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Newsletters Archive
AMI Newsletters             2013

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

AMI NEWSLETTER - January 2013


SEMINAR ON MEDIA FREEDOM AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

A seminar on media freedom and freedom of expression in the framework of Albania's European Integration brought together over 180 Albanian media professionals, institutions concerned with media freedom, decision makers and international experts to analyse the current media situation in the country and gave their views on the issues of concern, challenges and on the way forward.  The event which took place on January 16 in Tirana was organised jointly by the European Commission and the Albanian Ministry of Integration.

The panellists and participants addressed a number of issues, including those underlined in the latest European Commission Progress report; such as defamation, transparency and openness of the market, independence of the public broadcaster, employment conditions of journalists and media ethics.

The seminar took place in the context of the new approach to freedom of expression and media issues outlined in the European Commission Enlargement Strategy for 2011-2012 and as a follow-up to the 2012 Progress Report. The European Commission committed itself to increase attention to these  issues in the EU accession process and to closely monitor developments in this area in the Enlargement countries, including Albania.  Accordingly, the European Commission is willing to strengthen its cooperation with the Albanian authorities and to support efforts to reach European standards in this field.

"In the context of EU integration, Albania has all the potential to establish a positive track record in the freedom of media field by addressing these issues ", said Andris Kesteris, Principal Advisor for Civil Society and Media to the Director General for Enlargement in the European Commission.

The Minister for European Integration Majlinda Bregu underlined Albania's progress in strengthening media freedom, most recently through the decriminalisation of defamation and the moratorium on proceedings against journalists, and expressed the commitment of the Albanian government to take further action so as to achieve the highest European standards on media freedom.

PRESS FREEDOM IN ALBANIA DETERIORATES ACCORDING TO REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS

According to Reporters without Borders, which has recently published the Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2013, Albania’s ranking went down from 96th in 2012 to 102nd. While, Croatia, Serbia, and Kosovo, the other Balkan countries marked lower positions compared to previous years. Macedonia received the lowest ranking, dropping with 22 positions. While most of EU member countries are in a relatively stable position, occupying mainly the top 30 positions, there were also dramatic falls in ranking, such as Hungary and especially Greece.

MEDIA OUTLETS PREVENTED FROM LIVE BROADCASTING OF OPPOSITION EVENT

On January 21, 2013, the opposition organized a series of activities to mark the killing of four persons during the protest organized by the opposition two years ago. Part of the activities was the projection of a documentary on this event, to be projected at cinema Millennium, which is located in a street closed off to traffic. The moving studios of the TV stations that wanted to cover this event were not allowed to access the street and broadcast live the documentary on the victims of January 21 that was organized at the cinema. The media reported that the police stopped them from accessing the street, claiming that a broadcasting permit was supposed to be asked for and issued a day before.

The representatives of the Socialist Party said that the documentary would be available online for all Albanians to watch. Meanwhile, the Forum for Free Media issued a statement that condemned this act, considering it as a grave act against freedom of the press and the right of citizens to be informed in real time. The Forum called on OSCE and European Union to consider the violations on press freedom standards in Albania as a genuine concern.

PARLIAMENTARY MEDIA COMMISSION COMPLETED DISCUSSION OF AUDIOVISUAL MEDIA SERVICES BILL

On January 23 the Parliamentary Media Commission completed the discussion of all articles in the audiovisual media services bill, which will replace the existing Law on Public and Private Radio and Television.The commission has debated amending the law for several years, with periods of interruption due to political tensions and other factors. Several actors in the country have pushed for a speedy approval of the law, claiming that it is delaying the implementation of the Strategy for Digital Switchover. However, the last unresolved issues are the formulas for appointment of members of the National Council of Radio and Television and public Albanian Radio and Television and these might prove yet another delay and a point where consensus will be needed.

TRAINING COURSE ON MEDIA REGULATION

A training course on media regulation was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on January 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 regulation on labour relations as well as to the main principles of the law on access to information and how it can be used for journalists. The lecturers focused on the existing regulation, particularly the Code of Labour, the obligations of media outlets vis-à-vis the employees, the rights of the employees, and the different kinds of contracts that have to be signed. Particular attention was paid to the current situation of journalists and what they can do to improve their situation, in cooperation with responsible institutions.

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.

