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Newsletters Archive
AMI Newsletters             2016

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 - July-August 2016


JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATIONS OPPOSE PROVISIONS AFFECTING MEDIA IN DRAFT LAWS 

Two articles from draft laws of the ongoing judiciary reform sparked the concern and a joint statement from four media associations. The Union of Albanian Journalists, the Association of Professional Journalists, the League of Albanian Journalists, and the Association of Electronic Media drafted and signed a joint statement on August 17 condemning the current proposed draft of provisions that affect media. More specifically, the concerned article was in the draft law on Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’ Office and read that “every inappropriate influence exercised against special prosecutors and their activity on concrete cases by public authorities, media or in any kind of way and any other person which might have an impact on prosecutors’ independence during their work activity shall be considered illegal and will be punished by law... This illegal activity is punishable by three years in prison”. A similar article was contained also in the Law on Organization and Functioning of Prosecution’ Office. The four organizations in their joint statement expressed their concern on these articles, considering them “as an attempt aiming at shutting down free media and creating a censorship situation”. They considered the articles as an open threat to freedom of expression and called on the parliament to remove the articles from these draft laws. The Chair of the ad hoc Parliamentary Committee on Justice System Reform, Fatmir Xhafaj confirmed that the articles would be reformulated in order to eradicate any doubts over the right to free speech. He explained that the aim of the articles was not to limit the media freedom but rather to eliminate any possible sources of pressure on this judiciary body. In a meeting that took place in the parliament with the representatives of the four associations, the Albanian Media Institute, and BIRN Albania, three versions of the reformulated drafts were presented and explained, which were considered acceptable by all members present in relation to guaranteeing freedom of expression.

WORKSHOPS ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION WITH LOCAL MEDIA

In July the Albanian Media Institute continued the series of workshops on access to information and local government in the framework of a project that aims to improve transparency and accountability of local government and local public institutions through a more active role of local media and citizens, supported by Lëviz Albania. In this context, four one-day workshops were organized in the cities of Berat on July 7, Gjirokastra on July 13, Saranda on July 20, and Burrel on July 26. Participants in the workshop included journalists from local media and correspondents for national media outlets. The participants became familiar with the rights they are entitled to official information by the law passed in September 2014 and how they could use it to the advantage of their work. The training included information on the main aspects of the FOIA law, the rights of citizens in applying for information on official documents, and the obligations of state authorities to respond. More specifically, the participants were instructed how to draft information request in the proper manner, in order to avoid direct refusal of official authorities to grant information on grounds of a poorly drafted or invalid request. The next step will be testing of the practices of local government in responding to requests for information, which will be an effort to measure the openness of local government, as well as identify the weak links and good practices in this aspect of governance.

TRAINING COURSES ON IMPROVING REPORTING OF CHILDREN

Albanian Media Institute, in cooperation with the regulator, the Audiovisual Media Authority, started a series of training courses aimed to improve coverage of children in local media. In this context, three courses were organized respectively on July 15-16 in Elbasan, on July 21-22 in Shkodra, and on July 27-28 in Vlora. The training courses focused on improving reporting of children in audiovisual media. Participants were local journalists working in local televisions and as correspondents for national media. 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. Specific attention was paid to audiovisual media legislation requirements and the existing bylaws and regulations on coverage of children in audiovisual media. Participants discussed with lecturers specific examples and challenges they had had during their work.

SURVEY ON PUBLIC BROADCASTER’S CONTENT AND REPUTATION

The Department of Journalism at the University of Tirana has conducted a survey on the offer and reputation of the public broadcaster RTSH, upon the request of the General Directorate of RTSH. The methodology used comprised several techniques, such as survey and interview with audience for RTSH programs, survey of public opinion in general, focus group discussion with experts, analysis of several aspects of RTSH work from journalism professors, interviews and survey with internal RTSH staff, etc. The findings of the survey were presented in an event organized on July 18, with the participation of academicians, RTSH staff, and respective civil society organizations. The representatives of the Department of Journalism considered this a study that offers numerous data and indicators that RTSH management can use in order to reform its program offer in order to become more competitive in the market as well as to improve its public mission.


