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Newsletters Archive
AMI Newsletters             2012

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

AMI NEWSLETTER, January 2012


THIS YEAR WILL MARK DECRIMINALIZATION OF DEFAMATION SAYS PRIME MINISTER

In a meeting with journalists Prime Minister Sali Berisha said that 2012 will be the year of decriminalization of libel and defamation. The current amendments to the Penal and Civil Codes regarding defamation are in the agenda of the Parliamentary Commission of Legal Affairs and then will be considered by the Parliamentary Commission on Media.
In present Albanian legislation defamation is both a criminal and a civil law issue.   A set of amendments was introduced in 2004 from the Albanian Media Institute and the Justice Initiative, but it was never submitted for approval to the Parliament. Having in mind the changes that have taken place in the last years, AMI, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders, initiated a new process of revising, lobbying, and discussing amendments to defamation. The revision has also considered the range of problems that has emerged in the last years, especially regarding the development of Internet. The current draft has been consulted with international organizations and experts of the Justice Initiative. A group of MPs from both political wings have become familiar with the changes and have expressed their support.

PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION ON MEDIA PREPARES FOR FEEDBACK ON DRAFT LAW

The Parliamentary Commission on Media will start a new session of consultation with stakeholders regarding the approval of the current draft that will regulate audiovisual services. Currently two main laws regulate broadcasting in the country, the Law on Public and Private Radio and TV Broadcasting and the Law on Digital Broadcasting, merged in one. Even though the second law passed in 2007, it has not started implementation yet, in the absence of a Strategy on Digital Broadcasting. The new draft aims to merge regulation in only one law, which would cover all concerned areas. The workgroup that has worked on the draft has had several sessions of cooperation and exchange with Council of Europe, European Commission, and OSCE experts through the process. Some of the sensitive aspects that are expected to be discussed in this framework include the impact of switchover to digital on the media and on the public, the media ownership provisions, the formula for election of members of regulatory bodies, the competencies of regulatory bodies, etc. The first public discussion session took place in July and September 2011. The work group has worked to reflect the remarks and suggestions of stakeholders and those of international experts.

ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON MEDIA ROLE DURING ALBANIAN TRANSITION

The roundtable discussion “The role of the media during the transition of the Albanian society” took place on January 19 in Tirana, with the participation of journalists, editors, academics, media experts, civil society representatives, and journalism students. The participants became familiar with the main findings of two studies regarding media and transition in Albania. The first one was “Main trends of media development in post-communist transition in Albania: Where are we now?,” presented by Ilda Londo, AMI researcher. This study focused on sketching the main phases of development and main trends that affect media professionalism and independence in the last 20 years, such as media market, media transparency, media ownership, media links to politics, advertising market, self-regulation and media ethics, and media regulation. The second study was “Media vs. politics: Transition to (in)dependence,” presented by Besnik Baka, researcher. This study focused on the specific relation of media outlets to politics and the different factors that affect media independence in this realm, such as political pressure, media clientelism, state advertising for the media, the link between media owners and politicians, etc.
The roundtable continued with an open discussion of the participants, highlighting such issues as the need for a more balanced view on the role of media owners, the transformation of the profession of journalist in this age and the current situation in Albania, the impact of technology on the profession, the role of emergence of electronic media, the status of the public broadcaster, etc.  The need for greater transparency on the media financing sources, for audience research and print media circulation, the implementation of the Labour Code for media employees, and for establishing self-regulation were some of the recommendations of the participants for improving the role of the media in the society. The roundtable was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

TRAINING COURSE IN ETHICS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE

 A training course on ethics in the blogosphere was organized at Albanian Media Institute on January 9-12, with the participation of journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The trainer 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. The lecturer made an analysis of Albanian media websites that have their own forums and blogs. The lecturer 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. The lecturer then introduced Albanian journalists 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 UNESCO.

PRESS FREEDOM IN ALBANIA DETERIORATES ACCORDING TO REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS

According to Reporters without Borders, which has recently published the Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2011, Albania’s ranking went down from 80th in 2010 to 96th. With the exception of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, the other Balkan countries marked lower positions compared to previous years. Montenegro received the lowest ranking. In addition, some EU members also dropped in ranking compared to a year ago.

TRAINING COURSE ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION ISSUES

A training course on access to information legislation, implementation, and challenges for journalists and the public was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on January 16-18, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media. The participants were introduced to the main aspects of Albanian legislation on this area and discussed the way the law is implemented, its main deficiencies and the existing attempts to amend the law in several aspects. Specific attention was paid to the amendments pending in the parliament on the law on access to information, such as the issue of timelines, costs, establishment of information offices, etc. Participants also became familiar with some lawsuits and trials against public institutions related to compliance with the law on access to information. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the US Embassy.

TRAINING COURSE ON PHOTOJOURNALISM ETHICS IN THE DIGITAL ERA

A training course on photojournalism ethics in digital era was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on January 23-25, with the participation of journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The course focused on the specific genre of photojournalism, especially on its ethical ramifications against the backdrop of digital technology. The participants were introduced and discussed issues such as photos as a visual medium and a way of conveying the news, along with the potential for manipulating the news. Discussing specific examples, the distinction between documentary photos and news photos was made, along with an introduction to a brief history of photojournalism in the world.
The participants were introduced in detail to the specific ethical issues that arise from use of photos, especially digital ones, in the news, such as intrusion into privacy, distortion of image, minors in photos, stereotypes and prejudices when using photos, disaster photos and human dignity, etc. Using specific photos for these cases, the participants discussed what constitutes the line that journalists should not tread when using these photos. Specific attention was paid to manipulation of photography and the cases when this is permissible. Finally, journalists were introduced to and discussed the ethics of digital elaboration of photography, making the distinction between technical interventions and works that are not allowed from the ethical point of view. This course was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of UNESCO.

NCRT ELECTS NEW COUNCIL OF ETHICS

The National Council of Radio and Television elected the new members of the Council of Ethics, an advisory body attached to NCRT. The new members are Dhurata Shehri, head of Department of Literature at the University of Tirana, Bashkim Gjergji, professor of journalism at the University of Tirana, and Lutfi Dervishi, journalist and media expert. The council addresses ethical issues regarding content in electronic media. Its decisions are advisory, not binding.

ORA NEWS TV STATION CELEBRATES 5th ANNIVERSARY

Ora News TV, one of the main capital-based news stations, celebrated its 5th anniversary on January 31. In this occasion, a cocktail reception was organized. Participants included well-known journalists, media experts, representatives from the foreign diplomatic corpus, politicians, and other personalities.


AMI NEWSLETTER, February 2012


ALBANIA ADOPTS IMPORTANT DEFAMATION LAW REFORMS
 
Albania embraced last Thursday a growing regional trend by adopting significant reforms to the country’s criminal libel laws. Thursday’s changes followed a first round of amendments to the Civil Code defamation provisions, passed by Parliament on February 17. The changes culminated a seven-year effort led by the Justice Initiative and the Albanian Media Institute, which received multi-partisan support in three successive legislatures and civil society discussions.  “It is a good day for free speech and democratic discourse,” said Remzi Lani, head of the local Media Institute.  “Albania’s defamation laws are now in line with the prevailing European standards.”
 
The Penal Code amendments included the full repeal of four offenses that granted special protections to national and foreign government officials, and have been abused in the past to harass journalists. Prison terms and involvement of public prosecutors in defamation cases were also abolished.  The lawmakers maintained insult and the deliberate publication of defamatory falsehoods as misdemeanors, to be prosecuted privately and subject to a fine.“The Justice Initiative and its partners had urged Albanian lawmakers to repeal criminal libel altogether,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative. “However, the reforms that were ultimately adopted are significant and should be welcomed as a sign of deepened commitment to democracy and free expression.”
 
The changes to the criminal and civil codes, whose adoption required a supermajority in Parliament, became possible due to a recent thaw in the chilly relationship between government and opposition parties that had greatly hampered lawmaking activities in recent years. The two sides have now committed to passing reforms important to the country’s efforts to seek European Union membership. The European Commission and media freedom watchdogs had repeatedly called for defamation law upgrades.
 
The civil code amendments provide greater guidance to judges, by requiring them to consider elements such as truth and the contribution of statements to democratic debate, while also taking due account of unjust attacks on reputation. The changes seek to limit damage awards to proportionate levels that do not jeopardize the financial survival of media outlets. “These changes will add much needed clarity in an area of law that is critical to democracy,” said Darian Pavli, a Justice Initiative senior attorney who was invited to advise key parliamentary debates on the proposed reforms. Civil libel awards granted by Albanian courts have increased dramatically in recent years, casting a chilling shadow perhaps longer than that of the criminal offenses, which have largely fallen into disuse in the recent past.
 
Last week’s reforms in Albania follow a trend set by new European democracies, such as Estonia and Bosnia, who were among the first to repeal criminal libel laws. Such laws remain in the books in several Western European countries, but are sparsely used and subject to the close scrutiny of the continent’s human rights tribunal in Strasbourg. Albanian Media Institute also thanked Civil Rights Defenders for their support in the defamation reform.
 
REPORT ON DIGITAL MEDIA IN ALBANIA IS PUBLISHED
 
The Mapping Digital Media project, implemented by Open Society Foundations, examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project examines how these changes affect the core democratic service that any media system should provide: news about political, economic, and social affairs. According to the Albanian country report, digital terrestrial broadcasting has so far affected mainly the capital and other cities, while the rest of the country and especially the rural areas have hardly been affected due to insufficient coverage and lower economic capacity. Economic reasons, as well as delayed legislation, have contributed to the slow speed of digitization, and official allocation of the digital spectrum has yet to start.
 