DOCUMENTARY MOVIE PROJECTION

“Untitled” was the latest documentary movie to be projected for an audience of journalists, students, and civil society representatives. This is a documentary movie from Bosnian director Boro Kontic, focusing on the figure of one of the most important writers in the Balkan region for the 20th century, Ivo Andric. A writer and Nobel prize winner (1961), he made his last visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1974. On June 11, he arrived to Sarajevo, the city where he spent his high school years. And from there, having first visited Mostar and Počitelj, he left on June 18. His hometown Travnik and Višegrad, the city of early childhood, welcomed Andrić for the last time in 1972. This presents an attempt to document all of these events and to open the following question:"What did Andrić mean to us, and what does he mean to us today?" The movie projection was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline.

ASSOCIATION OF JOURNALISTS FOR JUSTICE ESTABLISHED

The Association of Journalists for Justice was established on January 29, along with its online portal, which will publish articles in investigative reporting. Mr. Alexander Arvizu, U.S. Ambassador to Albania, was also present in the public launch of the association and underlined the important role of the media in strengthening a democratic society. The association was created as a result of a long-term project, which aims to increase transparency, objectivity and efficiency in courts, as well as consolidate the supervisory role of media and civil society. The aim of the associations is for its journalist members to advocate their rights and be in charge of an open and independent media space where investigative journalism can be carried out. The online portal of the association is also open to publication of stories from other investigative journalists, as well as available for public to offer ideas and opinions on investigative stories. The association was launched after two years of training sessions on investigative journalism and media coverage of the courts, a project supported by USAID through its JuST program.

MEDIA TALK ON ALBANIAN JOURNALISM AND NEWS IN THE DIGITAL ERA

This media talk was organized on January 8, 2013, with the participation of editors, journalists, online journalists, and civil society activists. Guest speaker was Carlo Bollino, an Italian journalist who for the last 20 years has worked mainly in Albania, founding several media outlets. Being first hand witness on the main development trends of Albanian journalism since the early stages of transition, Bollino focused on the way that Albanian journalism has developed, the problems it has faced and on the challenges ahead. He analyzed the current status of Albanian press and professional journalism by describing its main history, addressing particular challenges and problems it has had to overcome. Bollino particularly described his own experience in establishing a new media outlet in the country and introducing a new way of doing journalism. He particularly dwelt on the ethical aspects of media coverage, especially regarding crime and court reporting. In terms of challenges ahead, when discussing with participants the future course of Albanian journalism, he stressed the need for young journalists to focus more on field reporting rather than political reporting or analysis, and the importance of economic and political independence for free and professional media. The activity was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Frontline.


AMI NEWSLETTER - February 2013


PARLIAMENTARY MEDIA COMMISSION APPROVES THE NEW BILL OF AUDIOVISUAL SERVICES

After consultations between the delegated MPs from opposition and the ruling majority of the Parliamentary Media Commission on the formula to be used for electing the regulatory authority and the Steering Council of public broadcaster, the Commission convened on February 27 to finalize the bill on Audiovisual Services. While the MPs and the work group had agreed on a final version of the bill, they were unable to find a consensus on the way of electing the final member of both regulatory bodies. The opposition MPs insisted for the final member of each body to be elected preferably through consensus, at random, or through the votes of a qualified majority in the parliament. 

On the other hand, the ruling majority, while appreciating the cooperation and understanding with opposition MPs during the long process of discussing the laws, said they did not agree with the version proposed by the opposition. Their argument was that choosing the last member at random did not give any stable guarantee. They insisted that the last member should be chosen by the parliament. They were also against the qualified majority, saying that there were sufficient guarantees and there was no reason to make an exception in this case, since other bodies are also elected through simple majority.

The commission also debated on the transitory dispositions of the law, or what would become of the current members of regulatory authorities and their terms. The bill stipulates that the members should be able to finish their existing term, even with the passing of the new law. The opposition was against this, saying that this was a trick to preserve the term of the current chairwoman of the National Council of Radio and Television, at a time when the opposition had not voted for the current chairwoman of NCRT. The ruling majority opposed this claim, stating that the chairwoman was elected through a formula that both sides had agreed on, and the opposition should have taken the responsibility of electing members to institutions together as agreed, rather than blocking them. Both sides voted their own versions, and the final version of the bill preserved the transitory dispositions thanks to the votes of the ruling majority. The bill is expected to pass soon in plenary session, concluding almost seven years of discussion.