AMI NEWSLETTER - January 2016


ROUNDTABLE ON IMPROVING TRANSPARENCY OF GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AND OF MEDIA FUNDING

A roundtable on the topic of transparency of government and of its media funding was organized on January 13. Participants included journalists from mainstream media, civil society representatives, and officials from public institutions. The aim of the roundtable was to discuss the current problems in transparency of use of public funds for the media and the main practices in this field, as well as identify potential recommendations for improving the situation. During the roundtable the findings of a flash report on state-media financial relations were presented. The findings focused on main practices in distributing government ads, the role of advertising agencies, the selective transparency vis-a-vis media businesses, the problems with labor relations in the media, etc. In addition, during the roundtable the results of the testing of the new law on freedom of information were presented, in an exercise that involved obtaining information on government advertising in the media through FOIA requests. The discussion with the participants highlighted the problems in implementing this law and the main trends in lack of government transparency vis-a-vis media and citizens, the way this affects media practices, the role of the Commissioner for Right to Information, etc. The activity was part of the advocacy component of the South East Europe Media Observatory project, funded by EU.

REGIONAL FORUM ON DIVERSITY IN ELBASAN

A regional forum on ethical reporting of diversity and ethical guidelines on coverage of vulnerable groups was organized in Elbasan on January 28. Participants included local journalists, correspondents for national media, local government representatives and civil society organizations working in the region. The forum was organized as a platform of discussion between media on one hand, and local government and civil society, on the other hand, assessing the quality of media coverage of vulnerable groups in the media. The discussion focused on specific local cases, but a presentation of the Assessment Report on Media Coverage of Vulnerable Groups was also made, as a starting point for the discussion. The forum served as a way of exchanging opinions, concerns, and ideas on media coverage of these groups with journalists, local government, and civil society. The participants in the forum also identified ways of improving the information reflected in the media by broadening the pool of sources of information and contacts to local government services and civil society services to vulnerable groups. Finally, the forum paid special attention to the ethical guidelines drafted for coverage of vulnerable groups, discussing specific cases and ways of improving media coverage from the ethical point of view.  The forum was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Soros Foundation.

REGIONAL CONFERENCE ON COMMUNICATION OF CITIZEN PROTESTS

A regional conference titled "Communication in the context of citizen protests: The experiences from the SEE region" was held at Mediacentar Sarajevo on 21 January, 2016. The main goal of the conference was to present and discuss the research conducted in the period 2014 -2015 within the RRPP-funded project Communication practices in the context of social uprisings and requests for public accountability. The project has been implemented by three institutions: Media and Civil Society Development Foundation “Mediacentar” (FMC), School of Journalism and Public Relations (SJPR) and Albanian Media Institute (AMI), and has been mentored by the Peace Institute Ljubljana within the RRPP Institutional Research Partnership programme. The research focused on the way the protests were framed in the media content and on how the three major stakeholders (journalists, activists and party/government officials) perceived the communication practices during the protests.
The conference brought together more than 30 participants - researchers, media experts, politicians, journalists and activits from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia and Slovenia - who shared their experiences and discussed recommendations on how to enhance communication between government, citizens and the media in the course of citizen protests and social uprisings. The research findings for the Albanian report were presented by Ilda Londo, while
the viewpoint of protesters in the country was represented by Blendi Salaj, journalist and protester from Albania. He noted that protests in his country attracted a lot of media attention, but journalists in the mainstream media used to „take sides“ and cover stories from „specific political angle“. The final conclusion from the discussion was that the citizen protests were to be expected in the future, but their actual impact would remain questionable without better communication and more openness as well as professionalism of the government and media. For this to happen, substantial structural changes would be necessary.

STUDY TRIP OF ALBANIAN JOURNALISTS TO SERBIA

A study trip for five Albanian journalists and editors was organized on January 26-27 in Belgrade, as part of an exchange initiative between Albanian and Serbian journalists. During their visit they had several meetings with journalists, representatives of civil society, business, parliament, politicians, etc. The exchange aims to better know the realities of both countries, to expand the contacts between media professionals and to improve reporting neighbors in the region. For this purpose, the meetings of Albanian journalists in Belgrade included representatives from civil society, such as Sonja Biserko from the Serbian Helsinki Committee, Sonja Licht, from the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, and Dusan Janjic from the Forum for Ethnic Relations. The meetings with civil society focused on the perception on the relation between two countries, on Kosovo issue, and on identifying ways of improving knowledge on each other and fostering a more constructive public debate. 
The journalists also met with state officials, such as Sasa Mirkovic, State Secretary for Information, and the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These meetings addressed concrete ongoing initiatives between the two countries, discussed the official position on several matters, as well as future plans in the framework of regional cooperation. Specific attention in the meetings was also paid to exchange with journalists, with the participation of Vukasin Obradovic, from NUNS association, Milorad Ivanovic, chief editor of Newsweek Serbia, and Veran Matic from B92. The talks with journalists focused on media coverage of Albania and Kosovo, ethical and hate speech problems, the systemic difficulties with media in both countries, and freedom and professionalism of journalists. The study trip was organized from Albanian Media Institute, with the support of US Embassy.