In general, the dynamics of the digitization process as well as of the media market as a whole are difficult to assess due to the continuing lack of publicly available systematic and credible audience research. The explosive growth in internet access is, however, beyond doubt. According to the ITU, the percentage of the population with internet access rose from 0.1 in 2000 to over 43 in 2010. The number doubled between 2008 and 2010. The report calls for the Digital Strategy to be finalized without further delay, and then implemented. Broadcasting regulation should be amended to bring it into full compliance with the AVMSD. The report also focuses attention on the need for government support to help the public broadcaster to catch up with the digitization process. Last but not least, the report stresses the need for improved working conditions in journalism, in order to discourage self-censorship, and for implementation of a code of ethics in the new media, in order to minimize slander and violations of copyright. The recommendations in this report were debated by local experts and stakeholders in 14 February at the Albanian Media Institute. The report is available online at: http://www.institutemedia.org/Documents/PDF/OSF-Media-Report-Albania-02-17-2012-final-WEB.pdf
 
HEARING SESSION ON NEW AUDIOVISUAL SERVICES BILL
 
The Parliamentary Media Commission organized a hearing session with stakeholders on February 13, aiming to receive feedback on the changes made to the new audiovisual services bill. The participants in the hearing session included representatives from KKRT, the regulatory authority on electronic media, RTSH, the public broadcaster, Digitalb and Tring, the two operating digital multiplexes, copyright protection organizations, local television networks, and representative of vulnerable groups’ association. Each stakeholder provided the Commission with the main observations, comments, and suggestions regarding the recent draft of the bill. Some of the main points discussed included the definition of role and competencies of the regulatory authority, its independence, and its ability to meet the mission required. The role of the public broadcaster and its difficult task against the background of digital switchover was also part of the discussion. The representatives of the two existing digital multiplexes also addressed the delicate issue of their legalization and the future shape of media landscape, including competition and ownership issues. Special attention was paid to regulation of emerging copyright issues by several copyright protection organizations and the official authority in this area. The bill has been discussed for a long time in the commission, gathering feedback from stakeholders and international organizations such as OSCE and Council of Europe. At the moment the Commission is reflecting on the latest feedback received.
 
MONITORING ACCESS TO PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION REPORT
 
The Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the World Bank and the British Council, carried out a test on the implementation of the right to information to official documents by the public administration. For this purpose, 250 requests for information were sent to various public administration bodies in the capital. The group of people that sent the requests was both journalists and non-journalists, in order to identify any potential double standards in providing information. Out of 250 requests sent, 152 requests received an answer, while 98 did not. Journalists had a slightly better rate of receiving information within the applicants’ group. Out of the replies received, about 35% of them could be considered full, while 12% included partial information. In 8% of the cases the applicants were advised to refer to specific laws or websites, while in 6% of the cases they were referred to other institutions in order to receive the information required.
 
On average a request was answered for nine days. While more than half of the answers were dealt with for less than five days, there was also a significant amount of requests which took more than 20 days. The applicants reported often problems regarding the acceptance process of the requests for information and other logistic hindrances. The citizens found it harder to submit the requests than the journalists. Based on the findings of the monitoring, the report recommended a unified set of criteria for the whole administration to apply regarding the right to information, as well as greater accountability of the administration and increased awareness efforts among citizens in exerting this right. The report was discussed in a roundtable with various stakeholders on February 29.
 
TRAINING COURSE ON INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
 
A training course on investigative journalism took place at the Albanian Media Institute on February 15-17, with the participation of journalists from print and electronic media. The 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 US Embassy.
 
SURVEY ON CHILDREN AND MEDIA USE
 
The Albanian Media Institute, with the support of UNICEF, carried out and published a survey with children and young people aged 13-18 in Tirana, regarding their opinions on media and their habits in using both traditional and new media. The survey focused on the preference of this age group regarding different media, on the trends of opinions, suggestions for improvement, especially regarding the portrayal of this age group, as well as the relationship of trust this group has with each of these media. The survey found that traditional media, although still important, are no longer among the most favorite for children and youth and new media, distributed in different formats, certainly hold an advantage for this age group. Television is certainly the most favorite traditional media of this age group, since half of surveyed persons stated they watched 1-3 hours per day and 19% of them said they watched more than three hours, comprising together almost 70% of total respondents.
 
On the other hand, more than 3/5 of the participants said they used internet several times per day, while 1/5 of them said they use it once each day. The most common reason for internet use was attending social networks, where only a small part of the surveyed persons declared they did not use these networks. The group also widely used internet for entertainment and to a smaller extent, for information. Regarding the credibility of traditional media, participants in the survey were skeptical. Half of them said they trusted media “somewhat,” while more than 1/5 said they had “little” trust. When asked to rank the different information sources according to credibility, the respondents ranked first the school and teachers, but books and internet were very close, too. Meanwhile, traditional media were ranked as most important sources of information by less than 1/5 of the surveyed. At the same time, 2/5 of the respondents ranked traditional media as least important source of information.
 
WORKSHOP ON POLITICAL REPORTING
 
A workshop on political reporting took place at the Albanian Media Institute on February 22-24, with the participation of capital-based journalists from print and electronic media. The workshop aimed for journalists to become familiar with the main concepts and issues to have in mind when reporting on politics. The specific aspects tackled were the basics of political communication, the classical and contemporary actors, the role of media, and social aspects and impact of media in this overall communication. Some of the topics addressed included the various ways of expression or tools that politicians use for communication and how they affect media reporting, the different forms of political action and non-verbal communication, as well as the need to focus on the mean rather than source of communication. The lecturers also addressed political communication from the angle of media exploitation, the current existing media system, its perception of public interest, as well as the current situation of the media landscape and its influence on media coverage of politics. Specific attention was paid to the trends of media serving specific agendas, media serving as a shield and as a tool, and to the triangle media, business, and politics. Politicization of the media and the ensuing reports was another topic that the trainers discussed with the participants, comparing it to the supposed public interest and the situation in practice.   This workshop was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy.
 
TRAINING COURSE IN ETHICS IN THE BLOGOSPHERE
 
 A training course on ethics in the blogosphere was organized at Albanian Media Institute on February 6-8, with the participation of journalists from print, electronic, and online media. The trainer 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. The lecturer made an analysis of Albanian media websites that have their own forums and blogs. The lecturer 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. The lecturer then introduced Albanian journalists 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 UNESCO.
 
TRAINING COURSE ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION ISSUES
 
A training course on access to information legislation, implementation, and challenges for journalists and the public was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on February 1-3, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media. The participants were introduced to the main aspects of Albanian legislation on this area and discussed the way the law is implemented, its main deficiencies and the existing attempts to amend the law in several aspects. Specific attention was paid to the amendments pending in the parliament on the law on access to information, such as the issue of timelines, costs, establishment of information offices, etc. Participants also became familiar with some lawsuits and trials against public institutions related to compliance with the law on access to information. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of US Embassy.

PUBLICATION MARKING 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF DW ALBANIA
 
“That is how I want to be informed” is the title of the latest book by Arben Muka, Deutsche Welle correspondent in Albania, published by the Albanian Media Institute. The publication focuses on a description, analysis and collection of opinions from various persons regarding the 20-year history of DW Albanian section and the way it has influenced developments in the country. The book aims to examine some main trends and the role of the station both in terms of quality information conveyed to the public and in terms of promoting democratic developments and regional cooperation between the countries, as well as improving professional standards of Albanian journalism. The book focuses on the different kinds of programs broadcast by DW in Albania in the last 20 years and in the role they have played in the post-communist transition and in the basics of professional journalism for local reporters. Specific attention has been paid to the Albanian media’s use of DW services and reports and the DW’s role in promoting regional cooperation. The author has interviewed numerous politicians, media experts, journalists, civil society representatives, and other citizens on their opinion of DW, aiming to have a complete picture of the station’s role.


AMI NEWSLETTER, March 2012


ALBANIA ELECTED IN THE UNESCO IPDC BUREAU

The Council of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), which met in Paris for its 28th biennial session (22 to 23 March), has chosen eight new members for its implementation body, the IPDC Bureau. The IPDC Council, which is composed of 39 Member States voted for by the UNESCO General Conference, also elected Mr Jyrki Pulkkinen (Finland) as the new Chairman to the Programme for a mandate of two years.
For the new Bureau, the Council also designated Mr Mikhail Gusman as Rapporteur (Russian Federation). Albania was elected in the IPDC Bureau. AMI director Remzi Lani represents Albania as an expert in the Bureau. Other Bureau members are Algeria, Peru, Tanzania, Thailand and the United States of America. They will select and approve projects for funding in 2013 and 2014, act as a jury for the UNESCO-IPDC Prize for Rural Communication, and prepare recommendations for the 2014 IPDC Council meeting. IPDC is the key multilateral forum in the UN system designed to promote media development in developing countries and help secure an empowering environment for free, independent and pluralistic media.

ROUNDTABLES ON MEDIA AND INTEGRATION

Two roundtables on media and EU integration were organized in March, with the participation of media editors, columnists, analysts, and other personalities whose work focuses on EU integration. The first roundtable took place on March 6 and it was greeted by British ambassador Fiona Mcllwham, who stressed the media role in the public debate on EU integration. The second roundtable was organized on March 28.
The roundtables were organized after the establishment in January of a blog with essays on Albania’s attempts to EU integration, available on AMI’s webpage, aiming to offer different views and perspectives on this multifaceted process. Key speakers in the roundtable provided an overview on the online debate on integration, describing the range of problems of integration as seen by Albanian opinion makers. They also outlined the main trends and problems in media coverage of the EU integration process.
The participants in the roundtables, while recognizing the great role of the media in informing the public on this topic, focused on key steps to improve coverage and main factors that hinder this improvement. The roundtables and the online debate/blog were organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the British Embassy.

TV DEBATE “EUROPE OR EUROTOPIA?”

A TV debate with the topic “Europe or Eurotopia” was broadcast by “Top Show” program in national Top Channel TV. Some of the topics that were addressed during the program were: How far or near Europe are we in practice? Where do we stand compared to our neighbors? Why are we lagging behind? Are we going to Europe or is Europe coming here, meaning are we going to Europeanize? Is our identity fully European? What can we do to draw Europe closer to us? Is it possible to have an Agreement with Europe? Do se risk missing the train again this fall? The program is a talk show, where experts in integration were invited to participate. The program was organized in the framework of the project AMI implemented on media and EU integration, with the support of the British Embassy.

INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM “ALBANIA IN THE NEXT TEN YEARS”

Albanian Institute of International Studies and Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Open Society Foundation for Albania organized on March 29-30 the International Symposium “Albania in the next ten years.”
This symposium brought together well-known figures of the academic world, historians, economists, representatives of civil society, and experts from abroad and from Albania, such as: Bernd Fischer,  Indiana University; Karl Kaser, University of Graz; Blerim Reka, Southeast Europe University, Tetova; Robert Austin, Toronto University;  Artan Fuga, University of Tirana – Paris University VIII; Rexhep Mejdani, former President of the Republic; Albert Rakipi,  Albanian Institute of International Studies; Blendi Kajsiu, University of Essex; Ermal Hasimja,  University of New York, Tirana; Franz Lothar-Altmann, expert on the Balkans, Association of Southeast Europe, Bucharest State University; Alexandros Mallias, Special Advisor to ELIAMEP, Athens; Soli Ozel,  University Kadir Has, Istanbul; Veton Surroi, Foreign Policy Club, Prishtina, etc.
The symposium discussed issues related to the history of Albania in its 100th year as an independent Albanian state and examined opportunities, options and potential scenarios for its future.

TRAINING COURSE ON INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
 
A training course on investigative journalism took place at the Albanian Media Institute on March 19-21, with the participation of journalists from print and electronic media. The 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 US Embassy.
 
SURVEY ON CHILDREN AND MEDIA USE LAUNCHED
 
On March 27, the Albanian Media Institute and UNICEF publicly launched the survey “Children and Media.” The journalists from mainstream media that were present became familiar with the main findings of the survey and the survey results were extensively covered in the press and TV. Detlef Palm, director of UNICEF Albania, commented that the findings of the survey should serve as a wake-up call for the media, so that they can become more interesting and address the youth more, at the expense of politics and boring news. The survey found that traditional media, although still important, are no longer among the most favorite for children and youth and new media, distributed in different formats, certainly hold an advantage for this age group. Television is certainly the most favorite traditional media of this age group, since half of surveyed persons stated they watched 1-3 hours per day and 19% of them said they watched more than three hours, comprising together almost 70% of total respondents.
 
On the other hand, more than 3/5 of the participants said they used internet several times per day, while 1/5 of them said they use it once each day. The most common reason for internet use was attending social networks, where only a small part of the surveyed persons declared they did not use these networks. The group also widely used internet for entertainment and to a smaller extent, for information. Regarding the credibility of traditional media, participants in the survey were skeptical. Half of them said they trusted media “somewhat,” while more than 1/5 said they had “little” trust. When asked to rank the different information sources according to credibility, the respondents ranked first the school and teachers, but books and internet were very close, too. Meanwhile, traditional media were ranked as most important sources of information by less than 1/5 of the surveyed. At the same time, 2/5 of the respondents ranked traditional media as least important source of information.
 
COURSE ON CORRUPTION AND THE MEDIA

A training course on corruption and the media was organized on March 13, 15 and 16 at the Albanian Media Institute. Participants were journalists and editors from mainstream media. The course aimed to address the way media covers corruption, focusing on problems and ways of improving this coverage. Special attention was paid to the role of the media in fighting corruption, focusing on the power to bring to the attention of the public specific cases of corruption, shedding light over particular mechanisms of corruption and raising awareness on legal provisions against corruption and specific actions of civil society and other actors in this area. Factors that hinder and promote coverage of corruption in the media were discussed at length with the participants in the course.
The lecturers also paid special attention to corruption within the media, addressing such matters as bribery in the media, direct and indirect external pressure, pressure within the media from owners and managers, and public pressure on the media outlets. The role of competition within the media landscape and the use of media for economic interests were also discussed in the framework of corruption and the media. The course was organized by AMI, with the support of Balkan Trust for Democracy.

CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST JOURNALIST IN DAILY NEWSPAPER

In February 2012, the Director for Public Relations at the Council of Ministers, Gjovalin Prenga, filed criminal charges over alleged slander in Tirana’s District Court, seeking a two-year prison sentence for Lindita Cela, a journalist for the daily newspaper Shekulli. This was after Prime Minister Sali Berisha declared in January that his administration would decriminalize slander, and on February 17 and March 1, 2012, two sets of reforms, both to the civil and penal code, were voted on in the parliament.
On October 7, 2011, Cela reported on a conflict within the Agency for the Legalization, Urbanization and Integration of Informal Areas, ALUIZNI. The former head of ALUIZNI had accused his deputy of having had ties to the former Communist security apparatus. After firing the deputy, the director distributed a dossier to the local media that contained the names of several people who allegedly collaborated with the secret services. Prenga’s was on that list. Cela reported on how state officials used the dossiers for infighting and quoted parts of them.The case is currently at court and the plaintiff refused to reconcile with the defendant in the first court meeting.
Albania’s Union of Journalists (AUJ) expressed its support for Cela. On March 27, 2012, the AUJ condemned the lawsuit as an attack by state officials on journalists who publish critical stories based on documents and facts and expressed concern about the growing number of slander cases against journalists in general.  “The explosion of these cases shows the existence of a threatening climate toward journalists and the free media,” the statement added.
In addition, Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), welcomed the amendments to the defamation law but expressed concern at the renewed use of criminal charges against journalists. 

TRAINING COURSE ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION ISSUES
 
A training course on access to information legislation, implementation, and challenges for journalists and the public was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on March 7-9, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media. The participants were introduced to the main aspects of Albanian legislation on this area and discussed the way the law is implemented, its main deficiencies and the existing attempts to amend the law in several aspects. Specific attention was paid to the amendments pending in the parliament on the law on access to information, such as the issue of timelines, costs, establishment of information offices, etc. Participants also became familiar with some lawsuits and trials against public institutions related to compliance with the law on access to information. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of US Embassy.
 
ANNUAL REPORTS OF REGULATOR AND PBS SPARK DEBATES IN COMMISSION

In early March both the National Council of Radio and Television (NCRT) and Albanian Radio and Television (ART) submitted their annual reports to the Parliamentary Commission on Media, followed by hearing sessions and debates in this commission. Main concerns of the members of the commission regarding NCRT were related to the ongoing emission of analogue licenses, the ability of NCRT to monitor technical conditions of broadcasting and especially pirated content, trends in monitoring ethical violations and monitoring advertising spots. The major debate in the commission was sparked by allegations that NCRT had bought 10 years ago with domestic and foreign funds a very expensive monitoring vehicle that was never put to use. NCRT issued a statement clarifying the details and emphasizing that the present council cannot be responsible for a fact that happened 10 years ago, with an entirely different council composition.
Meanwhile, the concerns regarding the activity of public broadcaster ART were related to the slow progress in digital switchover in spite of the raised license and the obligation to cover the whole territory by signal. A lengthy discussion and debate was the alleged lack of political balance in the news editions of ART as one of the main problems that haunt this institution at the moment. The representatives of ART stressed the electric company’s failure to channel the payment of license fee to them as the main problem in progressing with digital switchover process.

PUBLICATION ON ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES

“Ethical implications of new technologies: A survey,” is the latest publication of the Albanian Media Institute. This survey is a translation of the UNESCO publication on the way that new technologies are affecting communication and ethical ramifications to keep in mind in this aspect. The publication, prepared by Geneva Net Dialogue, aims at providing an outlook to the ethical implications of future communication and information technologies. The report further aims at alerting to the increasing power and presence of emerging technologies and draws attention to their potential to affect the exercise of basic human rights. Perhaps as its most salient deduction, the study signals that these days all decision makers, developers, the corporate scholar and users are entrusted with a profound responsibility with respect to technological developments and their impact on the future orientation of knowledge societies. The publication of this book was supported by UNESCO


AMI NEWSLETTER, April 2012


TRAINING COURSE ON INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
 
A training course on investigative journalism took place at the Albanian Media Institute on April 9-11, with the participation of journalists from print and electronic media. The 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 US Embassy.

MEDIA SUSTAINABILITY INDEX 2012 PUBLISHED

IREX published its 2012 Media Sustainability Report and according to this report, Albania’s MSI scores improved in every objective last year, but three out of the five objectives slipped in 2012. The report stated that this trend reflected the erosion of prospects for media sustainability in Albania. The report on Albania stated that a growing number of media outlets have succumbed to dependence on political parties, mainly the ruling party and now independent media and journalists are a rare species, near extinction. The panelists in the report expressed their criticism for the practice and conduct of the regulatory authority and for the lack of independent and public-oriented reporting of the public broadcaster. They identified self-censorship among journalists as a widespread problem, obstructing media independence. They also noted that transparency of media ownership and funding remains a problem, along with the lack of transparency in media advertising and the separation of business from content.
 
COURSE ON LABOUR RELATIONS IN THE MEDIA

A training course on labor relations and their enforcement in the media was organized on April 25-27 at the Albanian Media Institute. The course aimed for journalists to become familiar with the existing legislation regarding labour 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 Balkan Trust for Democracy.

CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST JOURNALIST IN DAILY NEWSPAPER DROPPED

The case of criminal defamation charges from public officer against journalist in daily newspaper was dropped, due to withdrawal of charges by the officer. In February 2012, the Director for Public Relations at the Council of Ministers, Gjovalin Prenga, filed criminal charges over alleged slander in Tirana’s District Court, seeking a two-year prison sentence for Lindita Cela, a journalist for the daily newspaper Shekulli. This was after Prime Minister Sali Berisha declared in January that his administration would decriminalize slander, and on February 17 and March 1, 2012, two sets of reforms, both to the civil and penal code, were voted on in the parliament.
The case attracted numerous complaints from local and international organizations dealing with freedom of expression and media freedom. So, Albania’s Union of Journalists (AUJ) expressed its support for Cela. On March 27, 2012, the AUJ condemned the lawsuit as an attack by state officials on journalists who publish critical stories based on documents and facts and expressed concern about the growing number of slander cases against journalists in general.  “The explosion of these cases shows the existence of a threatening climate toward journalists and the free media,” the statement added. In addition, Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), welcomed the amendments to the defamation law but expressed concern at the renewed use of criminal charges against journalists. 