TRAINING ON REPORTING DIVERSITY

During the week of February 4–8, sixteen reporters, eight from Albania and eight from Montenegro, attended a training program at the Albanian Media Institute on “The Role of Media in Strengthening Social Cohesion.”  The five-day training, funded by the State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities (SRMC), was organized by U.S. Embassy Tirana and the Embassy’s longtime partner, Albanian Media Institute (AMI).  The two trainers, Milica Pesic and Anser Hassan, shared their long term experience working for and with the media to cover diversity in the U.S., Southeast Europe, and Western Europe.  Representatives of the Roma, LGBT, and disabled communities visited the course as special guests, giving presentations and then agreeing to be interviewed by the reporters.  The journalists appreciated the chance to establish contact, exchange views, and listen to concerns of these representatives in terms of how the media covers their communities.  They also discussed ways to improve communication in the future, with a view to avoiding stereotypes and strengthening social cohesion in Albanian and Montenegrin society.

TRAINING COURSE ON MEDIA REGULATION

A training course on media regulation was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on February 13-14, 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 labor relations. While the lecturers introduced the journalists to the overall regulatory framework on media regulation, they particularly focused on 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. The participants also shared their concerns regarding work contracts and security in their jobs.

The lecturers also introduced the participants to the 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. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Open Society Foundation.

ROUNDTABLE ON EUROPE AND OTHERNESS

A roundtable on the topic “Europe and otherness” brought together academics, journalists, and civil society activists. The debate focused on the relation to the Other within our continent – national or ethnic out-group in the East, like in former Yugoslavia since the last decades of the twentieth century; Roma people both in the East and the West; immigrants in the West (as objects of both ethnic and religious racism, reflected in economic xenophobia); and the new Others emerging in these times of crisis, through the divide North-South, and also through a new momentum of nationalism in different parts of Europe, like in the United Kingdom, in Spain, or in the Balkans. The speakers tried to analyze the factors that generate such phenomena, the self-legitimizing discourses in the different cases, and the way liberal and illiberal politics tend to deal with the related conflicts. Speakers included Judit Kiss, Hungarian economist and political thinker, Besnik Mustafaj, writer and diplomat, Piro Misha, Institute for Dialogue and Communication, Albert Rakipi, Institute for International Studies, Iain Chambers, professor of cultural sociology,University of Naples, Pep Subiros, Catalan writer and philosopher, and Bashkim Shehu, writer. The roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Erste Foundation, Soros Foundation, and Open Democracy.

ROUNDTABLE ON NEW MEDIA POLICIES

A roundtable on new media and ensuing ethical issues was organized on February 1, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media and online media, bloggers, and media experts. The roundtable focused on current regulation and policies on online media, the existing trends in freedom of expresssion in online platforms, and the main ethical issues that result from these practices. Participants discussed on the current stage of development of new and social media in Albania as compared to traditional media. They also focused on the main ethical issues that have emerged as result of speedy progress of social media and the potential regulation steps that can be made in this regard. Representatives of blogs, online newspapers, and news aggregators focused especially on the reaction they receive from the public, the funding problem, the importance of preserving independence, and the problem of intellectual property. The roundtable was organized from Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Open Society Institute.


AMI NEWSLETTER - March 2013


PARLIAMENT APPROVES THE LAW ON AUDIOVISUAL SERVICES WITH THE VOTES OF THE RULING MAJORITY

The Parliament convened in a plenary session on March 4 to vote amongst others on the Law on Audiovisual Services. The law passed with 73 votes for and 61 against. The final version of the law brought before the parliament was a product of agreement between both sides, apart from the formula on election of regulatory authority and the Steering Council of public broadcaster. In spite of a series of consultations between MPs of both sides, the Parliamentary Media Commission failed to agree on a common formula. On February 27 the Commission finalized the bill, preserving the formula of election for regulatory bodies as proposed by the ruling majority.
In the parliament discussions, the socialist MPs refused to vote the law in its final form. Socialist MP and chair of the Parliamentary Media Commission Valentina Leskaj urged her colleagues to review the law again, with the aim of stipulating consensual provisions on the election of the members of the Authority of Audio-Visual Media and public broadcaster's Steering Council. Leskaj referred to a letter that OSCE High Representative on the Freedom of Media, Dunja Mijatovic, sent to Prime Minister Sali Berisha on March 1, stating that the draft law falls short of stipulating politically inclusive governing bodies for the national broadcast regulator and the public broadcaster. Leskaj said the opposition was in line with Mijatovic's stand, and stressed that the SP MPs will not join their votes for a law that instead of guaranteeing the media independence helps the government put pressure on the independent media.
Democratic Party MP Mark Marku responded that the ruling majority could not accept the opposition's proposal for the appointment by lot or by a qualified majority of the seventh member of the Authority of Audio-Visual Media or of the eleventh members of the Steering Council of RTSH. While the bill was being reviewed in the committee, he argued that other institutions, such as President, are also elected by a simple majority after the first three rounds. In his speech he also said that attempts to use a formula that required consensus had not been fruitful so far.

