Media Situation in Albania

Recent reports from international organisations and studies in the field of media, have quoted Albanian media as being free from formal censorship and authoritarian repression, but not free from the influences of government, politics and economic interests of media owners. In the European Commission Progress Report for Albania, it is stated: "The lack of transparency of media financing and the interference in the media by political and economic interests remain major challenges." Preferential distribution of state advertising to media close to the government has also been a worrying trend that affects editorial independence and freedom of the media.

Different reports on Albanian media have underlined the recent positive effect of social media on freedom of expression. Many journalists and citizens state freely their opinions in the social networks, unlike traditional media, where some limitations and restrictions apply. Some civil society organisations have contributed in advancing media freedom, especially in regard to improving media law and policy. Improvement of media legislation has created a more favourable environment for media and freedom of expression. Recently the regulation on defamation and libel was decriminalised after a seven-year effort and lobbying by a group of civil society organisations.

Due to media self-regulation the first Code of Ethics of Albanian media was drafted in 1996 by the Albanian Media Institute, in cooperation with the main journalists’ associations, but it was never implemented by media outlets. The Code was revised thoroughly in 2006 after a process of consultation, but in general it has remained only on paper. A self-regulatory body like the Press Council failed to take root in Albania. Recently a serious effort has taken place in the online newspaper that has resulted in the creation of a more modern and comprehensive code of ethics.

Regarding the professional status, journalists in Albania work under difficult circumstances. Almost 90 percent of journalists are working massively undeclared, and receive salaries with delay (1 to 3 months) or sometimes not at all. Fear of losing their job forces them not to raise their voices against the media managers. Contracts are often imposed and formulated in such a way that they have no legal ground.

There have been different initiatives to establish journalists’ organisations in Albania, but the most active in protecting journalists’ rights is the Union of Albanian Journalists (UAJ). According to some reports, the journalists’ community is considered to be a fairly passive one, with a low turnout number in protests that affect directly the journalists’ work and rights. However, both civil society and the public in Albania are in general weak and relatively passive, not only regarding the media in the country.

Jonila Godole, Institute for Democracy, Media and Culture