TRAINING COURSE ON IMPROVING REPORTING OF VULNERABLE GROUPS

A training course aiming to improve reporting of vulnerable groups in the media and cooperation of media with civil society was organized on January 20-22, with the participation of journalists from mainstream print and electronic media. The first part of the course addressed the importance of reporting diversity correctly in the media and the significance of cultural diversity in society. Journalists became familiar with and discussed ways of recognizing and accepting the Other, and reporting this topic in an appropriate way. Specific attention was paid to stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination in reporting in the media. Another major field of the course was community journalism and reporting diversity, taking into account specific media coverage, as well as social media role in this aspect.
The second part of the course focused specifically on reporting issues related to terminal patients and palliative care. Journalists became familiar with the way palliative care is regulated in the country, focusing on public health principles and the existing processes in this field. Specific attention was paid in explaining the principles, objectives, and policies related to palliative care. In addition, participants were briefed on the existing services on palliative care, the organization of these services, and the need to raise awareness on the service. Attention was also paid to the need to raise awareness on the media in this regard, focusing on the needs and policies that surround palliative care, making it part of the public debate. Specific cases reported in the media were analyzed and journalists and experts discussed recommendations on how to improve reporting in this field. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Soros Foundation.


AMI NEWSLETTER - February 2016


PROCESS OF LICENSING DIGITAL COMMERCIAL MULTIPLEXES FAILS

The Board of the regulator, Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA,) convened on February 1 to make a decision on granting national commercial digital licenses, but failed to do so after two board members voted against such a decision. More specifically, Sami Neza and Suela Musta, the two members elected with the support of the opposition and who have refused to participate in previous meetings, voted against granting the licenses.
According to AMA statement, these members argued that the beauty contest procedure was supposed to grant licenses for a transition period, meaning until the official deadline for digital switchover of June 17, 2015. Since the deadline has passed, they argued that the applicants should not receive the license. The beauty contest procedure was opened in spring 2015, but for many months the regulator has not been able to make a decision, due to the lack of quorum in the Board.

AMENDMENTS PROPOSED TO CHANGE ELECTION OF PBS DIRECTOR

The ruling majority submitted on February 12 an amendment aiming to change the way the General Director of the public broadcaster RTSH is elected. The current requirement in the law is for 2/3 of votes of all eleven members of the Steering Council to elect the director. According to the proposed amendment, the voting process will take place in two tiers. In the first three rounds, the Steering Council will try to elect the General Director with 3/5 of votes. If they do not manage, two more rounds will be held, if necessary, where simple majority of votes is required. If they still fail to elect the director, the Steering Council will be dissolved. According to the ruling majority, this amendment aims to solve the deadlock in the election of this key figure of public broadcaster, since for almost eight months the Steering Council has not succeeded in electing the new general director. The opposition maintained that there could be no unilateral changes to the law and any amendments should be discussed also with international bodies, given their consultancy in drafting the law.

REGIONAL FORUMS ON DIVERSITY

Two regional forums on ethical reporting of diversity and ethical guidelines on coverage of vulnerable groups were organized in Shkoder on February 18, and in Lushnje on February 24, respectively. Participants included local journalists, correspondents for national media, local government representatives and civil society organizations working in the region. The forums were organized as a platform of discussion between media on one hand, and local government and civil society, on the other hand, assessing the quality of media coverage of vulnerable groups in the media. The discussion focused on specific local cases, but a presentation of the Assessment Report on Media Coverage of Vulnerable Groups was also made, as a starting point for the discussion. The forums served as a way of exchanging opinions, concerns, and ideas on media coverage of these groups with journalists, local government, and civil society. The participants in the forums also identified ways of improving the information reflected in the media by broadening the pool of sources of information and contacts to local government services and civil society services to vulnerable groups. Finally, the forums paid special attention to the ethical guidelines drafted for coverage of vulnerable groups, discussing specific cases and ways of improving media coverage from the ethical point of view.  The forums were organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Soros Foundation.

“THE AGREEMENT” DOCUMENTARY MOVIE PROJECTION

“The agreement” was the documentary movie that was screened for an audience of students, academics, and civil society representatives on February 3 in Tirana. The documentary focuses on the difficult process of negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, with EU mediation. In 2011, representatives from Serbia and Kosovo met for the first time since Kosovo declared independence in 2008. And the chief European Union negotiator, Robert Cooper, allowed cameras to record the action. The screened documentary showed those delicate talks. The film documents the follies and frustrations the proceedings take and how the three main representatives in negotiations work to try and get consensus, despite the unpopular nature of the talks back in their home countries. National pride and compromise are the keywords, while stakes are particularly high. The movie is about an important historical moment, delving deep into a political process, but without losing track of the quirk details of the protagonists. The movie projection was followed by a round of discussion among participants in the event. The screening was organized by Albanian Media Institute, in cooperation with Frontline Club.