HUMAN RIGHTS WEEK TRAINING FOR JOURNALISTS

The training of Human Rights Week for journalists was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on March 25-29, 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.

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS ON RIGHT TO INFORMATION LAW DISCUSSED WITH PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

On March 28 the Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with Soros Foundation, organized a meeting that aimed to introduce the amendments that will be proposed to the existing law on access to information. Participants were representatives from the ministries, other state institutions, and some international actors. The draft amendments were a co-product of civil society experts and Ministry of Justice, after previous discussions with civil society activists on this topic. The main aim of the meeting was to introduce the draft amendments to public administration and receive their feedback and suggestions, since they will be in charge of implementing the law. 

The proposed amendments presented considerable changes from the existing law. First of all, the new amendments expanded the list of public institutions that are obliged to observe the law and provide information to citizens, aiming to have a clearer and more exhaustive list of institutions. Secondly, the amendments expanded the notion of providing information in accordance with the constitutional guarantee: while the current law speaks of right to official documents, the amendments refer to right to information. The new amendments also significantly shorten the timeline for providing information and oblige institutions to adopt a pro-active approach in making information accessible to the public. The proposed amendments now shift the responsibility of overseeing implementation of the law from the People’s Advocate to the existing Commissioner for Personal Data Protection, aiming to have one common commissioner in charge of both aspects. The representatives from various ministries also provided their feedback on these amendments. The ministries will have more time to provide their feedback on the draft before the law is sent to the parliament.

TRAINING COURSE ON REPORTING ELECTIONS

A training course on reporting on elections was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on March 6-7, in view of the coming general elections of June 23. This main aim of this training was to improve reporting skills of journalists that report on elections by covering all important aspects of the role of media in this process. Participants included political reporters from print and electronic mainstream media. On the first day, journalists were introduced to legal framework on elections, especially the Electoral Code and system. They were briefed on the novelties it presented as compared to the previous systems. They were also introduced to the evolution of electoral system and laws through the years, from establishment of Albanian state to date, highlighting the most noteworthy events of general and local elections, as well as referenda.
On the second day, specific attention was paid to professional dilemmas in media coverage of elections, such as preserving independence, declaring media affiliation with a political wing, taking sides, covering defaming speeches and statements, reporting having in mind the battle of interests from all sides, reporting having in mind the role of independent institutions, etc. In this aspect, special issues of focus included main sources of information, on-field reporters and collaborators, headquarters of competing subjects, official authorities, NGO representatives, international institutions, etc. In addition, journalists became familiar with and discussed the main legal provisions in media coverage of elections, discussing the main challenges and difficulties these obligations posed for their work in covering electoral campaign. Specific attention was paid to the publication of polls, surveys, and exit polls in the media. The participants also focused on cases of media coverage in the last elections, discussing politicization of the coverage vis-a-vis community or public interest. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

ROUNDTABLE ON POLICIES ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION

A roundtable on policies on access to information was organized on March 17, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media, civil society, and media experts. The roundtable focused on current regulation and policies on access to information, the existing trends in providing official documents for public and media scrutiny through the years, and the main implications for media reporting on government and public institutions. The participants became familiar with the main monitoring efforts of implementation of law on access to information and the main results that have ensued. Journalists also shared their own problems and experience with filing requests for access to information, further contributing to the overall discussion on this topic. In addition, participants also became familiar with the ongoing endeavour to amend the regulation on access to information, which have taken place for several years now. This roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Open Society Institute.

TOP CHANNEL TV CLAIMS THAT ITS EVICTION IS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED

On March 18 the police gathered in front of the premises where some of the national Top Channel TV’s programs are produced. Their aim was to execute a court order for the vacation of the premises, since the area is supposed to be returned to the land owners. The representatives of Top Channel TV claimed that this was a politically-motivated attack, timed to hurt an independent TV station, critical to the government, before general elections.