WORKSHOP ON TESTING ACCESS TO INFORMATION LAW

A workshop on testing access to information law in assisting reporters took place at the Albanian Media Institute on April 18-20, with the participation of journalists from mainstream media. The aim of the workshop was to introduce journalists to this law and ways of receiving official information, as well as the reaction of state institutions in meeting these requests for information. This information will be tested in practice, since the participants have filed requests on information in different areas. The participants were introduced through practical examples to the essence of the law and how it can be used by journalists and the general public for a more in-depth and transparent reporting. Giving practical examples, the lecturers addressed the weaknesses and strength of the implementation of the law in everyday life, including the bodies that ensure this implementation: administrative complaint, court complaint, etc. The participants were also introduced to the role and work of the Ombudsman's Office in raising awareness on the law and monitoring its implementation in practice. Specific attention was paid to the manner of implementation of the law in everyday reporting, especially in the context of investigative stories. Afterwards, the participants discussed and determined story ideas for reporting that would include requesting information from state institutions. The filing of these requests and the ensuing procedures will constitute a test both on journalist's application of the law in reporting, as well as on the authorities' implementation of the law. The workshop was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

TRAINING ON “NEWSROOM MADE IN GERMANY”

“Newsroom Made in Germany” was the title of the event organized at the Albanian Media Institute on April 23-24. The main aim of the event was to introduce a free software solution “text-based newsroom,” which universities and TV broadcasters can use for educational purposes or for work at TV stations. The event was greeted by German Ambassador Carola Müller-Holtkemper and AMI director Remzi Lani. Participants were introduced to ways of using the software and produced a 15-minute TV show in order to obtain hands-on experience. The event was organized by NorCom.

TRAINING COURSE ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION ISSUES
 
A training course on access to information legislation, implementation, and challenges for journalists and the public was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on April 2-4, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media. The participants were introduced to the main aspects of Albanian legislation on this area and discussed the way the law is implemented, its main deficiencies and the existing attempts to amend the law in several aspects. Specific attention was paid to the amendments pending in the parliament on the law on access to information, such as the issue of timelines, costs, establishment of information offices, etc. Participants also became familiar with some lawsuits and trials against public institutions related to compliance with the law on access to information. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of US Embassy.


AMI NEWSLETTER, May 2012


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 107th out of 197 countries, qualified as partly free. This marked a decrease compared to last year, when it was ranked as 102nd. Out of Balkan countries, it was ranked before last, succeeded only by Macedonia. The report stated that democracies of Central Europe have established institutions that generally protect most fundamental rights, despite some recent backsliding. Most countries in the Balkans are lagging behind in this regard and need ongoing monitoring to ensure continued democratic progress.

STUDY TRIP FOR JOURNALISTS AT EU INSTITUTIONS

A study trip for a group of ten journalists from mainstream media was organized on May 3-4 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 affect Albania’s status and on what are the chances to receive the candidate status within the year. The participants were also briefed on the visit of Commissioner for Enlargement Fule by his spokesman, whose visit to Tirana coincided with the visit of Albanian journalists to Brussels.

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 unfair distribution of advertisement, lack of work contracts, lack of audience research, 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.

US HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT ADDRESSES MEDIA FREEDOM

This month the US State Department issued the annual report on human rights and practices, which also addresses the state of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. According to the report, the legal framework provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government respected many of these rights in practice. However, the problem of direct and indirect political pressure on the media, including threats against journalists, remained.

The report stated that the government controlled the editorial line of the public Albanian Radio and Television. While private stations generally operated free of direct government influence, most owners believed that the content of their broadcasts could influence government action toward their other businesses. Business owners also freely used media outlets to gain favor and promote their interests with both major parties.

According to the report, there were incidents of violence against members of the broadcast media during the year, and journalists were subject to pressure from political and business actors. The report mentioned the incidents of the January 21 protest, when police personnel beat journalist Ened Janina, political editor of the daily newspaper Shekulli. The same day, reporter Fatos Mahmutaj was grazed by a bullet that killed a man standing on the media riser. Mahmutaj claimed on several television shows that the bullet wounding him and killing another man came from Republican Guard soldiers. Mahmutaj reportedly received several death threats after his public statements and left the country days after the protest. In the spring, Mahmutaj was granted political asylum in Belgium. Finally, the report mentions the case of reporter Artan Hoxha, who aired footage of the January 21 protest that allegedly showed how one of the protestors died. Hoxha stated that four days after the broadcast, unknown men handed his 10-year-old son at home an envelope that contained three bullets.

GOVERNMENT APPROVES STRATEGY TO DIGITAL SWITCHOVER

On May 2 the Council of Ministers approved the Strategy to Digital Switchover, which will guide the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. The first version of the Strategy was drafted several years ago and it has been under discussion, along with the law on broadcasting. Meanwhile, the first multiplex started operating in 2004, while the second several years later and digital broadcasting has become widespread in the country, even without being regulated. The Parliament approved a law that would regulate this sector in 2007, which was not implemented so far. After approval of the Strategy, the head of the National Council of Radio and Television called for the speedy approval of the draft law on Audiovisual Services, currently in the Parliament, so that both the Strategy and the new law would start implementation.

DEBATES IN THE PARLIAMENT ON THE REGULATOR

The Parliament approved the resolution of last year’s activity of the National Council of Radio and Television on May 31. Even though the resolution for approving last year’s report and work of the regulator, this was preceded by considerable debate and criticism by the opposition. The criticism came in the aspects of abusing with the competencing of granting and issuing licenses based on political criteria, inefficient administration of the spectrum, inability to control piracy of TV programming, and actions that were politically motivated towards specific media, rather than of a professional nature. The opposition also focused on the critical reports of Albania’s ranking from international organizations that assess media freedom. Members of the ruling majority indicated that in general international reports have praised the existing system as one that guarantees a good basis for media freedom and independence, mentioning as the latest act the approval of the amendments to defamation. 

ROUNDTABLE ON SOFT CENSORSHIP AND SELF-CENSORSHIP IN THE MEDIA

A roundtable on the topic of soft censorship and self-censorship in the media was organized in Elbasan on May 17. Participants included media editors, reporters, and civil society activists. The roundtable addressed such issues as the phenomenon of self-censorship in national and local media, the impact of self-censorship on investigative reporting, the factors that lead to self-censorship, the framework of the current media landscape and the situation of labor relations in the media, etc. Another major trait discussed during the roundtable was the situation of soft censorship, mainly in terms of media financing, media market, and media advertising. Specific attention was paid to distribution of advertising in the media, both state and commercial one, the criteria followed, and the way this affects media reporting on specific events and actors. In this context, the different sources of financing in the media and the general situation of the media market was analyzed, in order to have a look at the broader picture. Participants also brought their own experience in this regard, sharing their concerns and recommending ways of improving the situation. The roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy.

PROJECTION OF A DOCUMENTARY MOVIE ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

The documentary movie “Aung San Suu Kyi: Lady of no fear” was projected for students of the Department of Journalism at the public University of Shkodra on May 31. The documentary explores the life of Aung San Suu Kyi as the valuable icon representing freedom and democracy in Burma. The documentary describes who is the person and woman behind this and why does Aung San Suu Kyi voluntarily choose to stay in her captivity instead of going into exile. “Lady of No Fear” offers a strong and fascinating glimpse into Aung San Suu Kyis life and portrays some of the consequences her freedom struggle has had, not only for her, but also for her closest friends and family indeed. This documentary was projected by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.    

HUMAN RIGHTS WEEK TRAINING FOR JOURNALISTS

The training of Human Rights Week for journalists was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on May 21-25, 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.

WORKSHOP ON TESTING ACCESS TO INFORMATION LAW

A workshop on testing access to information law in assisting reporters took place at the Albanian Media Institute on May 9-11, with the participation of journalists from mainstream media. The aim of the workshop was to introduce journalists to this law and ways of receiving official information, as well as the reaction of state institutions in meeting these requests for information. This information will be tested in practice, since the participants have filed requests on information in different areas. The participants were introduced through practical examples to the essence of the law and how it can be used by journalists and the general public for a more in-depth and transparent reporting. Giving practical examples, the lecturers addressed the weaknesses and strength of the implementation of the law in everyday life, including the bodies that ensure this implementation: administrative complaint, court complaint, etc. The participants were also introduced to the role and work of the Ombudsman's Office in raising awareness on the law and monitoring its implementation in practice. Specific attention was paid to the manner of implementation of the law in everyday reporting, especially in the context of investigative stories. Afterwards, the participants discussed and determined story ideas for reporting that would include requesting information from state institutions. The filing of these requests and the ensuing procedures will constitute a test both on journalist's application of the law in reporting, as well as on the authorities' implementation of the law. The workshop was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

TRAINING COURSE ON LGBT COMMUNITY

A training course on improving reporting on LGBT community was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on May 14-15, with the participation of reporters of social issues from print, electronic, and online media. On the first day, the participants were introduced to the current anti-discrimination law and the main concepts that media needs to consider when reporting on LGBT community. They were also presented with the main requests and concerns of the LGBT community, such as full implementation of the current law on anti-discrimination, the improvement of social services for this community, incrase of safety offered by central and local government for the community, and avoiding discrimination in employment and other areas. On the second day, the participants discussed with the lecturer the problems with current coverage of LGBT community in the media, the main ethical concerns, ways of improving the situation, and potential techniques that can be employed. The course was organized by Pink Embassy and Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the US Embassy in Tirana.

MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY ORGANIZES ROUNDTABLE ON MEDIA

On May 2, the Socialist Party, main opposition party, organized a roundtable on media issues. Participants included media owners, managers, editors, journalists, civil society representatives, and media experts. The main aim of the roundtable was to introduce the program of the party regarding media. The head of opposition, Edi Rama, stressed that the basic principles and conditions that guarantee a free and independent media should not change each time there is a change of power. He focused the presentation of the Socialist Party program regarding media on three main aspects: establishing a legal framework for transparency of media landscape, strengthening independence of public broadcaster, and guaranteeing access to official information for the media. The roundtable also presented a survey carried out among journalists on the current media problems, the concerns they have, and on the expectations they have for the future. The participants in the roundtable also expressed their concerns and recommended solutions for the future.

