media freedom problems, such as lack of work contracts, difficult access to official information, political alignment of media outlets, etc. The study trip was organized by Albanian Media Institute and the Delegation of the European Commission in Tirana.

ROUNDTABLE ON PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AND MEDIA CLIENTELISM

The Council of Europe, in the framework of the regional Project “Promoting freedom of expression and information and freedom of the media in South-East Europe (SEE)”, organized on June 25 the roundtable on “Public Procurement Bids and Advertising as Forms of Clientelism for Media Instrumentalization”. The goal of the roundtable was to discuss forms of clientelism used by political elites and governments in order to attain media favors; how public officials use public resources to influence media editorial content in Albania in particular; about the legal framework in force with regard to advertising, information campaigns and public procurement provisions; Council of Europe standards and European best practices.

The event was addressed by Milena Harito, Minister of Innovation and Public Administration, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Tirana, Marco Leidekker, and Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, Ambassador Florian Raunig. Participants in the roundtable included representatives of the media sector, government officials, members of parliament, policy makers and civil society. Key speakers included Lutfi Dervishi, media expert, who focused on forms of clientelism in Albanian media, and Dorian Matlija, legal expert, who addressed public procurement and its relation to advertising and information campaigns in the media. Helena Mandic, Council of Europe expert, brought the best practices in transparency from the region. The participants in the roundtable also shared their own experiences and concerns related to the practices and forms of media clientelism in the country.

DIGITALB CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY

Digitalb, the first digital multiplex established in Albania, celebrated on June 3rd its 10th anniversary of activity. Politicians, media representatives, and members of civil society participated in the organized event. The platform covers a significant part of the territory with terrestrial coverage, including about 40 channels in its platform.


AMI NEWSLETTER - July 2014


INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM SUMMER SCHOOL

Albanian Media Institute organized a two-week investigative journalism summer school on June 30-July 11. Participants were 20 reporters, editors and young journalists working on mainstream print and electronic media and online media. Trainers included Sasa Lekovic, director of Center for Investigative Journalism in Croatia, and Albanian journalists and trainers. In this summer school 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.
Other topics addressed were related to the investigative role of the journalist, presenting different methods of gathering information. The course also provided a brief history of investigative journalism, bringing practical examples both from Albania and abroad. Further on, the lectures continued with instruction on how to draft and follow an investigative story, including both advantages and risks of this genre of journalism. Part of the lectures involved an introduction to the Law on Access to Information and how it helps investigative journalists, as well as an introduction and discussion to the code of investigative reporting. Finally, the main challenges involved regarding investigative reporting in the country were also discussed with the participants. This training course was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of the EU.

PUBLICATION AND PRESENTATION OF “IN MISTRUST WE TRUST”

The Albanian version of “In mistrust we trust: Can democracy survive when we don’t trust our leaders?” is the latest publication of Albanian Media Institute. The author of the book is well-known political commentator Ivan Krastev. In this book he explores this incongruity between our political head and heart. There has been a profound decline of the public’s trust in the performance of public institutions, he notes, which is an outcome of the voters’ sense of their lost power. Tech tools may help provide some openness to the machinations of the political machine, but they may just be putting a Band-Aid on an open wound. Ultimately, Krastev ponders whether we can enjoy the many rights of our society without enjoying real political choice or power. The publication was presented in a public event on July 3. Present was the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, members of his cabinet, representatives of the opposition, members of the diplomatic corpus, well-known journalists and commentators, and representatives of civil society.

TRAINING COURSE ON JOURNALISTS AND LABOUR RELATIONS

A training course on labor relations and their enforcement in the media was organized on July 21-25 at the Albanian Media Institute. The course aimed for journalists to become familiar with the existing legislation regarding labor relations and the situation of its implementation. The lecturers explained to participants the main legal provisions in this area, including the Constitution, the international treaties and conventions, the Code of Labour, and other relevant laws. The main issues addressed were related to the work contracts, salaries, vacation time, working conditions, etc. Aleksander Cipa, head of the trade union “Union of Journalists,” also addressed this issue, focusing on the situation of trade union movement in the country. He discussed with the journalists the reasons why this movement has been so weak and the attempts to strengthen it, especially in negotiations with the Ministry of Labour for enforcing work contracts in the media area. The participants presented their concerns regarding the fact that most of them lack work contracts and hence security regarding their jobs. Participants were journalists and editors from mainstream media. The course was organized by AMI, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