The TV station makes use of these premises since 2005, when it signed a contract with then-Socialist party-run government to keep the premises until 2025. In 2009, the TV station received a notice from the then-Minister of Economy that immediately terminated the rental contract with Top Channel TV.  Top Channel TV took the matter to court, claiming that this was breach of the contract, since the renting period was until 2025. The court ruled that the land should be given back to the former owners. Top Channel TV claims that it has made serious investments in this building, considering that it would be long-term contract. In addition, the channel stated that they have respected every term in the contract, unlike the state. Hence, they conclude that the latest effort to evict the premises is a politically-motivated attack, especially in view of the coming elections. The Union of Journalists also supported Top Channel claims that this move was political, as did in a statement socialist MP Valentina Leskaj, head of the Parliamentary Media Commission. Asked about this issue by the television, Commissioner Stefan Fule said that the EU is following the matter, hoping that rule of law that respects both right to media freedom and right to property will prevail.

PUBLICATION ON SOCIAL THEORY AND DIGITAL MEDIA PRACTICE

The Albanian publication of “Media, Society, World: Social Theory and Digital Media Practice” by Nick Couldry is the latest book published by Albanian Media Institute. The book starts from the assumption that media are fundamental to our sense of living in a social world. Since the beginning of modernity, media have transformed the scale on which we act as social beings. And now in the era of digital media, media themselves are being transformed as platforms, content, and producers multiply. Drawing on Couldry's fifteen years of work on media and social theory, this book explores how questions of power and ritual, capital and social order, and the conduct of political struggle, professional competition, and everyday life, are all transformed by today's complex combinations of traditional and 'new' media. In the concluding chapters Couldry develops a framework for global comparative research into media and for thinking collectively about the ethics and justice of our lives with media. The result is a book that is both a major intervention in the field and required reading for all students of media and sociology. The book is published with the support of the US Embassy in Tirana.

PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION ON MEDIA DIVIDED ON WORK OF RTSH AND KKRT

This month the Parliamentary Commission on Media examined the annual reports of the public broadcaster RTSH and regulatory authority on electronic media KKRT. Similarly to previous years, the members of the ruling majority and those of the opposition did not share the same opinion on the conduct of these institutions. The ruling majority praised RTSH’s efforts towards switchover to digital broadcasting and coverage of particular events, such as celebration of 100th year of independence. Meanwhile, the opposition MPs complained that RTSH has turned into an instrument of the government. Other complaints included failure of total coverage of the territory with signal, lack of quality of programs and lack of political independence. Similarly, the opposition members of the commission criticized KKRT’s failure to improve the situation with pirated programs, inefficient collection of taxes, and selective decisions of imposing fines. KKRT replied by pointing out to legal voids, lack of cooperation with tax police, and lack of capacities to monitor all electronic media, denieing any political affiliation in its work.   


AMI NEWSLETTER - April 2013


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 96th out of 197 countries, qualified as partly free. This marked an improvement compared to last year, when it was ranked as 107th. Out of Balkan countries, it shared the same position with Kosovo, succeeded only by Macedonia, which was ranked 120th. The report stated that mainly due to European financial crisis notable declines were seen in Southern Europe, including in Greece, which fell into the Partly Free category, and Spain. According to the report, the problems that have emerged in Southern Europe come on top of financial pressures that are plaguing press outlets in the Baltic states and elsewhere in Europe.

US DEPARTMENT OF STATE REPORT ADDRESSES MEDIA SITUATION

The US Department of State Report on Human Rights Practices for 2012 for Albania stated that freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by law and the government generally respected these rights in practice. The report stated that independent media were active and largely unrestrained, although there were cases of direct and indirect political and economic pressure on the media, including threats against journalists. At times political pressure and lack of funding constrained the independent print media, and journalists reported that they practiced self-censorship. 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, but 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 and many media owners courted government leaders to gain favors or avoid taxes, according to the report. Broadcasters and publishers complained that the government used its purchases of advertising to leverage favorable reporting from media outlets. Private advertisers tended to do the same for fear of tax inspections. The report mentions several incidents of violence against members of the broadcast media during the year, and journalists were subjected to pressure from political and business actors. Many journalists complained that a lack of employment contracts frequently hindered their ability to report objectively and encouraged them to practice self-censorship, the report stated.