NEW ISSUE OF “REPORTERI” FOCUSES ON MEDIA PROBLEMS

The new issue of “Reporteri,” the publication of the Department of Journalism and Communication at the University of Tirana, focused on several problems of the media landscape in the country and the factors that contribute to the current situation. The contributions came from professors and students of the department and focused on issues such as tabloidization of newspapers, informal situation of media outlets, the influence of internet and online media on traditional media, the press distribution infrastructure, the crisis of the print media, the lack of analysis of media on its own work, issues related to media freedom, the difficulties of investigative reporting and problems of local journalists, etc.

CONFERENCE ON MAIN TRENDS OF LANDSCAPES OF TELEVISION

A conference titled “Television vis-à-vis the audience: Media challenges of Albanian reality 1997-2012” was organized at the European University of Tirana on May 10. The lectures and discussion evolved around such notions and problems, such as absence of independence in the media, a weak cultuure of communication, problems with accuracy of information, and problems with Albanian language in reporting. Participants included media personalities, academics, and students. Issues such as defragmentation of the TV audience, social identity of the current viewers in digital era, problems of media and democracy, the impact of the dynamic media landscape on the quality of reporting were the main topics of discussion. Media professionals also expressed their criticism on the conduct of media vis-à-vis fulfilment of the public mission they have, due to various factors, stressing that public interest was not a always a priority in the media field.

“DRITAN HOXHA” FOUNDATION AWARDS JOURNALISM STUDENTS

The foundation “Dritan Hoxha” distributed awards for journalism students for the second year in a row. Saimir Muzhaka, a journalism student, was proclaimed the winner out of 300 applicants for the award of the foundation. The winning piece was a feature on Berat, one of the historical cities in southern Albania, focusing on the struggles to preserve the historical heritage of this city. The ceremony of the awards took place on May 23.

AWARDS FOR LOCAL JOURNALISTS

On May 18, the Albanian Foundation Environment & Economy, in cooperation with the Union of Albanian Journalists, distributed awards for journalists in Durres, praising their contribution towards reporting for issues and activities related to this city. A total of five awards were given, as a result of voting of the community of journalists of the city. The activity was supported by the foundation and the local authorities.


AMI NEWSLETTER, June 2012


ECONOMIC, POLITICAL INTERESTS AND POOR LEGAL IMPLEMENTATION HINDER FREE PRESS IN ALBANIA, SAYS OSCE MEDIA FREEDOM REPRESENTATIVE
 
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, called upon the Albanian government to strengthen media freedom in the country as a priority duering her three-day visit to Tirana in early June. “Free media are persevering in Albania but suffer in particular from economic and political interests impeding on editorial independence. More needs to be done to safeguard media freedom,” Mijatović said.
 
During her visit, the Representative met Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Foreign Minister Edmond Haxhinasto, members of the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Means of Public Information, Justice Minister Eduard Halimi, Minister for Innovation and Information Technology Genc Pollo, as well as the Chair of the broadcast regulator NCRT, the Director General of the public service broadcaster RTSH, the Head of the Union of Albanian Journalists, the director of the Albanian Media Institute, the Executive Director of Transparency International in Albania, local journalists and civil society representatives.
 
The failure to fully implement media laws, economic pressure, clientelism and the partisanship of media owners, as well as poor employment conditions for journalists – most of whom work without formal contracts – a weak and financially struggling public service broadcaster and broadcast regulator and an unregulated digital environment are the biggest challenges, in particular for investigative journalism in Albania, Mijatović said.
 
“Without a politically and financially independent public service broadcaster and broadcast regulator it will be impossible to create a free and vibrant media environment. There is a need to reform RTSH as well as NCRT to shield both from political influence and secure their funding, especially now when Albania is heading towards digitalization,” said Mijatović.
 
Mijatović welcomed the recent decision to exclude prison sentences for defamation offences from Albania’s Penal Code and the government’s expressed readiness to go further and fully decriminalize defamation soon. The law on access to official information also needs to be fully implemented, she said.
 
Mijatović welcomed Prime Minister Berisha’s statement that strengthening media freedom is a priority of his government, but stressed that media owners, often affiliated with political parties, must also maintain a hands-off approach: “Media outlets must serve the public and society at large and not act in the interest of a particular public figure or business.”
 
Mijatović emphasized the importance of an open Internet and commended Albania for continuing to keep the online environment free. During her visit, Mijatović also spoke to students of the Media Department of the University of Tirana.
 
SCIENCE REPORTING WORKSHOP FOR BALKAN JOURNALISTS
 
A workshop for science reporters was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on June 4-8, with 14 journalists coming from 12 countries of South East and Central Europe. The goal of the workshop was to bring together science journalists from all over South East Europe for a training-workshop to build their capacity, enable their cooperation and thus advance quality journalism and science reporting on the Balcans. Trainer was Jan Lublinski, well-known science journalist. The workshop consisted both of basic notions of science journalism as well as advanced concepts and modern trends. It first focus was the treatment of sources and resources in science journalism. A second main element of the training was the treatment of science news for local and regional media, for current affairs news as well as for specialized science journalism products. The workshop also focused on advanced journalism concepts such as narrative style, innovation journalism, feature writing with the Wall Street Journal formula and the usage of story-telling-sentences and story-board techniques for television.
 
Difficulties and strategies for journalistic research and interviews were discussed and experienced in different exercises, such as press conferences with science experts from Tirana, individual topical interviews, a visit to the Institute of Public Health in Tirana, etc. This workshop was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Robert Bosch Foundation.
 
ROUNDTABLE ON SOFT CENSORSHIP AND SELF-CENSORSHIP IN THE MEDIA
 
A roundtable on the topic of soft censorship and self-censorship in the media was organized in Korca on June 15. Participants included media editors, reporters, and civil society activists. The roundtable addressed such issues as the phenomenon of self-censorship in national and local media, the impact of self-censorship on investigative reporting, the factors that lead to self-censorship, the framework of the current media landscape and the situation of labor relations in the media, etc. Another major trait discussed during the roundtable was the situation of soft censorship, mainly in terms of media financing, media market, and media advertising. Specific attention was paid to distribution of advertising in the media, both state and commercial one, the criteria followed, and the way this affects media reporting on specific events and actors. In this context, the different sources of financing in the media and the general situation of the media market was analyzed, in order to have a look at the broader picture. Participants also brought their own experience in this regard, sharing their concerns and recommending ways of improving the situation. The roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy.
 
SEMINAR AND STUDY TRIP ON EU INSTITUTIONS

A seminar on EU institutions was organized in Tirana on June 21-22 and then was followed by a field trip to Luxembourg on June 23-27. Participants were 10 journalists and editors of mainstream media from Albania and Kosova. The main aim of the seminar was to introduce the participants to the main EU institutions, in the context of the two countries’ efforts to integrate into the EU. For this purpose, the participants in Tirana were briefed on the progress of Albania towards EU integration, the structure and functioning of EU institutions, Albanian perspective towards EU as seen from the Minister of Integration, civil society, and opposition and majority MPs, the public’s information on the process of integration, and the civil society’s efforts to monitor integration process into the EU.
 
The visit to Luxembourg included a visit to the European Investment Bank, along with a presentation on its role and activities, especially in the Western Balkans, visit to European Court of Justice, a presentation of the European Court of Auditors, visit to the Eurostat, as well as a final roundtable on the EU perspective in light of the Euro crisis. The participants also visited European Centre of Schengen. This seminar and field trip was organized by the European Journalism Centre and Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Luxemburg Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
 
WORKSHOP ON TESTING ACCESS TO INFORMATION LAW
 
A workshop on testing access to information law in assisting reporters took place at the Albanian Media Institute on June 27-29, with the participation of journalists from mainstream media. The aim of the workshop was to introduce journalists to this law and ways of receiving official information, as well as the reaction of state institutions in meeting these requests for information. This information will be tested in practice, since the participants have filed requests on information in different areas. The participants were introduced through practical examples to the essence of the law and how it can be used by journalists and the general public for a more in-depth and transparent reporting. Giving practical examples, the lecturers addressed the weaknesses and strength of the implementation of the law in everyday life, including the bodies that ensure this implementation: administrative complaint, court complaint, etc. The participants were also introduced to the role and work of the Ombudsman's Office in raising awareness on the law and monitoring its implementation in practice. Specific attention was paid to the manner of implementation of the law in everyday reporting, especially in the context of investigative stories. Afterwards, the participants discussed and determined story ideas for reporting that would include requesting information from state institutions. The filing of these requests and the ensuing procedures will constitute a test both on journalist's application of the law in reporting, as well as on the authorities' implementation of the law. The workshop was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.
 
PROJECTION OF DOCUMENTARY MOVIES
 
The documentary movie “Videocracy” was projected at the Department of Journalism at the public University of Tirana on June 1. Participants included students, journalists, editors, acadmics, and civil society activists. “Videocracy” is a 2009 documentary film directed by Swedish-Italian Erik Gandini about Italian television and its impact on Italian culture and politics, and about Silvio Berlusconi's powerful position in these. “Videocracy” uses the theme tune to Silvio Berlusconi's presidential campaign and now party theme, “Meno male che Silvio c'è!” (loosely translated as “Thank God for Silvio!”). Soon after its theatrical premiere in Sweden, the film was shown at the 66th Venice International Film Festival where it gained massive attention. The trailer for the film has been banned by most Italian television broadcasters, while the documentary has gained several international awards.
 
The 2011 documentary movie “Kissinger” was projected at the Department of Journalism of the public University of Elbasan on June 4, for an audience of students, journalists, and academicians. The documentary is based on exclusive and unparalleled access to a series of interviews with Henry Kissinger and on filming of a series of his foreign trips to China, Israel and Russia. This feature documentary combined excerpts from the extensive interviews with extraordinary contemporary archive. The result is a unique insight into the mind and personality of the man who, more than any other single individual, shaped the foreign policy of the United States - not only during his time in office, but afterwards, when he continued to act as consigliere to successive presidents as well as to governments around the world. This is the documentary on the man who remains the most controversial figure in American public life. These projections were organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.
 