DEBATE ON MEDIA AND EUROPEAN INTEGRATION

A debate with representatives of the Albanian media was organized on July 15 in light of Albania being granted EU candidate status. The debate “What’s in it for me?” addressed how this new phase in Albania-EU relations will affect the professional careers of journalists. The meeting also featured speeches by Klajda Gjosha, the Albanian Minister of EU Integration and Clive Rumbold, Charge d’Affaires a.i. of the EU Delegation to Albania. Both speakers underlined the importance of advancing freedom of speech and media freedom as cornerstones of European values, while emphasizing the need to create a healthy environment for media freedom.
“Albania has now entered a new phase in its journey towards EU integration,” Mr Rumbold said in his speech. “I believe that this in the right moment to reinforce the fact that freedom of expression and media freedom are key indicators of a country’s readiness to become part of the EU.” He went on to point out the new agenda for media freedom and integrity, which is part of the DG Enlargement guidelines for EU support to the media in enlargement countries. The meeting concluded with a Q&A session between the journalists and the panel and was broadcasted live by various TV broadcasters.

TRAINING COURSE ON BLOGOSPHERE AND ONLINE JOURNALISM

A training course on blogosphere and online journalism was organized at Albanian Media Institute on July 14-18, with the participation of journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The course started by discussing the role of blogs as a different way of disseminating information, as well as blogging as an additional element in promoting free speech and serving as democratic platform. An analysis of Albanian media websites that have their own forums and blogs with the participants followed. The lecturers and participants focused especially on potential cases of violation of ethics, use of hate speech, open-minded discussion vis-à-vis propaganda, accuracy vis-à-vis gossip, public interest versus sensationalism, etc. Albanian journalists were introduced during the course to main principles of blogging as a new form of reporting and debate. The participants became familiar with the main sites which create the best place and services for them, in the way that they can create their own web-blogs. They also focused on and discussed different kinds of blogs, their structure, and the different journalism communities making use of blogging. Participants also discussed how the traditional media, in addition to new media, should or could cope with the ethical problems that emerge from use of technologies and blogging in particular. This course was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of EU.

TRAINING ON CASE LAW ON DEFAMATION

The Council of Europe office in Albania organized a two-day training in Tirana on “Contemporary case law on defamation, implementation by courts and best practices.” The training took place on July 3-4, with the participation of representatives from the judiciary system, media, and civil society. The training addressed the application of the European Convention of Human Rights in defamation case, the general principles and the ways they are applied in court. The lecturers and participants further focused on detailed principles, such as meaning, truth, and value judgment. Finally, the relation between press freedom and implementation of defamation regulation by courts was discussed both in principle and through case studies. The discussion evolved around press responsibility, factual allegations on matter of interest, privacy matters, public figures vs. ordinary people, the Internet and new issues, etc.


AMI NEWSLETTER - August-September 2014


NEW LAW ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION APPROVED

On September 18 the parliament approved the new law “On right to information.” The law was approved after years of discussion with the Ministry of Justice, public administration, and relevant parliamentary commissions. The initiative to change the existing law on access to information came from Soros Foundation and other civil society organizations. The law aims to further guarantee the citizens’ right to information by expanding the notion of public information, urging the government to take a more pro-active approach towards transparency, and nominating a guardian of the citizens’ right to information and devising mechanisms and sanctions to protect this right.
More specifically, the new law transfers the duty of overseeing the implementation of the right to information from People’s Advocate (as was the case with the old law) to the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection. In addition, the law also allows for administrative sanctions imposed by the Commissioner on cases of violation of the right to information and such cases are detailed in the law. The Commissioner will also be in charge of drafting transparency models for public institutions, including the information that should be made readily available to the public. In addition, the law envisages the establishment of position of information coordinators at the public institutions, who will be in charge of handling requests for information. Another novelty is the establishment of a register of requests of information that each institution will make available, hiding the identity of persons that request information. In addition, timelines for giving information have been reduced and the application of public interest test is required when the information is classified or restricted.