TRAINING COURSE ON IMPROVING REPORTING OF VULNERABLE GROUPS

A training course aiming to improve reporting of vulnerable groups in the media and cooperation of media with civil society was organized on February 10-12, with the participation of journalists from mainstream print and electronic media. The first part of the course addressed the importance of reporting diversity correctly in the media and the significance of cultural diversity in society. Journalists became familiar with and discussed ways of recognizing and accepting the Other, and reporting this topic in an appropriate way. Specific attention was paid to stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination in reporting in the media. Another major field of the course was community journalism and reporting diversity, taking into account specific media coverage, as well as social media role in this aspect.

The second part of the course focused specifically on reporting issues related to gender issues. The participants became familiar with 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 Soros Foundation.


AMI NEWSLETTER - March 2016


EU INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM AWARD LAUNCHED IN ALBANIA

The EU Investigative Journalism Award was launched on March 11 in Tirana. Participants included journalists, media experts, university professors, and civil society representatives. They became familiar with the award initiative, the criteria for submissions, practical details for applications, and the general scheme of awarding investigative journalists in the region. Jan Rudolph, Head of Political, Economic and Information section at the EU Delegation in Albania, reiterated the good experience of the first year of the award competition. He emphasized the importance of quality investigative journalism in a democratic society and pointed out that in Albania there is a wide range of topics that investigative journalists can cover, underlining the significance of this journalism for the country. He also stressed the importance of media and freedom of expression, criteria that are constantly monitored by EU, too. Although he stated that the Albanian media can improve in many ways, he hoped that this award would assist in this direction.

Aleksander Cipa, jury member and chair of the Union of Albanian Journalists, appreciated the opportunity this award creates for an open and fair competition in the field of investigative journalism. He also considered it a positive development the introduction of the sub-category for young investigative journalists, as it would further promote a new generation of journalists. After calling for as many applications as possible, he also invited the colleagues to consider the quality of nominations, their professionalism and deontology. The call will be opened until April 4, 2016.

PARLIAMENT APPROVES AMENDMENT TO FORMULA FOR ELECTING PBS DIRECTOR

The parliament approved the amendment for the election of the General Director of public broadcaster RTSH on March 10, during the plenary session. The amendment was voted only from the ruling majority, due to opposition’s selective participation in the parliament proceedings. The amendment was submitted by Socialist Party MP Alfred Peza and passed in the Parliamentary Media Commission on February 29, only with the votes of the ruling majority. According to the new amendment, the General Director will need 3/5 of votes of Steering Council members to be elected. If this does not happen in the first three rounds, he/she can be elected in the next two rounds through simple majority. In case all five rounds fail, the Steering Council will be dissolved. The amendment was earlier opposed by the Democratic Party, who saw this as a move to appoint a political person and a personal friend of the Prime Minister as the director of RTSH. Before the voting yesterday the Union of Albanian Journalists also issued a statement, calling on MPs to refrain from voting this amendment. 

REPORTING DIVERSITY TRAINING COURSE

A training session on reporting diversity, with a specific focus on Roma and Egyptians, was organized with journalists at the Albanian Media Institute on March 2-4, with the participation of 15 journalists from mainstream print and electronic media. The first part of the course addressed the importance of reporting diversity correctly in the media and the significance of cultural diversity in society. Journalists became familiar with and discussed ways of recognizing and accepting the Other, and reporting this topic in an appropriate way. Specific attention was paid to stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination in reporting in the media. Another major field of the course was community journalism and reporting diversity, taking into account specific media coverage, as well as social media role in this aspect.
The second part of the course introduced 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 Soros Foundation.