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON PRINT MEDIA BUSINESS
 
A roundtable focusing on the business features and challenges of print media market in the country was organized on June 7 in Tirana by the OSCE Presence in Albania. The roundtable aimed to launch a paper titled "The Albanian print media market, distribution and other issues," which focused on the business perspective of print media in Albania. The paper presented addressed specific issues of print media market, such as newspaper sales and subscriptions, newspaper stands, collection of payments, etc. The paper was based on previous materials and reports on the matter and on interviews with stakeholders. Based on this, the paper also analyzed alternative sales channels, transparency, auditing, subsidies to the industry, financial enablers, and the opportunities that the current market could exploit, along with the respective recommendations. Participants in the roundtable included media owners, editors in chief, and journalists of print media. They provided their own views and feedback, especially focusing on unification of distribution network, on the situation of print media market, inflation of titles in the market, online versions of newspapers and their future, etc.
 
TRAINING COURSE ON LGBT COMMUNITY REPORTING
 
A training session for the media on ways to improve reporting of LGBT community in the country was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on June 13. Trainers were Mindy Michels and Kevin Sessums, LGBT activists. Participants included reporters of social issues from mainstream media. The journalists became familiar with the main challenges that LGBT community faces and ways of improving their coverage in the media. Participants were introduced to the current anti-discrimination law and the main concepts that media needs to consider when reporting on LGBT community. The journalists also discussed with the trainers the problems with current coverage of LGBT community in the media, the main ethical concerns, ways of improving the situation, and potential techniques that can be employed. The training was organized by US Embassy in Tirana and Albanian Media Institute.
 
PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION ON KOSOVO WAR
 
In the 13th anniversary of the entrance of NATO troops in Kosovo, a photo exhibition commemorating the event and the ongoing humanitarian drama at the time was opened on June 11, titled “Destinies at war.” The exhibition contains 110 photos, shot from April to June 1999 by well-known journalist and current director of the public television TVSH, Mirela Oktrova, who worked as a reporter at the time. The photos were mainly portraits of childre, old people, and other refugees, who were experiencing the crisis at the time. The exhibition focuses on displacement of refugees, their life on the camps, and concludes with the entrance of NATO troops in the Kosovo territory, followed by the return of people to their homes.


AMI NEWSLETTER, July-August 2012


GREEK BORDER POLICE BANS ENTRANCE TO ALBANIAN JOURNALIST

On 19 August 2012, Marin Mema, a reporter with Albanian Top Channel TV was heading to Greece on a private visit when Greek border police denied him entry to the country, recalling a report of his on Greece a year earlier, according to Mema. He was handed a piece of paper on which he was allegedly described as a threat to national security and therefore persona non grata, he said. In an interview with the regional website Balkan Insight, Mema linked the ban to a TV report he did on the Cham population of ethnic Albanians who were expelled from northern Greece during World War Two.  

This act sparked protests from the community of journalists. The trade union Union of Albanian Journalists sent requests to the Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, calling on the ministry to demand explanations and protest against this unreasonable ban. The union also organized a protest in front of the Greek embassy in Tirana, deploring this act and calling for a stop to these bans that threaten media freedom.

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), also called on the Greek authorities to explain why they have impeded Mema’s entry to the country. “Reporters should be allowed to travel both as private citizens and as information professionals,” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. “The border police appear to have violated several international standards by impeding the journalist’s free movement. Press freedom cannot stop at countries’ borders.”

ROUNDTABLE ON SOFT CENSORSHIP AND SELF-CENSORSHIP IN THE MEDIA

A roundtable on the topic of soft censorship and self-censorship in the media was organized in Tirana on July 17. Participants included media editors, reporters, and civil society activists. The roundtable addressed such issues as the phenomenon of self-censorship in national and local media, the impact of self-censorship on investigative reporting, the factors that lead to self-censorship, the framework of the current media landscape and the situation of labor relations in the media, etc. Another major trait discussed during the roundtable was the situation of soft censorship, mainly in terms of media financing, media market, and media advertising. Specific attention was paid to distribution of advertising in the media, both state and commercial one, the criteria followed, and the way this affects media reporting on specific events and actors. In this context, the different sources of financing in the media and the general situation of the media market was analyzed, in order to have a look at the broader picture. Participants also brought their own experience in this regard, sharing their concerns and recommending ways of improving the situation. The roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy.

TRAINING COURSE ON REPORTING DISABLED PERSONS

The Reporting Disabled People course was organized on July 9-13, with the participation of mainly social reporters from mainstream media. The main aim of the training was for journalists to become familiar with the current legislation for disabled people on one hand, and on ethical and professional standards in media coverage of this group, on the other hand. In this context, the trainers were both legal and professional experts in the area.

Some of the topics that the course addressed included the basic language used to address disabled persons in the media, focusing on the correct terminology, definitions, and stereotypes to avoid.  In this context, the lecturers also provided specific examples of media coverage, discussing with participants what were the correct terms to use and how the reporting on these persons could improve. Specific attention was also paid to the existing legal framework for disabled persons in the country and especially the degree to which the regulation is observed. What could be done more in this regard and media’s role in raising awareness were constant topics discussed by the lecturers and journalists. Other topics included information on the minimum criteria that need to be met by public institutions for disabled persons, the different data that journalists could use in their work, as well as the improvement of sources of information. Finally, a major emphasis was placed on the ethical aspect of reporting on the disabled persons throughout the course. The training course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

MEDIA, LOCAL GOVERNMENT, AND CITIZENS FORUM IN LEZHA

A forum of media, local government, and citizens was organized in Lezha on July 20, with the participation of local media, local government, and citizens. The main aim of the forum was to get acquainted to the law on access to information and the manner the local administration implemented this law. The forum started by explaining with practical examples the essence of the law and how it can be used by journalists and the general public for a more in-depth and transparent reporting. Giving practical examples, the lecturer addressed the weaknesses and strength of the implementation of the law in everyday life, including the bodies that ensure this implementation: administrative complaint, court complaint, Ombudsman.

The forum continued by a discussion among local government and local media on the implementation of the law by the municipality. The participants in the discussion focused on the problems that existed in the relations between citizens and journalists on one hand, and the city officials, on the other, briefly explaining the way of functioning of the press office. The present journalists also suggested some ways that would help a more efficient functioning of the office. The speakers on the forum also provided some specific advice and examples that would improve the journalists’ reporting for the community by making use of the law, as well as ways of improving local government openness vis-à-vis the media and citizens. This forum was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.


AMI NEWSLETTER, September 2012


ROUNDTABLE OF MEDIA AND THE JUDICIARY

A roundtable on the main problems that exist between media and the judiciary in terms of facilitating reporting on public interest was organized on September 28, with the participation of spokespersons, journalists, and editors. The main aim of this roundtable was to serve as a platform of discussion and dialogue between media and representatives of judiciary in regard to media coverage of the judiciary and the role of spokespersons in providing information for the media and the public. For this purpose, some of the topics discussed by the speakers included a brief introduction to the structure of the judiciary system, the different existing court levels, the Chamber of Lawyers, and the European Court of Human Rights. More specifically, the judiciary system was analyzed in terms of improvement of media coverage on the activities of the judiciarry, especially on the role of spokespersons of courts, the communication of journalists with judges and spokespersons, and on the media coverage of the problems of the judiciary.

The roundtable also focused on the professional role of journalists that cover the judiciary, addressing such aspects as the necessary background of journalists that report on the judiciary, the problem of lack of continuity in specific beats that reporters follow, and ethical aspects of coverage of the judiciary in the media. The participants and speakers addressed these problems through specific media coverage cases. In addition, the need to establish a better dialogue and cooperation between the spokespersons and representatives of the judiciary and the media was stressed by all participants. This roundtable was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Civil Rights Defenders.

ALLEGATIONS OF OPPOSITION PARTY ON UNFAIR DISTRIBUTION OF STATE ADVERTISING

The Socialist Party has denounced during September several cases that point to dubious practices of distributing state advertising to media outlets. The Socialist Party published several documents that indicated that in the last years several ministries and state institutions had decided to publish their advertising and notifications to media outlets close to the government. The Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Integration, and Ministry of Labour, according to the Socialist Party had distributed millions of USD in advertising by using the criterion of political alignment rather than circulation, audience, or media outlet performance. The Socialist Party claimed that the procedure of distributing advertising was not transparent and it was not fair. Some of the media outlets that had received funding in the last years reacted by saying that the money was spent in public awareness campaigns and public notifications for important issues to the public. Some of the latter also pointed out that the Socialist Party’s conduct during its ruling terms was not different.

MEDIA, LOCAL GOVERNMENT, AND CITIZENS FORUM IN BURREL

A forum of media, local government, and citizens was organized in Burrel on September 6, with the participation of local media, local government, and citizens. The main aim of the forum was to get acquainted to the law on access to information and the manner the local administration implemented this law. The forum started by explaining with practical examples the essence of the law and how it can be used by journalists and the general public for a more in-depth and transparent reporting. Giving practical examples, the lecturer addressed the weaknesses and strength of the implementation of the law in everyday life, including the bodies that ensure this implementation: administrative complaint, court complaint, Ombudsman.

The forum continued by a discussion among local government and local media on the implementation of the law by the municipality. The participants in the discussion focused on the problems that existed in the relations between citizens and journalists on one hand, and the city officials, on the other, briefly explaining the way of functioning of the press office. The present journalists also suggested some ways that would help a more efficient functioning of the office. The speakers on the forum also provided some specific advice and examples that would improve the journalists’ reporting for the community by making use of the law, as well as ways of improving local government openness vis-à-vis the media and citizens. This forum was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

TRAINING COURSE ON HATE SPEECH AND NEW MEDIA

A training course on hate speech, hate silence, cyber-nationalism and new media took place at the Albanian Media Institute on September 10-14, with the participation of reporters from mainstream media. The main aim of the course was to introduce participants to old and new forms of hate speech as they appear on traditional and new media and to discuss ways of avoiding and discouraging them. This was carried out through a critique of online media and other websites by using an ethical prism.

