This research aims to look in detail at what the actual narratives of hate and disinformation in Albanian media are and how they are spread and reinforced, analyzing the sources, actors involved, techniques used, as well as potential countering mechanisms or episodes. It presents an analysis of the hate narratives identified during media and social networks monitoring regarding particular target groups in the country, such as political opponents, migrants, and journalists. Finally, it provides policy recommendations.
This research builds on an earlier study within the same project which sought to provide an overview of the main tendencies regarding hate speech, propaganda, and disinformation in the Albanian media, and identify ways to counter those narratives. Both publications were produced within Resilience: Civil Society for Media Free of Hate and Disinformation, a regional project financially supported by the European Union and implemented in the Western Balkans and Turkey by a consortium of media development organizations coordinated by SEENPM. It is part of a series of publications on the same general topic focused on hate narratives researched in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey (all publications are available on the SEENPM website).
The case studies analyzed during the research show that, in general, the mainstream media does not produce hate speech narratives on its own, but does become a vehicle for carrying them. The greatest producers of hate narratives, division, disinformation, and polarization remain the political actors, partly because of their pervasive presence in the media and their use of social media. Nonetheless, while online media do not usually start hate narratives on their own, their political alignment and interests lead them to be selective in the information they convey. As a result, it is often the case that the Albanian public receives two or more versions of the same story, contributing, to some extent, to the reinforcement of the existing political and social divisions in the country. Hate narratives towards journalists have intensified in recent years, reflecting a global trend as well as the increasingly harsh rhetoric of the political class against them on some occasions, which has certainly leaked through in the public’s trust and attitude vis-à-vis journalists and the media. On the other hand, hate narratives on migrants are rare due to Albania’s scant experience has in this regard. However, they can be found in various media outlets, with the primary sources being citizens or anonymous, showing that proper reporting on this topic is needed in order to have a more educated public in this regard and face the existing prejudices and stereotypes.
Finally, the lack of proper mechanisms to counter hate narratives in the media is another deficiency, which leads to a lack of reflection on ethical and professional standards. While civil society organizations focusing on human rights do their own work and issue statements, reflecting on these statements and improving media coverage has proved more difficult. Some of the online media have closed their comments to the public, which automatically produces an improvement in the language present in these outlets. However, the main generators of hate narratives do not seem interested in changing their rhetoric for the moment, and the media seems to follow suit and convey this language to the public.