STUDY TRIP OF SERBIAN JOURNALISTS TO ALBANIA

A study trip for five Serbian journalists and editors was organized on March 8-10 in Tirana, as part of an exchange initiative between Albanian and Serbian journalists. During their visit they had several meetings with journalists, representatives of civil society, business, parliament, politicians, etc. The exchange aimed to better know the realities of both countries, to expand the contacts between media professionals and to improve reporting neighbors in the region. This was the second visit, after a group of Albanian journalists visited Belgrade in January this year.
For this purpose, the meetings of Serb journalists in Tirana included representatives from civil society, such as Gledis Gjipali, director of European Movement of Albania, Albert Rakipi, director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, and Kujtim Cashku, director of Film Academy Marubi. The meetings with civil society focused on the perception on the relation between two countries, on Kosovo issue, and on identifying ways of improving knowledge on each other and fostering a more constructive public debate.  The journalists also met with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Majlinda Bregu, Head of Parliamentary Commission on European Integration. These meetings addressed concrete ongoing initiatives between the two countries, discussed the official position on several matters, as well as future plans in the framework of regional cooperation.
Both Albanian and Serb journalists discussed the problems in each country and the mutual challenges media and journalists face during a roundtable organized on March 9, under the moderation of Kurt Bassuener, Senior Associate Democratization Policy Council. David Muniz, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy appreciated the initiative, describing the Serbia-Albania relationship as “one of the bright spots in the region in the last few years.” The roundtable discussion focused on specific nature of media coverage in Albania and Serbia, ethical and hate speech problems, the systemic difficulties with media in both countries, and freedom and professionalism of journalists. The study trip was organized from Albanian Media Institute, with the support of US Embassy.

REGIONAL FORUM ON REPORTING DIVERSITY

A regional forum on ethical reporting of diversity and ethical guidelines on coverage of vulnerable groups was organized in Korca on March 18. Participants included local journalists, correspondents for national media, local government representatives and civil society organizations working in the region. The forum was organized as a platform of discussion between media on one hand, and local government and civil society, on the other hand, assessing the quality of media coverage of vulnerable groups in the media. The discussion focused on specific local cases, but a presentation of the Assessment Report on Media Coverage of Vulnerable Groups was also made, as a starting point for the discussion. The forum served as a way of exchanging opinions, concerns, and ideas on media coverage of these groups with journalists, local government, and civil society. The participants in the forum also identified ways of improving the information reflected in the media by broadening the pool of sources of information and contacts to local government services and civil society services to vulnerable groups. Finally, the forum paid special attention to the ethical guidelines drafted for coverage of vulnerable groups, discussing specific cases and ways of improving media coverage from the ethical point of view.  The forum was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Soros Foundation.

TRAINING COURSE ON IMPROVING REPORTING ON LGBT 

A training session on reporting diversity, with a specific focus on reporting LGBT community, was organized with journalists at the Albanian Media Institute on March 16-18, with the participation of 15 journalists from mainstream print and electronic media. 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.

FATOS LUBONJA RECEIVES PRINCE CLAUS AWARD

Well-known Albanian columnist and writer Fatos Lubonja received the prestigious Prince Claus Award from the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in a ceremony organized on March 14, 2016, in Tirana. The award is presented each year to artists and intellectuals in recognition of the quality of their work and their impact on development of their society. According to the selection committee, the award motivation was based on Lubonja’s honest and accounts of episodes in Albania’s recent history, his intellectual integrity and independence, for his fight for democracy and human rights, as well as for broadening the scope of public debate.


AMI NEWSLETTER - May 2016


EU AWARD FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM IN 2015 ANNOUNCED IN ALBANIA

The EU Award winners for Investigative Journalism in 2015 were announced in a ceremony organized by the Albanian Media Institute on May 12 in Tirana. Journalist Leonard Bakillari was awarded first prize in the EU Investigative Journalism Award 2015 for Albania contest, for his article on corruption in the judiciary system, published in reporter.al news portal. Second prize went to Ornela Liperi of economic magazine "Monitor" for her article on the financial crisis and debt situation of business companies in Albania. The award for best article by young investigative journalist was given to Habjon Hasani for his TV report on the petroleum concession and its effects on economy, in the framework of the program "Të Paekspozuarit" of Ora News TV. A total of 29 investigative stories were nominated for this year's EU Award in Albania, 18 of whom from journalists under 35. Jury consisted of five prominent media professionals and civil society representatives: Aleksander Cipa, head of Union of Albanian Journalists and jury chair, Lutfi Dervishi, media expert, Ani Ruci, Deutsche Welle correspondent, Rrapo Zguri, professor of journalism, and Lavdrim Lita, member of EU Policy HUB.

"Freedom of expression and freedom of the media implies a commitment to democracy, good governance and political accountability. These are some of prerequisites for a country to become part of the EU and one of the reasons why each of you play such an important role in creating EU standards," said Jan Rudolph, Head of Political, Economic and Information Section announcing the EU Investigative Journalism Awards.