SEMINAR ON EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY FOR BALKAN JOURNALISTS

The seminar titled “European Foreign Policy: Balkan perspectives and global challenges” was organized in Durres on September 5-6. The aim of the seminar was to give journalists a greater insight into the EU enlargement and global security matters. Participants included journalists from Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Serbia, who are reporting on international policy and EU integration of their countries.
Hellmut Hoffmann, German Ambassador in Tirana, opened the seminar by pointing out the previous active role of Germany and its future responsibility for the EU integration of South East Europe. Main speaker was Hans-Joachim Falenski, foreign policy advisor of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag. He reaffirmed Germany's willingness for further expansion of the EU and underlined that compliance of the common standards would be examined more closely for new EU candidates than it was before. Other speakers included Sokol Dervishaj, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ilda Zhulali, Advisor to the Albanian President on EU integration, and Alba Cela and Albert Rakipi from the Albanian Institute for International Studies. They each provided the perspectives of their institutions and their work related to EU integration. This seminar was organized jointly by the Konrad Adeauer Stiftung Media Program South East Europe and Albanian Media Institute.

PUBLICATION AND ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON ONLINE MEDIA

Albanian Media Institute published the research “The online media in Albania.” The scope of this study was the portrayal of the history and the development of online media in Albania by identifying approaches, specific developments and characteristics in comparison with global model characteristics, formats and models of publications. Furthermore the aim was to assess the extent and the efficiency in the application of techniques and capacities of the web practices and genuine cyber-media developments, the level of interactivity, the speed in transmitting of the information, the managing strategy and business models they have pursued and the individual profile each have established.
The main conclusions of the Study were presented in a Roundtable in Tirana, organized on September 12. The focus of this Roundtable was analyzing the main trends of online and social media development. Participants in the event included representatives from the online media, including journalists, press freedom advocates, and professors and students.
The Roundtable introduced the main findings of the research made on landscape of online media, focusing on profile and types of existing online publications, production process of online content, interactivity with readers, registration, design, and archiving, etc. Important emphasis was put on human resources and economics of online media in Albania. In addition, the discussion among experts and representatives of online media highlighted some of the main ethical issues that exist in the Albanian online media. It focused on the problems over the use of hate language, discriminatory comments, ethical rules, as well as problems with piracy of content and attribution of sources. The research and roundtable were carried out with the support of the Austrian Development Cooperation.

MULTIMEDIA REPORTING AND CONVERGENCE COURSE

A training course on multimedia reporting and convergence was organized on September 22-26 at the Albanian Media Institute, with the participation of 15 journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The main aim of the course was to teach journalists how to adapt to the new technologies and merge with new media, at least in specific formats. In addition, the course aimed to teach journalists how to use convergence to their advantage in reporting. The training course covered all aspects of multimedia news production; from basic storyboarding to hands-on instruction with hardware and software for production of multimedia stories. The participants became familiar with the main features of multimedia reporting and went through the specific steps entailed in multimedia reporting. Particular attention was also paid to infographics as a way for user-friendly reporting of specific information. Finally, attention was also paid to convergence and the role of internet, and the way this affects the work of online journalists. The course was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the European Union.

TRAINING COURSE ON MEDIA COVERAGE OF DIVERSITY

A training course on diversity reporting in the media was carried out at the Albanian Media Institute on September 17-19, with the participation of journalists covering social issues. The training started with a brief overview of diversity reporting in world and Albanian media and on its impact on the society. The training focused on specific elements to have in mind when reporting diversity, such as angle and approach to the story, the sources of information used, the language and vocabulary, and the images and photos to illustrate the story. In addition to diversity reporting in general, the course also addressed the topic of coverage of LGBT community in particular. Making use of case studies, the training highlighted the most common stereotypes and ways of avoiding them, based on verification, field work, and sources of information from the community. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Soros Foundation.

NINTH EDITION OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL 
  
The ninth edition of the International Human Rights Film Festival was organized at the Academy of Film and Multimedia Marubi on September 22-28. During the festival a selection of 48 feature, documentary and short movies was projected, coming from different countries of the world. The central theme of this edition was “Digital Revolution“. In this respect, several movies focused on online freedom of expression, and the relations between human rights and internet, were projected. In addition, the festival also hosted daily forums with experts and students, discussing on a range of topics and issues related to human rights. The festival is organized by Academy of Film and Multimedia Marubi and a number of domestic and international organizations, including Albanian Media Institute.