Some of the topics discussed included nationalism in the media in terms of stereotypes, different forms of expressing identities in the media, cases of media and nationalistic coverage, the case of Balkan wars, nationalist groupings in forums and social media, collective portrayals of a specific group or individual, frequent mentioning of ethnic origin, use of ethnicity as an argument in the media, lack of specific training for journalists, etc. Specific attention was paid to hate speech in the internet, case studies and definitions, existing legislation and rules, the need for filters and self-regulation, etc. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

TRAINING FOR HEALTH REPORTERS

A training course for health reporters was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on September 19, with the participation of health and social reporters from mainstream media. The main aim of the course was to promote increased media coverage on public health by raising public awareness on important health issues. During this course the journalists became familiar with some of the most frequent health problems that Albanian population faces today. Some of the topics discussed during the course included family planning, prevention of STDs, prevention of cerebrovascular insult, public awareness on arythmia risks, effects and complications on disabled patiens and their caretakers, and the way these illnesses are treated in the country, including the role of health institutions. The course was also followed by a call for competition of best articles on health reporting in mainstream media. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute with the support of Albanian branch of Bayer.

NCRT SEMINAR ON MEDIA ETHICS

The National Council of Radio and Television (NCRT) organized a conference on media ethics on September 21, in the event of the International Day of Media Ethics. Representatives of electronic and print media, of journalistic associations and state institutions participated in the seminar. The seminar stressed the importance of ethics in the framework of media development and public life. Some of the latest cases of media coverage that involved ethical practices were discussed during the seminar. The participants and speakers emphasized the need to balance the public’s right to know with the need to respect privacy.


AMI NEWSLETTER, October 2012


PROJECTION OF DOCUMENTARY MOVIE ON WAR REPORTING

The documentary movie “Shooting vs. Shooting” was projected on October 16 for an audience of journalists, civil society, academicians, and students at Marubi Academy of Film and Multimedia. “Shooting vs. Shooting” is a groundbreaking documentary feature film, in the sense that for the first time real stories are captured, usually hidden behind newspaper front pages; stories about journalists who died trying to do their jobs. The documentary examines deliberate or accidental attacks against media personnel during the war in Iraq coming from all sides, both military and terrorist groups, alike.

A number of distinguished journalists and authors reveal the hidden agenda behind targeting journalists in Iraq and other war zones; compare today’s events with the recent history of the media in USA and describe the perplexity of modern propaganda, as the ultimate weapon in order to win or lose the support of the public opinion. Nikos Megrelis, director of the documentary, was also present at the projection and the documentary screening was followed by a discussion session on the movie and on the journalism challenges at war. The event was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline.     

MEDIA, LOCAL GOVERNMENT, AND CITIZENS FORUM IN FIER

A forum of media, local government, and citizens was organized in Fier on October 5, with the participation of local media, local government, and citizens. The main aim of the forum was to get acquainted to the law on access to information and the manner the local administration implemented this law. The forum started by explaining with practical examples the essence of the law and how it can be used by journalists and the general public for a more in-depth and transparent reporting. Giving practical examples, the lecturer addressed the weaknesses and strength of the implementation of the law in everyday life, including the bodies that ensure this implementation: administrative complaint, court complaint, Ombudsman.

The forum continued by a discussion among local government and local media on the implementation of the law by the municipality. The participants in the discussion focused on the problems that existed in the relations between citizens and journalists on one hand, and the city officials, on the other, briefly explaining the way of functioning of the press office. The present journalists also suggested some ways that would help a more efficient functioning of the office. The speakers on the forum also provided some specific advice and examples that would improve the journalists’ reporting for the community by making use of the law, as well as ways of improving local government openness vis-à-vis the media and citizens. This forum was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

JOURNALISTS PROTEST AGAINST GOVERNMENT MEASURES THAT HINDER REPORTING

The journalists that report current affairs conducted a protest against government on October 14, in view of the constrictive police measures regarding an ongoing strike of former prosecuted persons. According to the journalists, it was extremely difficult for them to communicate with the persons that had entered a hunger strike and also to enter the premises where the strike was taking place. Hence, it became increasingly difficult to show the public what was going on and properly report on the strike. The journalists, also supported by the Union of Journalists, demanded that the police relax their measures and allow journalists to carry out their mission of informing the public on what was going on.

PROJECTION OF DOCUMENTARY MOVIE ON EGYPT UPRISING

The documentary movie “GOODBYE MUBARAK!” was screened on October 24 in Tirana, with the presence of journalists, civil society activists, academicians, and journalism students. The documentary depicts the ongoing trends in Egypt during the fall of 2010, in the run-up to legislative elections. The documentary shows the revolution-in-waiting already simmering under the surface of Egyptian society. Over several weeks, the documentary crew travels the country, talking to activists, politicians, and ordinary Egyptians.  While young, web-savvy activists get much of the credit for the demonstrations, GOODBYE MUBARAK! shows just how deep opposition to the regime ran in the months leading up to the revolution. Katia Jarjoura, the director of the documentary, was also present at the screening. The movie projection was followed by a lively discussion about the movie and about the current challenges, trends, and expectations regarding Egyptian society, Arab world, and democracy in general. The event was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline.   

TRAINING COURSE ON MEDIA REGULATION

A training course on media regulation was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on October 17-18, with the participation of journalists from both print and electronic media. The aim of the course was to introduce journalists to the existing laws and the ongoing reform on media regulation, especially with regard to defamation and slander regulation and audiovisual services bill. While the lecturers introduced the journalists to the overall regulatory framework on media regulation, they particularly focused on amendments to Penal and Civil Codes regarding defamation and libel, explaining the articles that were removed and the change in the remaining articles. They focused on such issues as removal of extra protection because of duty, change of defamation provisions in regard to symbols and leaders of Albania and other countries, damage of reputation, establishment of mechanism of proportionality, the criteria for assessing the damage, and the existing cases in the European Court of Human Rights in this regard and what this means to standards that need to be applied in our courts.

In addition, the lecturers addressed in detail the regulation on electronic media, both the existing framework and the one that is being drafted, viewing it from the angle of Albania’s obligations in the framework of EU integration efforts. Some of the main issues discussed included the need for an independent regulatory authority, the need to guarantee independence of public broadcaster, compatibility of authority members, sanctions that might apply, ownership rules, audiovisual commercial regulation, protection of minors, minority language programs and community stations and how these should be addressed by law, etc. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Open Society Foundation.

PROJECTION OF DOCUMENTARY MOVIE ON NEW YORK TIMES

The documentary movie “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” was screened on October 10 for editors, journalists, and civil society representatives at the US Embassy premises in Tirana. The audience was addressed by Mr. Alexander Arvizu, US Ambassador to Albania, who underlined the importance of free press in a democratic society. The 2011 documentary addresses the issue of challenges that print media is facing with the emergence of internet as an increasingly popular news sourse. The documentary chronicles the media industry’s transformation and assesses the high stakes for democracy. The film gains unprecedented access to the New York Times newsroom for a year and provides an insider’s viewpoint on the ongoing transformation of the media industry. The documentary is based on real-life proceedings inside the New York Times newsroom in the wake of Wikileaks and other events, with journalists expanding their sources and changing their way of working. However, the documentary underlines tha the resources, intellectual capital, stamina, and self-awareness are always mobilized and that there are no shortcuts when analyzing and reporting complex truths. The documentary screening was organized by Albanian Media Institute and hosted by the US Embassy.

SURVEY ON RADIO LISTENING HABITS

A survey on listening habits of Albanians while driving was organized for the first time. The survey covered five major districts in the country, such as Tirana, Vlora, Shkodra, Korça, and Elbasan, which account for 57% of total registered cars in the country. The methodology consisted in a unified questionnaire, filled in by 1424 drivers, covering issues such as the favorite programs to listen to when driving, preference of local stations vis-à-vis national ones, favorite station, topics that could be developed more by radio programs, etc.

According to the survey results, only 64% of drivers listen to the radio while driving, while others prefer to listen to their own music sources. The survey also depicts the variation in preferences of programs and stations according to each district, as well as the percentage of preferences for each station in the districts and in total. The survey was conducted by Arben Muka, well-known radio journalist, and a team of journalism students.

CONFERENCE ON PRIVACY AND THE MEDIA

Protection of victims and the need to strike a balance between freedom of expression and the right to privacy and data protection were the main topics of a conference organized on October 31 in Tirana. Participants included representatives of state institutions dealing with media regulation, data protection, and freedom of information, human rights activists, lawyers, spokespersons, and journalists. The participants became familiar with the experience in this area of other countries, such as Slovenia and Great Britain. The speakers addressed such issues as the right to privacy of public figures, freedom of expression, and access to official documents and balancing it with protection of privacy, etc. The Albanian speakers introduced the new legal framework for protecting personal data of the victims and media conduct in this regard. More specifically, they also presented some of the main complaints brought against media coverage of the victims, focusing on the main trends identified in this regard in the country. The conference was organized by the Office of the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection, FIIAPP, and PROGECO, with the support of the European Union.

TRAINING ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND MEDIA PRACTICE

“Freedom of expression, from theory to practice” was the topic of a trianing course that was organized on October 13 for journalists in Tirana. The main aim of the course was to train journalists on the practical aspects of their conduct vis-à-vis the law, introducing them to practical cases in terms of freedom of expression, their rights, obligations, and responsibilities. Participants in the training were introduced to freedom of expression as regulated by Constitution of Albania, civil responsibility of media professionals according to Albanian legislation, the regulation of freedom of expression by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, the implementation in practice of freedom of expression by Albanian courts, and the implementation of Article 10 by ECHR. The participants discussed with the lecturers case studies and their own experience in this regard. The training was organized by ResPublica center, with the support of National Endowment for Democracy.

DAILY NEWSPAPER CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY

Panorama, considered to be the largest daily newspaper in the country, celebrated its 10th anniversary on October 8. Journalists, media experts, editors, civil society representatives, politicians, and representatives of foreign bodies participated in the event.