Aleksander Cipa, chair of the jury, appreciated the difficulties that investigative journalists face, at a time when their job is of particular importance to our societies. However, he considered it a good sign that the number of nominations for the award has increased, along with the fact that most journalists are young, which bodes well for the future of investigative journalism in the country. In addition, he pointed out that the broad range of topics covered in the nominated articles and TV stories also indicates the good efforts of investigative journalists in the country.

The EU award for investigative journalism will be given each year in the period of three years in each of seven EU-Enlargement countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, rewarding the investigative journalistic work published in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Investigative stories contributing to transparency and reporting on societal issues related to abuse of power and fundamental rights, corruption and organized crime that otherwise would not have been brought to the public's attention will qualify for the award.

NEW GENERAL DIRECTOR OF PBS ELECTED

The Steering Council of public broadcaster Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (RTSH) elected on May 6 the new General Director of the institution, Thoma Gellci. He has worked as a journalist and editor since the late 80s. Gellci has worked for several years as editor-in-chief of Socialist Party newspaper “Zeri i Popullit,” and has also served as press adviser to then-Socialist Prime Minister Ilir Meta. During the open competition for the post of general director, which was held in June 2015, he published a wide platform on his vision for the reform RTSH must undertake.
Even though the race for new general director was opened on June 2015, the voting in the Steering Council was deadlocked, since none of the two final candidates could receive the required number of votes. In April 2016 the ruling majority passed an amendment according to which, after three rounds of voting, which had already been exhausted in summer of 2015, the new director could be elected with a simple majority. The opposition expressed its dissent with the amendment, while also considering Gellci a person close to the current Prime Minister.

ASSAULT AGAINST TV JOURNALIST

Eduart Ilnica, Telesport TV journalist, was assaulted and beaten up by a group of persons on May 9, and was then hospitalized. Alban Vogli, the president of Kastrioti, Kruja football club, was arrested soon after by the police. The police reported that the incident followed a report of the journalist on the violence that ensued during a local football match where Kastrioti football club was playing. According to Telesport, the media Ilnica works for, the reason is attributed to revenge of Vogli against Ilnica’s posting on his Facebook profile of a video from Telesport TV show “Procesi Sportiv,”  that denounced the video that the president of Kastrioti had been involved in at the end of the match.
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović condemned the attack on Ilnica, calling on the authorities to carry out a swift and thorough investigation into the incident. “I condemn this attack; violence against journalists must not be tolerated,” Mijatović said. “I welcome the swift response by the police and hope that the investigation will yield results and bring all perpetrators to justice,” she said.
Previously the Union of Albanian Journalists also reacted swiftly, expressing the concern and condemning the attack. They called on the authorities to find and punish the persons that dared to harm a journalist in this way only because he was doing his duty. Later the Association of Professional Journalists and the Association of Electronic media also issued statements condemning the attack.

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF REMOVING OWNERSHIP LIMITATIONS FOR NATIONAL BROADCASTERS

The Constitutional Court issued a press release on May 13, stating that it had granted the request of the Association of Albanian Electronic Media to abolish media ownership limitations in place for the national commercial broadcasters. The request was brought before the Constitutional Court on April 19 by the Association of Electronic Media, which argued that the limitation imposed is not constitutional, as it affects equality before law and the right to property. The claim of the association was also supported by the representatives of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA,) while representatives of the Parliament stated that the limitation was in place to protect freedom of expression, which must prevail in this case. This development comes after attempts made last year by MP Balla, and later to some degree also supported by AMA, which sought to repeal the entire limitations on ownership of media shares, namely Article 62 of the Law on Audiovisual Media. After clear opposition from international bodies, the Parliamentary Commission on Media rejected the proposed amendment. The current court decision paves the way for licensing of the existing commercial platforms in their form, along with the national broadcasters that also own part of the platforms.

ROUNDTABLE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF FOIA BY LOCAL GOVERNMENT

A roundtable on implementation of FOIA by local government was organized in Shkoder on May 3. The main aim of the roundtable was to discuss the main findings of the testing exercise of FOIA implementation by local government. This exercise was conducted in several main cities in the country, in view of the recently passed law on access to information and the new structure and organization of local government in the country. The participants included journalists, representatives of local government, and representatives of civil society. They presented their own experience in seeking or giving information, the main problems in this area, and discussed ways of improving the situation. The roundtable was organized by AMI, with the support of the US Embassy.