ROUNDTABLE ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND DEFAMATION

Respublica center organized a roundtable on advocacy on freedom of information and defamation on September 30, with the participation of journalists and civil society. The main aim of the roundtable was to discuss how to improve implementation of the law on access to information and how to decriminalize defamation. The roundtable highlighted that the passing of the new law on access to information recently was a good moment to raise awareness on the importance of improving access to information, given the improvement and advantages the new law presents compared to the previous one. For this purpose Respublica had also prepared a commentary on the new law, which sheds light on the different details of the law and aims to emphasize the novelties of this law. Another important topic discussed during the roundtable was the need to decriminalize defamation, which, although amended in 2012, has not been fully decriminalized. The roundtable was organized with the support of sub-granting from South East European Media Observatory, which is funded by EU.

NEW PUBLICATION ON MEDIA AND ITS ROLE ON SOCIETY

“Communication and social relations” is the title of the latest publication of the European University of Tirana, written by Roland Lami, professor of journalism and communication. The book attempts to examine the relations between society and media, their interdependence, the causes, and the effects of this interdependence. The book was promoted in a public event organized by the university on September 16. Present were also journalists, academics, and media experts.


AMI NEWSLETTER - October 2014


EU PROGRESS REPORT ON ALBANIA 2014

The latest EU Progress Report on Albania for 2014 highlighted the slow progress made in certain legislative areas, while emphasizing the need to take steps for resolving the existing deadlock and addressing imminent processes, such as digital switchover. Major attention was paid to the implementation of the Law on Audiovisual Media, which has been slow, in view of the continuous lack of political agreement on filling the vacancies in the media regulator. The report notes that the authority has not been able to fully perform its statutory tasks, such as licensing, audience measurement, and implementation of the digitization strategy. The report also shares the same concern over the slow election process of Steering Council of public broadcaster RTSH. Implementation of digitization strategy is another major issue noted in the report. Although there has been progress in mapping territorial reach and measuring antenna strength, the work on digital switchover process has been stalled due to several reasons. Public broadcaster RTSH digitization process has not properly started, after a pending lawsuit that resulted from annulment of tender by the responsible Ministry in summer 2013. In addition, the licensing of existing multiplexes could not progress, due to an ongoing court case launched by broadcasting operators against the Audiovisual Media Authority.

In addition, the report noted that the public service broadcaster’s editorial independence and fee collection system need to be improved. The lack of transparency of media financing and the interference in the media by political and economic interests remain major challenges. Specific attention was also paid to labor rights, stating that proper enforcement of labor rights needs to be provided. The report also made a note of two cases of violence against journalists reported in the last year, which is a concern.

ROUNDTABLE ON MEDIA INTEGRITY STUDY

Albanian Media Institute organized on October 31 the promotion of the research “Media Integrity Matters,” followed by a roundtable discussion with journalists, editors, and civil society representatives. The research study introduces the concept of media integrity to denote public service values in media and journalism. This research is an attempt to address obstacles to a democratic development of media systems in the countries of South East Europe by mapping patterns of corrupt relations and practices in media policy development, media ownership and financing, public service broadcasting, and journalism as a profession. The Albanian study noted that despite the progress that has been made, it seems that the risks to media integrity are numerous and visible. They include the lack of transparency of media funding and of business practices, a weak public broadcaster, and the dominance of political and private interests over public interests in developing and implementing media policies.  
Apart from the introduction of the research and its conclusions, two main speakers addressed the event. Aleksander Cipa, chairman of the trade union of journalists, spoke on the difficult economic situation of Albanian media, the financial crisis it is going through, and the impact it has on status of journalists. He focused on the weak implementation of the labor relations, the lack of legal protection for journalists within their media, the frequent delays in salaries, and the inability of journalists to organize to change the situation. Afterwards Lutfi Dervishi, media expert, built on the difficulties journalists face in their everyday work to sketch his own view of professionalism of journalists today. He focused on issues such as PR and journalism, who sets the public agenda, technology and journalism, and the compromises and choices that journalists make every day. The participants also discussed the current media situation in the country, focusing on matters such as transparency, media financing, the role of the owners, and professional level of journalists. The roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, in view of the project implemented by South East European Media Observatory, supported by EU.

TRADE UNION OF JOURNALISTS ALERTS ON INFORMALITY IN MEDIA LABOR RELATIONS

The Union of Albanian Journalists organized a press conference to denounce the difficult economic and social situation in the Albanian media market. Aleksandër Çipa, chairman of the union, declared that the economic crisis in Albanian media has deepened and the informality in labor relations has worsened. He also provided data to support these statements. So, in 21 daily newspapers this year, 18 of them have experienced delays with payment of salaries for journalists. He also said that out of 100 TV stations, in 94 of them there have been repeated delays with salaries, sometimes even reaching a four-month delay. The situation with radio stations is similar, with delayed payment of salaries for 97% of them. As a result of this situation, in 2014 176 journalists have lost their jobs, or have quitted after repeated failure to receive salaries for their work.