TRAINING COURSES ON REPORTING ELECTIONS

Two training courses on reporting on elections were organized at the Albanian Media Institute on April 9-10, and on April 25-26, in view of the coming general elections. This main aim of these training courses was to improve reporting skills of journalists that report on elections by covering all important aspects of the role of media in this process. Participants included political reporters from print and electronic mainstream media. On the first day, journalists were introduced to legal framework on elections, especially the Electoral Code and system. They were briefed on the novelties it presented as compared to the previous systems. They were also introduced to the evolution of electoral system and laws through the years, from establishment of Albanian state to date, highlighting the most noteworthy events of general and local elections, as well as referenda.
On the second day, specific attention was paid to professional dilemmas in media coverage of elections, such as preserving independence, declaring media affiliation with a political wing, taking sides, covering defaming speeches and statements, reporting having in mind the battle of interests from all sides, reporting having in mind the role of independent institutions, etc. In this aspect, special issues of focus included main sources of information, on-field reporters and collaborators, headquarters of competing subjects, official authorities, NGO representatives, international institutions, etc. In addition, journalists became familiar with and discussed the main legal provisions in media coverage of elections, discussing the main challenges and difficulties these obligations posed for their work in covering electoral campaign. Specific attention was paid to the publication of polls, surveys, and exit polls in the media. The participants also focused on cases of media coverage in the last elections, discussing politicization of the coverage vis-à-vis community or public interest. This course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

ROUNDTABLE ON STRATEGY TO DIGITAL SWITCHOVER

A roundtable on existing policies on digital switchover was organized on April 17, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media, civil society, and media experts. The roundtable focused specifically on the Strategy to Digital Switchover that was approved in May 2012, the situation of digital broadcasting in the country, and the challenges and expectations in implementation of the strategy. Journalists became familiar with the main traits and problems in emergence of digital broadcasting platforms, parallel to the ongoing reform in legislation. They were briefed on the process of drafting of legislation, on the consultancy efforts to bring legislation and strategy in line with the situation and with EU standards, and the contribution and feedback of local stakeholders in the overall process. Journalists learnt about the deadlines on digital switchover, the criteria that have to be met, the building of public and private transmission networks, criteria for granting licenses, and the different kind of licenses. Participants discussed with speaker the impact the implementation of the strategy would have on the current media landscape and main players in the field, as well as on the public. Conditional access, subsidies of decoders, free to air programs were some of the additional topics tackled during the discussion. This roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Open Society Institute.

CONSULTATION ON KICK-OFF OF NEW REGIONAL PROJECT ON MEDIA

Representatives of media industry, media regulators, and academicians engaged in media studies, along with organizations working in media development gathered on April 30 in Tirana to discuss the new regional initiative “South East European Media Observatory: Building Capacities and Coalitions for Monitoring Media Integrity and Advancing Media Reforms”. The project was presented by Albanian Media Institute, which is the Albanian partner in this regional project involving five Balkan countries. The participants welcomed the idea of such an initiative, stressing that the attempt to have an all-encompassing project in terms of research is badly needed in the Albanian context. Almost all participants pointed out that the lack of data on media market, newspaper circulation, audience measurement, and advertising, has turned into a real problem for the further professionalization of Albanian media.

Some of the participants suggested that the trend of traditional media losing slowly their role as the main source of information to new media should also be reflected in the research project. They also stressed that as wider involvement of stakeholders as possible during the whole project was key to the success of the project. In addition, several participants also suggested new sources of work in progress that could be useful for the project research, expressing the desire to share the information during the research process. The speakers at the event also suggested ways of improving grant-giving scheme for investiative reporters and media NGOs, as well as on the advocacy field for media policies. Overall, the participants said this was a much-needed, but also ambitious project. The event was part of activities of an EU-supported project.

CAMERAMAN DETAINED FROM POLICE AFTER FOOTBALL MATCH

The cameraman of national commercial TV station Top Channel, Gent Ballta, claimed he was detained by the police on April 7 after a football match that led to confrontations between football club fans and police officers. He said he was filming the ongoing confrontations and was sent to the police station along with fans. While in detention in Tirana’s police station, he alleged that Erzen Brecani, the deputy director for public safety in the Albanian capital, assaulted him before he was later freed.