PUBLICATION ON PRACTICES OF COMMUNICATION DURING SOCIAL PROTESTS

“Social protests and institutions: practices of communication and accountability” is the title of the latest publication of the Albanian Media Institute. Social movements and protests in the Balkans region have been frequent in the last years. While these initiatives are a good opportunity for positive social change, their results are debatable and the communication potential is not always used to the best advantage. This publication addresses the relation between social movements, the practices in their communication, and the effects on accountability of institutions, researching the practices of communication around protests in three Balkan countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. The research focuses on communication practices by three main actors in protests (citizens, government, and media), attempting to shed light on the opportunities and limitations in communication, as well as review the effects of communication on accountability of institutions. The publication includes the regional overview, which identifies the trends, similarities, and differences between the three countries in terms of communication during protests, as well as the Albanian country report. The publication is in the framework of the regional project led by Media Center Sarajevo, with the participation of the Macedonian Institute for Media, and Albanian Media Institute, under academic guidance of Peace Institute, Ljubljana. The project was supported by Regional Research Promotion Program, Western Balkans. 


AMI NEWSLETTER - June 2016


ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM DISCOURSE IN THE MEDIA

A roundtable on religious extremist discourse and the media was organized on June 29 in Tirana. The roundtable’s aim was to present the main findings of a research on religious extremism discourse in the media, as well as discuss potential recommendations and suggestions for improving reporting on religion and avoiding extremism in the media. The roundtable started with a brief presentation of the research aim, methodology, and findings by Rrapo Zguri, author of the research. Some of the main points mentioned in this regard include the comparison of content between online and mainstream media, the prevalence of religious identity over national one in extremist content, the “alternative” reading of intra-religious tolerance by extremists, the spread of Salafism in Albania, the debate on the Caliphate in online media, the anti-Western discourse, etc. The second speaker was Besnik Mustafaj, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and currently chair of the Forum of Alliance of Civilizations, who offered his own review and reflections on the research and on the current trends in media in regard to religious extremism. He also offered specific recommendations based on the research findings to some bodies, such as the National Committee of Cults, the religious communities, the media, the security agencies, etc.
Other participants in the roundtable also discussed some of the main concerns in relation to rising spread of extremism and the role of the media in preventing such a phenomenon. Specific emphasis was put on the role of religious tolerance, a subject that recently has been debated in the press. While some speakers maintained that this is a reality that should be strengthened also in the media and something to emphasize, others promoted the view that the press should cover the debate in a way that both challenges and reinforces the notion of religious tolerance, in order to have an informed public debate. Something the representatives of religious communities suggested was a greater basic information and knowledge on religion, debating also the ideas on potential introduction on religions in the curricula. The research and roundtable were supported financially by the Office of Public Relations of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana.

WORKSHOPS ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION WITH LOCAL MEDIA

This month the Albanian Media Institute organized a series of workshops on access to information and local government, kicking off a new project that aims to improve transparency and accountability of local government and local public institutions through a more active role of local media and citizens, supported by Lëviz Albania. In this framework, three one-day workshops were organized in the cities of Pogradec on June 15, Lezha on June 21, and Kukes on June 24. Participants in the workshop included journalists from local media and correspondents for national media outlets. The participants became familiar with the rights they are entitled to official information by the law passed in September 2014 and how they could use it to the advantage of their work. The training included information on the main aspects of the FOIA law, the rights of citizens in applying for information on official documents, and the obligations of state authorities to respond. More specifically, the participants were instructed how to draft information request in the proper manner, in order to avoid direct refusal of official authorities to grant information on grounds of a poorly drafted or invalid request. The next step will be testing of the practices of local government in responding to requests for information, which will be an effort to measure the openness of local government, as well as identify the weak links and good practices in this aspect of governance. The workshops and testing exercise will continue in other districts, too.

PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION WITH THE AMA COUNCIL OF COMPLAINTS

Albanian Media Institute organized an event on June 30 that aimed to present the recently established Council of Complaints at the regulator, Audiovisual Media Authority, and to discuss its role, competencies, and challenges.  Participants included journalists, media experts, representatives of academia and civil society. The three members of the Council of Complaints presented their mission, responsibilities, steps taken so far, and the plans for the future. The discussion with participants then followed on how to improve public profile of the Council of Complaints, how to raise awareness on their work and strengthen cooperation with the media outlets, and in general how to foster self-regulation in the media, rather than impose professional norms through legal regulation. Some of the suggestions included establishing alliances with other groups and organizations, online publication and transparency of the complaints’ procedure and respective decisions, identifying best practices, cooperating with the media to promote professionalism, ethics, and self-regulation in specific shows or debates, etc. The event was organized by Albanian Media Institute, as part of the advocacy component of the South East Europe Media Observatory project, funded by Open Society Foundation and EU.