The Union also highlighted another concerning phenomenon related to the formal contracts for journalists and failure and fraud of the management to pay social contributions and health care benefits. The union was also worried about the inability of journalists to establish trade unions within their media outlet. As a result, the integrity of journalists in Albania has weakened and they are misused for economic and political interests, said Cipa. He called on state authorities to intervene and change this gloomy situation for Albanian media.

NATIONAL ROUNDTABLE ON ONLINE ETHICS AND ROLE OF OMBUDSMEN

A roundtable on online media ethics and role of ombudsmen in newsrooms was organized on October 14. The main aim of the roundtable was to discuss online media ethics, challenges, solutions, and see potential for expanding the model of ombudsman or other self-regulation tools. Participants included more than 30 journalists from traditional and online media, and journalism professors and media experts. The first part of the roundtable was devoted to ethics in online media, addressing specifically the technical features that distinguish ethical problems in online media to those in traditional media. Particular attention was paid to the way forums and UGC are regulated or not, the main practices, and what could be done. The ratio of hate speech to freedom of expression right was also addressed. During the second part of the roundtable the participants became familiar with the model of ombudsmen in newsrooms and the experience of the ombudsmen in daily newspapers. In general this practice was considered a novelty and a necessity. However, it was also emphasized that ideally such a person should be a person that is not involved in other editorial work, but only monitors ethics and complaints from the public, while also writing a weekly column and communicating with the public on ethics. Given the miserable economic state of Albanian print media at the moment, the participants stressed the difficulty in achieving a functional ombudsman model, since ethics is the first to be sacrificed in cases of economic hardship. The roundtable took place in the framework of the EU-UNESCO project, “Media Accountability in South East Europe.”

PARLIAMENT ELECTS TWO NEW AMA MEMBERS

The Parliament elected on October 9 two new members of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA.) The new members are Pirro Misha, head of Institute for Dialogue and Communication and well-known publicist, and Gledis Gjipali, head of the European Movement Albania. The new members were voted only by Members of Parliament from the ruling majority, as the opposition MPs continue the parliament boycott. The voting was quickly condemned by the opposition. Genc Pollo, Head of Parliamentary Commission on Media, issued a statement that considered this act illegal and unfair. According to Pollo, the process was illegal, as the law demands that the short listing of candidates is done jointly by both ruling majority and opposition MPs. He also added that the ruling majority has in this way also violated the agreement with the opposition, which detailed the procedures for electing members of AMA and of Steering Council of RTSH. The opposition has maintained that the intention of the ruling majority in this process has been that of capturing AMA and especially the chair of the institution. Meanwhile, after the election of the new members, the Parliamentary Media Commission has proceeded with shortlisting the four candidates for chair of AMA, out of the seven that have applied for this position.

REGIONAL PUBLICATION ON HATE SPEECH IN ONLINE MEDIA

Albanian Media Institute published the book “Hate speech in online media in South East Europe.”  The book contains seven country reports on hate speech in online media in the region. The country reports aim to identify the main trends and violations of hate speech in online media in Western Balkan countries and in Turkey. Reports combine direct content monitoring of online media with previous research, monitoring, and studies. The reports also provide overviews of relevant legislation in the realm of hate speech. The practice of media initiatives to self-regulate is also described against the general background of self-regulation process in each country. The book also features an analysis of the legal concept of hate speech and balance of rights, produced by Article 19, along with respective relevant court cases. The publication was in the framework of the UNESCO project "Media accountability in South East Europe," supported by EU, while the publishing of this book has also been supported by OSFA.

TRAINING COURSE ON MEDIA COVERAGE OF DIVERSITY

A training course on diversity reporting in the media was organized on October 1-3 at the Albanian Media Institute, with the participation of 15 journalists covering social issues in print, electronic, and online media. The trainers provided for participants a general overview of reporting diversity and main elements to have in mind when covering vulnerable. In addition, the course focused on the need to improve reporting on gender equality in the media. The trainers provided a summary of existing international and national legislation on gender equality and discussed ways of reporting this matter in the media.  Specific attention was paid to the coverage of domestic violence, since this is one of the most covered phenomena in Albanian media, discussing ethics, public interest in coverage of these events, the need to raise awareness, etc. The trainers discussed with participants also ways to positively cover gender equality, analyzing specific case studies of media coverage. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Soros Foundation.