AMI NEWSLETTER, November 2012


CONFERENCE ON MEDIA HISTORY AND MEDIATIZATION OF HISTORY

“History of the media and the mediatization of history” was the topic of the scientific conference that took place at the Albanian parliament on November 15, with the participation of journalism professor, academics, and students from Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The conference focused on the history and evolution of the Albanian press in 100 years of Albanian state, addressing different periods and analyzing the specific features of Albanian media in each period. Some of the main topics discussed included the past and the future of the public broadcaster, Albanian cinematography as a treasure of national culture, coverage of history in the Albanian media through the years, collective memory in the media and in historical studies, history as a source of mass information, current trends in media evolution, new technologies and their impact on communication, etc. The conference was organized by the Department of Journalism at the public University of Tirana, in cooperation with AAB University in Kosovo.

CONVENTION ON ALBANIAN JOURNALISM IN 100 YEARS

In the framework of the 100th anniversary of the Albanian state in November, the Union of Albanian Journalists organized a meeting in Shengjin on November 2, with the participation of journalists from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Present were also ambassadors, civil society representatives, and academics. A series of speakers addressed several issues related to the evolution of Albanian media in 100 years of Albanian state. Some of the topics included pluralist press after the 90s, media and the challenges of technology, the tradition of pre-WWII press in the country, controlled press under dictatorship, evolution of television stations, transformation of state-owned broadcaster, etc.

TRAINING COURSE ON MEDIA REGULATION

A training course on media regulation was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on November 20-21, with the participation of journalists from both print and electronic media. The aim of the course was to introduce journalists to the existing laws and the ongoing reform on media regulation, especially with regard to defamation and slander regulation and audiovisual services bill. While the lecturers introduced the journalists to the overall regulatory framework on media regulation, they particularly focused on amendments to Penal and Civil Codes regarding defamation and libel, explaining the articles that were removed and the change in the remaining articles. They focused on such issues as removal of extra protection because of duty, change of defamation provisions in regard to symbols and leaders of Albania and other countries, damage of reputation, establishment of mechanism of proportionality, the criteria for assessing the damage, and the existing cases in the European Court of Human Rights in this regard and what this means to standards that need to be applied in our courts.

In addition, the lecturers addressed in detail the regulation on access to information. They introduced the participants to the main principles on obtaining information and on the required procedure. They also briefed the participants on the plans for amending the law in order to improve the chances of receiving official information and of increasing use of the law by journalists. In addition, the journalists discussed their own concerns when trying to use this law as part of their job, focusing on problems such as lack of culture both in the media and in the public administration, incomplete information received, ways of delaying the information, etc. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Open Society Foundation.

ROUNDTABLE ON PENITENTIARY SYSTEM AND THE MEDIA

A roundtable on the penitentiary system, its relations with journalists and the way media covers this system in the country was organized on November 8. Participants in the roundtable included spokespersons and representatives of the penitentiary system, journalists, and representatives of civil society journalists that monitor human rights and especially prisoners’ rights. The journalists were introduced to the penitentiary system in the country, the way it is organized, and the main institutions. The representatives of penitentiary institutions also discussed some statistics on the current situation in prisons and focused especially on the role of spokespersons in increasing transparency on penitentiary system. On the other hand, the journalists also became familiar with the main challenges that the penitentiary system faces from the viewpoint of NGOs that monitor prisons, more specifically the Albanian Helsinki Committee. Both speakers and the journalists discussed the main existing problems in openness of institutions, in establishing a dialogue with the journalists, in accessing official information, etc. This roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

MEDIA, LOCAL GOVERNMENT, AND CITIZENS FORUM IN GJIROKASTRA

A forum of media, local government, and citizens was organized in Gjirokastra on November 2, with the participation of local media, local government, and citizens. The main aim of the forum was to get acquainted to the law on access to information and the manner the local administration implemented this law. The forum started by explaining with practical examples the essence of the law and how it can be used by journalists and the general public for a more in-depth and transparent reporting. Giving practical examples, the lecturer addressed the weaknesses and strength of the implementation of the law in everyday life, including the bodies that ensure this implementation: administrative complaint, court complaint, Ombudsman.

The forum continued by a discussion among local government and local media on the implementation of the law by the municipality. The participants in the discussion focused on the problems that existed in the relations between citizens and journalists on one hand, and the city officials, on the other, briefly explaining the way of functioning of the press office. The present journalists also suggested some ways that would help a more efficient functioning of the office. The speakers on the forum also provided some specific advice and examples that would improve the journalists’ reporting for the community by making use of the law, as well as ways of improving local government openness vis-à-vis the media and citizens. This forum was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

AWARDS FOR HEALTH REPORTERS

A competition was organized for health reporters of Albanian press and several awards were handed out in this context. The main aim of the competition was to promote journalists to raise awareness and inform the public on important health aspects, such as family planning, prevention of STDs, prevention of cardiovascular diseases, situation of treatment for patients in the country, etc. Participants in the competition included journalists from some of the main TV stations in the country, as well as from mainstream daily newspapers. The competition was organized from Albanian Media Institute and Bayer company.


AMI NEWSLETTER, December 2012


ALBANIAN HISTORY IN FRONT PAGES OF NEWSPAPERS

“Front Page: Main historical events in the front pages of Albanian press” is the latest publication of Albanian Media Institute. This publication is a selected collection of front pages of Albanian newspapers since proclamation of Independence in 1912 until today, covering the main historic events in these 100 years. The 100 years since 1912 are filled with events, both small and significant, which have affected the history of the Albanian state and people. These events are certainly to be found on textbooks, archive documents and drawers of chancellories. Naturally, first of all they are to be found on newspaper pages, in Albania and abroad. This publication is a selection of front pages of the main historic events as covered by Albanian press, offering an opportunity to get a glimpse of how the press covered or did not cover some of the main events that shaped the lives of Albanian people. The publication was presented to an audience of journalists, editors, opinionists, and civil society activists on December 7. They appreciated the effort to have such a collection of front pages in the 100 years time span and to reflect on the way that the press covered each of these events. The publication was supported by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

MEDIA TALK ON PHOTOJOURNALISM

A media talk on the topic of photojournalism and its challenges in the age of internet was organized in Tirana on December 10. Participants included photojournalists, journalists, and editors. Guest speaker was Toby Smith, an award-winning contemporary reportage photographer specialising in landscape, environment and energy. He presented his main work to the participants, showing also a video on one of the main stories he had done on environment, later published in some of the leading media outlets in this field. In his presentation he focused on main challenges photoreporters face today, such as crisis of funding sources, ways of adapting the work to specific media needs, cooperation with reporters, finding sources and cooperating with them in doing a story, the benefits and disadvantages of online work and traditional media work, etc. The media talk was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline Club.

ROUNDTABLE ON PROSECUTION OFFICE AND THE MEDIA

A roundtable on the prosecution office, its relations with journalists and the way media covers the activities of the prosecution office was organized on December 5. Participants in the roundtable included spokespersons and representatives of the prosecution office and journalists. The journalists were introduced to the prosecution office in the country, the way it is organized, and what journalists should have in mind when reporting on the office activities. Specific attention was paid to the role of spokespersons of the prosecution office in increasing transparency on the activity of the office. On the other hand, the journalists also became familiar with the main limitations that the office has in communicating with the media and the public. The speakers and the journalists discussed the main existing problems in openness of institutions, in establishing a dialogue with the journalists, in accessing official information, etc. This roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

DOCUMENTARY MOVIE PROJECTION

"Milosevic on trial" was the title of the documentary shown at the European University of Tirana on December 18 for an audience of acadmics, students, journalists, and civil society activists. The documentary records history in the making over the four-year period, during which the former dictator refused to recognize the legality of the International Criminal Tribunal and, despite his poor health, insisted upon conducting his own defense. The film brings dramatic testimony given during the trial by survivors and eyewitnesses of Serbian Army and paramilitary atrocities, former U.S. government and U.N. officials, and Serbian military and government officials who testify both for the prosecution and the defense. Prosecution evidence includes revealing excerpts from Milosevic's diaries, recordings of intercepted phone conversations, and shockingly graphic amateur videos that document battlefield executions and other atrocities. The documentary also goes behind the scenes to show meetings of lawyers, forensic investigations at massacre sites, press conferences, and concurrent political events in the former Yugoslavia, where support for Milosevic remained strong among Serb nationalists. The documentary screening was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline.

AWARDS FOR JOURNALISTS

The Union of Albanian Journalists awarded the journalists for best economic reporting in Albania and Kosovo on December 21 with the annual prize “Vangjush Gambeta.” The best economic reporter awards were given to Blerina Hoxha of Mapo newspaper, Violeta Shqalsi of Scan TV, and Ibrahim Rexhepi of Kosovo-based Express newspaper. The career awards were given to Shaban Murati and posthumously to Ardian Klosi and Alfons Gurashi.

In addition, the Union of Journalists on December 26 handed out the award for best journalists of year 2012. The award went to Anila Basha, director of daily newspaper Shqiptarja.com, while the award for gender equality was given to Ina Kosturi.

SEMINAR ON DIGITAL SWITCHOVER

The National Council of Radio and Television organized a seminar on December 21 on the implementation of the Strategy of Switchover to Digital Broadcasting. The main aim of the seminar was to introduce the media operators to the main obligations and commitments that need to be made in the framework of the implementation of the Strategy. NCRT stressed the need for coordinating and cooperating of all existing actors involved in the process. While the speakers appreciated the change in the media landscape brought about by private entrepreneurs in the area of digital broadcasting, they stressed the need for further cooperation in order to successfully implement the Strategy. The commercial operators have experimented with digital broadcasting for years now, while the Strategy for Digital Switchover was approved in May 2012 and has yet to start its implementation.

REPORT ON LABOUR INFORMALITY IN THE MEDIA

A report on the informality of labour in the media was drafted by the Union of Journalists and OSCE Albania, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The report is a statistical and qualitative analysis of issues related to informality of labour relations and the observance of journalists’ rights in the media labour market. The report analyzes the situation of journalists in this respect by taking account of several indicators, such as duration and stability at work, contract and job security, cases brought to court, and changes in the media market. The report is based on responses to the same questionnaire by 334 journalists in different cities.

 

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