ROUNDTABLE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF FOIA BY LOCAL GOVERNMENT

A roundtable on implementation of FOIA by local government was organized in Korca on June 9. The main aim of the roundtable was to discuss the main findings of the testing exercise of FOIA implementation by local government. This exercise was conducted in several main cities in the country, in view of the recently passed law on access to information and the new structure and organization of local government in the country. The participants included journalists, representatives of local government, and representatives of civil society. They presented their own experience in seeking or giving information, the main problems in this area, and discussed ways of improving the situation. The roundtable was organized by AMI, with the support of the US Embassy. 


AMI NEWSLETTER - July-August 2016


JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATIONS OPPOSE PROVISIONS AFFECTING MEDIA IN DRAFT LAWS 

Two articles from draft laws of the ongoing judiciary reform sparked the concern and a joint statement from four media associations. The Union of Albanian Journalists, the Association of Professional Journalists, the League of Albanian Journalists, and the Association of Electronic Media drafted and signed a joint statement on August 17 condemning the current proposed draft of provisions that affect media. More specifically, the concerned article was in the draft law on Special Anticorruption Prosecutor’ Office and read that “every inappropriate influence exercised against special prosecutors and their activity on concrete cases by public authorities, media or in any kind of way and any other person which might have an impact on prosecutors’ independence during their work activity shall be considered illegal and will be punished by law... This illegal activity is punishable by three years in prison”. A similar article was contained also in the Law on Organization and Functioning of Prosecution’ Office. The four organizations in their joint statement expressed their concern on these articles, considering them “as an attempt aiming at shutting down free media and creating a censorship situation”. They considered the articles as an open threat to freedom of expression and called on the parliament to remove the articles from these draft laws. The Chair of the ad hoc Parliamentary Committee on Justice System Reform, Fatmir Xhafaj confirmed that the articles would be reformulated in order to eradicate any doubts over the right to free speech. He explained that the aim of the articles was not to limit the media freedom but rather to eliminate any possible sources of pressure on this judiciary body. In a meeting that took place in the parliament with the representatives of the four associations, the Albanian Media Institute, and BIRN Albania, three versions of the reformulated drafts were presented and explained, which were considered acceptable by all members present in relation to guaranteeing freedom of expression.

WORKSHOPS ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION WITH LOCAL MEDIA

In July the Albanian Media Institute continued the series of workshops on access to information and local government in the framework of a project that aims to improve transparency and accountability of local government and local public institutions through a more active role of local media and citizens, supported by Lëviz Albania. In this context, four one-day workshops were organized in the cities of Berat on July 7, Gjirokastra on July 13, Saranda on July 20, and Burrel on July 26. Participants in the workshop included journalists from local media and correspondents for national media outlets. The participants became familiar with the rights they are entitled to official information by the law passed in September 2014 and how they could use it to the advantage of their work. The training included information on the main aspects of the FOIA law, the rights of citizens in applying for information on official documents, and the obligations of state authorities to respond. More specifically, the participants were instructed how to draft information request in the proper manner, in order to avoid direct refusal of official authorities to grant information on grounds of a poorly drafted or invalid request. The next step will be testing of the practices of local government in responding to requests for information, which will be an effort to measure the openness of local government, as well as identify the weak links and good practices in this aspect of governance.

TRAINING COURSES ON IMPROVING REPORTING OF CHILDREN

Albanian Media Institute, in cooperation with the regulator, the Audiovisual Media Authority, started a series of training courses aimed to improve coverage of children in local media. In this context, three courses were organized respectively on July 15-16 in Elbasan, on July 21-22 in Shkodra, and on July 27-28 in Vlora. The training courses focused on improving reporting of children in audiovisual media. Participants were local journalists working in local televisions and as correspondents for national media. 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. Specific attention was paid to audiovisual media legislation requirements and the existing bylaws and regulations on coverage of children in audiovisual media. Participants discussed with lecturers specific examples and challenges they had had during their work.

SURVEY ON PUBLIC BROADCASTER’S CONTENT AND REPUTATION

The Department of Journalism at the University of Tirana has conducted a survey on the offer and reputation of the public broadcaster RTSH, upon the request of the General Directorate of RTSH. The methodology used comprised several techniques, such as survey and interview with audience for RTSH programs, survey of public opinion in general, focus group discussion with experts, analysis of several aspects of RTSH work from journalism professors, interviews and survey with internal RTSH staff, etc. The findings of the survey were presented in an event organized on July 18, with the participation of academicians, RTSH staff, and respective civil society organizations. The representatives of the Department of Journalism considered this a study that offers numerous data and indicators that RTSH management can use in order to reform its program offer in order to become more competitive in the market as well as to improve its public mission.

 

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