TV DEBATE ON SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVISM IN GJIROKASTRA

The Albanian Media Institute organized a television debate at the University of Gjirokaster on October 23. The debate addressed the role of different actors in the democratic process, identified the main obstacles and needs and aimed to raise awareness among the local public opinion on the need for greater activism and participation. Participants in the debate included students, local journalists, and representatives of civil society. The debate focused on subjects such as the role of different actors in catering to local communities, such as civil society and media, the impact of national and local media on local communities, the image of these media in the communities, etc. Specific attention was paid to social media and new civic groups in the local level, attempts at activism for local benefit, etc. The debate was broadcast by the local branch of public broadcaster, TV Gjirokastra. The organization of the debate was supported by Balkan Trust for Democracy.

TRAINING COURSE ON REPORTING ETHNIC MINORITIES

A training course on reporting ethnic minorities was organized in Gjirokaster on October 22-24, with the participation of 14 journalists from both local and minority media. The training course discussed with the journalists the concepts of reporting on diversity, focusing especially on the ethical guidelines used in writing on minorities. The course also analyzed the main stereotypes used while reporting on minorities and the image of minorities in the Albanian press, tackling several case studies.  Specific attention was also devoted to hate speech in the cyber space, in different forums and blogs, in Albanian and in the language of minorities; especially regarding such phenomena as nationalistic rhetoric or cyber-nationalism. The course served not only as training in reporting minorities and improving coverage of diversity, but also in bringing together Albanian and minority journalists to a professional discussion of reporting of minorities in Albanian media. The course was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the U.S. Embassy.

TRAINING COURSE ON SOCIAL MEDIA, PRIVACY, AND DEFAMATION

The training course on the topic “social media, privacy, and defamation,” was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on October 6-10, with the participation of 15 journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The aim of this course was to train journalists in technical and professional issues related to social media, with an emphasis on defamation and copyright. The course also aimed to engage participants in a debate on online media ethics, filtering, and other self-regulating tools in the online media realm. Some of the topics addressed during the course included the specific features of several social networks, administering User Generated Content, creating networks, and merging social media and reporting. The course paid special importance to ethical problems in the internet, focusing on main risks of privacy in social media, anonymity and lack of gatekeepers, use of hate speech, abuse with technology, privacy invasion, etc. The course focused on theoretical considerations and practical cases related to privacy and internet, referring to regulation, self-regulation, and how they have worked in practice in relation to privacy online. the participants also became familiar with legislation and institutions that cover online privacy and defamation in the country, as well as with the international standards and most famous relevant cases involving defamation, privacy, and online media. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

BIRN ALBANIA LAUNCHES REPORTER.AL NEWS SITE

Over 40 representatives of the media, non-governmental organizations and partners attended the official launch of BIRN Albania’s news website Reporter.al on October 3. The guests were greeted by Andi Dobrushi, Executive Director of the Open Society Foundation in Albania (OSFA), and BIRN’s English-language editor Marcus Tanner. Reporter.al is a general news website designed to promote excellence in journalism, with a particular focus on investigative reporting, with stories that cover the war against corruption and impunity in the country. The interactive website will publish investigative stories, analyses, reports and blogs, but also features from Albania and the region in the local language. The online publication is supported by the Open Society Foundation in Albania (OSFA), National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD).

NEW BOOK ON ALBANIAN JOURNALISM

“Albanian journalism in transition: Structures, actors, and professional typology” is the title of a book written by Jonila Godole, professor at the Department of Journalism and Communication, at the University of Tirana. The author analyzes the characteristics of transition in Albanian journalism, focusing on four main periods of development, while having in mind the legacy inherited from communist rule. While making use of different theoretical notions and concepts, the author has used an extensive survey of Albanian journalists to draw conclusions on the existing culture of Albanian journalism at the moment. The book focuses on topics such as demographic overview of Albanian journalists, conditions of work, professional routine and professional recognition, reporting practices, self-perception, influencing of reporters, PR and journalism, etc. In this way, the book also represents detailed perceptions of journalists on their profession and role in society.