Police first denied the assault and in a statement a day later claimed the journalist had been detained briefly because he refused to identify himself. “There was no attack on him during the identification process, which lasted only eight minutes,” Arben Nasufi, aide to the general director of police, Hysni Burgaj, said. However, later Burgaj announced that the police had suspended Brecani and had opened disciplinary proceedings. On April 10 a group of journalists had planned a protest on this event in Tirana, joined by representatives of media community, civil society, and other persons. The Union of Journalists also supported this protest and the head of the union called on the authorities to investigate the assault, as well as on fellow journalists to show utmost responsibility and professionalism in the heated pre-electoral period.

ROUNDTABLE ON AUDIOVISUAL MEDIA REGULATION

A roundtable on current regulation of audiovisual media services was organized on April 3, with the participation of journalists and editors from mainstream media, civil society, and media experts. The roundtable focused specifically on recently-approved Law on Audiovisual Media, which aims to regulate all aspects of audiovisual media and services, filling the gap of the old law that focused only on electronic media. The participants became familiar with the main changes from the old regulation, such as regulation of non-linear services, re-definition of rules on advertising, sponsorship, tele-shopping, and product placement, and the regulator’s obligation to draft up codes for advertisement. Other issues discussed regarding the new law included the list of important events, regulation of on-demand services, European audiovisual works, the re-definition of the regulator and its competencies, the establishment of a public’s council near the public broadcaster, etc. Special attention was also paid to the kind of licenses available in the new law, the sanctions applicable, and the new rules on community radios. This roundtable was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Open Society Institute.

ROUNDTABLE ON INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

 “Challenges and the future of investigative journalism in Albania” was the topic of the roundtable discussed on 19 April in Tirana. More than 30 journalists, editors, and lecturers of journalism took part in this event. The discussion was moderated by Lutfi Dervishi, an experienced journalist.  Claudia Vollmer, Head of Democratization Departament, OSCE Presence in Albania, welcomed the participants, encouraging them to contribute to the roundtable with ideas on how to promote investigative journalism in the country. Fatos Baxhaku, journalist and analyst, gave an overview of the current situation, underlining lack of investigative reporting cases in Albanian media. Aleksander Cipa, Head of Union of Albanian Journalists, focused on ethics issues during investigative reporting. He mentioned several recent cases in which Code of Ethics and/or Code of Criminal Procedure were not respected, resulting in infringement of basic journalism principles, ethics principles and human rights. Finally, Remzi Lani, director of Albania Media Institute (AMI) encouraged young journalists to continue their efforts in this field, stating that journalism remains a very important factor to the functioning of a democratic country. Participants discussed mainly on difficulties they encounter during investigative reporting and the role of editors/owners of media outlets in limiting/conditioning of investigative journalism. They contributed to the discussion by sharing their own experience and giving examples on how difficult it is to pursue investigative stories and report on them impartially and independently. The roundtable was organized by OSCE Presence in Albania.

WORKSHOP ON PUBLICATIONS ON MEDIA

A workshop on publications related to media was organized by Albanian Media Institute on April 23, in the framework of the book fair held by Department of Journalism at the University of Tirana. Participants included journalism professors and students. Speakers included AMI representatives and journalism professors and the main topic was the existing range of publications on journalism, the topics, and the student needs in this field. Presenting AMI’s latest publications in this area, most speakers stressed the need for up-to-date and relevant literature on the latest development in the profession of journalists, related specifically to new media and ethical aspects that emerge. In addition, journalism professor emphasized the importance of collaboration in the overall process of selecting books for publication, in accordance with the needs of the context and those of the students. This workshop was organized in the framework of a U.S. Embassy-supported project.

UNION OF JOURNALISTS PRESENTS REPORT ON LABOR INFORMALITY IN MEDIA

On April 30 the Union of Albanian Journalists presented the main findings of a survey on labor informality in the media section in Albania. Along with presentation of findings, the union highlighted the main problems with labor relations in the media, such as delay of salaries, financial crisis of Albanian media, and the way that this reflects on journalists’ conduct. The presented survey was 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. The 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.