AMI NEWSLETTER - November 2014


PARLIAMENT ELECTS AMA CHAIR

The Parliament elected on November 6 the new chair of the regulator on audiovisual media, Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA.) His name is Gentian Sala, holding a law degree, as well as a master’s degree in “European Studies.” He comes from a legal background, switching then to commercial business activities, working as a manager and co-owner of different companies. He has also been part of the structures of Digitalb, the main commercial multiplex in the country. During the voting Sala received most votes, namely 79 votes pro and 1 against. This election took place after short listing of the four candidates for AMA chair in the Parliamentary Commission on Media. After the repeated calls to the opposition to return to the parliament and participate in the process of eliminating the candidates, there was no positive response. Hence, the ruling majority decided to proceed with the selection process on its own, as completing the number of missing members and chair in this institution was an urgent matter that could not longer wait. The opposition responded by emphasizing Sala’s previous involvement in Digitalb as a sign that indicates that the government aims to capture the regulator.

ROUNDTABLE ON MEDIA OWNERSHIP AND TRANSPARENCY

A roundtable on media ownership and media financing transparency was organized on November 11, with the participation of journalists, editors, journalism associations’ representatives and civil society. The roundtable focused on the presentation of the research carried out on this topic by the Albanian Media. The research identifies the main patterns of the main ownership schemes in Albanian media, their structure and changes through the years, and their impact on the media landscape and especially on media independence. The research focuses on such issues as relevant legislation and its implementation through the respective regulatory authorities, a description of the media landscape and its development through the years, following with a documentation and description of the ownership structure of the main media outlets. Other sensitive and important topics that the research has addressed include transparency of financing sources of media outlets, the advertising market and state advertising, as well as self-regulation process and status of journalists in this regard. The main speakers were Ilda Londo, author of the research on the topic, who presented the process of drafting the research and its main findings, and Aleksander Cipa, head of the trade union “Union of Albanian Journalists,” who analyzed the current media ownership schemes, with special emphasis on their influence over labor relations’ implementation in the media sector. He described the existing situation regarding labour relations in the media and called upon the participants for a greater involvement and participation for improving the situation. This roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute with the support of European Union.

INDIREG STUDY ON AMA PUBLISHED

The Council of Europe Office in Tirana, in cooperation with the Assembly of Albania, published on November 25 a study on the formal and de facto indicators of the independence and functioning of the Albanian Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), prepared by three international experts according to the INDIREG methodology.  The study was commissioned by the Council of Europe on request of the Albanian Parliament and it was drafted by Dr Kristina Irion, Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam, Michele Ledger, Cullen International, Brussels, Dr Sara Svensson, Department of Public Policy, Central European University, Budapest.
The scope of the study was to apply the INDIREG methodology to the AMA and provide contextual interpretation of the results with policy recommendations. The participants were addressed by the Speaker of the Assembly of Albania Mr Ilir Meta, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Tirana Mr Marco Leidekker, and Charge s'Affaires of the European Union Delegation to Albania Yngve Engstrom.

THREE TRAINING COURSES ON IMPROVING REPORTING ON CHILDREN

Albanian Media Institute organized this month three training courses that focused on improving reporting of children in the media. The courses took place respectively on November 5-7, 12-14, and 24-26, with the participation of 15 journalists in each.  The main aim of the courses was to introduce journalists to the main topics, angles, and ethical considerations to have in mind when reporting on minors. Lecturers were professors at Department of Journalism, media experts and well-known journalists, and representatives of NGOs dealing with children issues. Some of the main topics addressed during the course included discussion of new topics that have not been covered on children, legislation in place protecting children, legal issues to have in mind when reporting on children, ethical considerations when interviewing them, etc. Participants discussed with lecturers specific examples and challenges they had had during their work. The courses were supported by Save the Children.

TRAINING COURSE ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION

A training course on access to information and the media took place at the Albanian Media Institute on November 17-18, with the participation of 15 journalists from mainstream media and spokespersons. The course aimed for both journalists and spokespersons to discuss the new regulation on access to information, become familiar with the new criteria for accessing official information and identifying ways of improving media access to official information. After providing a brief overview of the international standards in access to information, the lecturers focused on the Albanian legal provisions in this area. Special attention was paid to the novelties introduced by the law approved in September, such as the supervisory authority, exhaustive list of criteria for refusing information, the role of information coordinators, the extension of the subjects that are required to provide information, etc. Journalists presented their problems in receiving information from public officials in the course of their work. On the other hand, the spokespersons explained to journalists the context of their work and specified the need to build a relationship of mutual trust. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of the European Union.

TV DEBATE ON SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVISM IN KORCA

The Albanian Media Institute organized a television debate at the University of Korca on November 20. The debate addressed the role of different actors in the democratic process, identified the main obstacles and needs and aimed to raise awareness among the local public opinion on the need for greater activism and participation. Participants in the debate included students, local journalists, and representatives of civil society. The debate focused on subjects such as the role of different actors in catering to local communities, such as civil society and media, the impact of national and local media on local communities, the image of these media in the communities, etc. Specific attention was paid to social media and new civic groups in the local level, attempts at activism for local benefit, etc. The debate was broadcast by local television TV Lobi. The organization of the debate was supported by Balkan Trust for Democracy.

TRAINING ON IMPROVING REPORTING OF ROMA AND EGYPTIANS
A training session on reporting diversity, with a specific focus on Roma and Egyptians, was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on November 4, with the participation of 20 journalists from mainstream print and electronic media. The main aim of the course was to introduce the journalists to the most relevant issues related to Roma situation in the country and analyze with them the media coverage on Roma and identify ways to improve it. The lecturers introduced the participants to a brief history of Roma in Albania, the existing stereotypes in society and in media regarding Roma, and addressed specific ways to improve Roma coverage in the media. Specific attention was paid to the language used vis-à-vis Roma, and the space devoted to them in mainstream media. Other important issues discussed including the lack of official statistics on Roma and the way this affects media coverage on them, the official Strategy for the Roma community, the civil society attempts made in this regard, etc. A special analysis was made on media coverage of Roma minority, bringing examples that had sparked media interest on Roma population, and analyzing the reasons for this interest and ways to increase and improve media coverage on Roma. This training session was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of UNDP.

TRAINING COURSE ON NEW MEDIA AND LOCAL JOURNALISM

A training course on the topic “New media and local journalism” was organized in Korca on November 20-21, with the participation of 14 journalists from the local media. The training course discussed with the journalists the current development of journalism as a profession, addressing the range of problems journalists face, especially in local media. Participants also discussed the emergence and development of new media, its values, challenges, and expectations, focusing on the way the work of journalists has been transformed. The efficacy of new media in testing opinion of citizens and confronting it to traditional sources of information was another topic discussed during the course. The participants also were introduced to the concept of citizen journalist and professional journalist, discussing the differences and opportunities. The lecturer and journalists discussed different ways of incorporating new media in local journalists’ work, such as obtaining new sources of information from the public, making use of opinion of citizens and shaping the reporting, etc. However, the course focused also on the need for local journalists to provide the necessary context and background, independently of the form of publishing or whether the media is traditional or online. This course was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the US Embassy.

REGIONAL WORKSHOP “PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA AND BUILDING TRUST WITH PEOPLE”

Public broadcaster RTSH hosted the regional workshop on “Public service media and the trust with people” on 20 to 21 November. 50 representatives from more than 10 countries discussed and exchanged experiences on how to increase the trust of audiences and be accountable to them. The workshop was organised by the EBU in cooperation with the OSCE Presence in Tirana, in the framework of an EBU-EC Action plan for support of public service media in the EU accession countries. The main topic of the workshop was increasing trust of the people in public service media by exchanging information and experiences on how various broadcasters do this across EBU members. The participants discussed such issues as challenges and experience of ombudsmen in PBS, having an ethics department, ways and tools of promoting public service media values, using research for accountability and marketing of PBS, using audience research to get closer to the people needs, increasing accountability, etc. At the end of the workshop the participants agreed that while there is not one model of PSB accountability mechanism, all PSBs should try to adapt a mechanism that increases their transparency and accountability.

PUBLICATION ON ALBANIAN LEADERS THROUGH “TIME” MAGAZINE

“Three Albanian periods in TIME (1923-2013) from Ahmet Zogu to Enver Hoxha and  Sali Berisha” is the title of the new book by Belina Budini, media and communication expert and academician. The book was launched in an event organized on November 6, by the European University of Tirana and UET Press, the publishers of the book. Participants in the event included politicians, academicians, journalists, media experts, and civil society representatives. The book studies the way Albania, its leaders, and the Albanian-U.S.A. relations have been depicted in the TIME magazine in the last 80 years.

 

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