AMI NEWSLETTER - May 2013


TRAINING SEMINARS ON MEDIA AND ELECTIONS

Albanian Media Institute and Council of Europe organized two two-day seminars in Tirana on May 14-17, with the participation of about 50 reporters. The two seminars were targeted at print and electronic media journalists, aiming to train them on the Albanian Electoral Code and to improve their professional skills in covering elections. Ndricim Gjata, former chair of the Central Elections Commission, focused on the evolution of electoral systems in Albania through the years. Particular attention was paid to the current electoral system, law, and Code. By comparing it to previous systems and elections, the lecturer focused on the specific features of this system and on what journalists should expect. Lutfi Dervishi, media expert, focused on media regulation during electoral campaigns, discussing with participants a potential media code of conduct when covering elections.
 
Henrik Keith Hansen, media expert from Danish Broadcasting Corporation, addressed the main criteria in reporting elections in a professional manner, based on Council of Europe standards of fairness, balance, and objectivity of election reporting. Other issues he addressed during his lecture included the importance of identifying public concerns when reporting on elections, ways of involving the public in covering elections, manners to handle strategies of political parties vis-à-vis the media, and media ethics in political and election reporting. The lecturer discussed these issues with reporters and gave them the opportunity to test in practice these principles through class exercises. Participants also received a copy of the manual “Fair and Balanced Election Reporting,” written by the lecturer.

PUBLICATION OF “PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES”

Publication of the Albanian version of “Page One: Inside The New York Times and the Future of Journalism” is the latest book of the Albanian Media Institute. The book, edited by David Folkenflik is inspired from and further expands the documentary of the same title by Andrew Rossi. The book has convened some of the smartest media savants to talk about the present and the future of news. Behind all the debate is the presence of the New York Times, and the inside story of its attempt to navigate the new world, embracing the immediacy of the web without straying from a commitment to accurate reporting and analysis that provides the paper with its own definition of what it is there to showcase: all the news that’s fit to print. The publication focuses on the ongoing evolution of the news media. Old certainties have been shoved aside by new entities such as WikiLeaks and Gawker, Politico and the Huffington Post. But where, in all this digital innovation, is the future of great journalism? Is there a difference between an opinion column and a blog, a reporter and a social networker? Who curates the news, or should it be streamed unimpeded by editorial influence? These are all answers that the book attempts to answer through some of the most authoritative voices in current American journalism. The book was published with the support of the U.S. Embassy.

EVENTS FOR WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY

In the event of May 3, the World Press Freedom Day, the Union of Albanian Journalists organized a protest in front of the Parliament. The protest of the union focused on the difficult financial situation of journalists and media outlets in the country. They called on the state institutions to consider the complaints of hundreds of journalists that have lost their jobs and do not have any benefits, in spite of many years of work. They complained against the informal situation of journalists in most media outlets in the country. They protested against the financial crisis of the media, which affects first of all journalists, their salaries and the lack of benefits for their work. 

In the same day, Beder University organized a roundtable on the topic of local media, with the participation of journalists, students, and academicians. The roundtable focused on the role of local media in a democracy, the specific features of the local media landscape in the country, the challenges it faces at the moment, and what could be done to assist the strengthening of local media.

TRAINING COURSE ON INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
 
A training course on investigative journalism took place at the Albanian Media Institute on May 7-9, 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 Civil Rights Defenders.

WORKSHOP ON PUBLICATIONS ON MEDIA

A workshop on publications related to media was organized by Albanian Media Institute on May 30 at the European University of Tirana. Participants included journalism professors and students. Speakers included AMI representatives and journalism professors and the main topic was the existing range of publications on journalism, the topics, and the student needs in this field. Presenting AMI’s latest publications in this area, most speakers stressed the need for up-to-date and relevant literature on the latest development in the profession of journalists, related specifically to new media and ethical aspects that emerge. In addition, journalism professor emphasized the importance of collaboration in the overall process of selecting books for publication, in accordance with the needs of the context and those of the students. This workshop was organized in the framework of a U.S. Embassy-supported project.

HUMAN RIGHTS WEEK TRAINING ON LGBT COMMUNITY

A training course on improving reporting on LGBT community was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on May 27-31, with the participation of reporters of social issues from print, electronic, and online media. During the course 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. The participants discussed with the lecturers 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 the Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Civil Rights Defenders.

SERIES OF TRAINING COURSES ON JOURNALISM CONCLUDES

About 20 students of Beder University received their certificates of completion of a series of courses on practical knowledge on journalism over the course of several weeks. The ceremony of distribution of certificates took place on May 30, where students, trainers, lecturers, and organizers were present. The courses addressed different aspects of professional reporting, such as investigative reporting, reporting on diversity, ethical aspects of journalism, etc. The course series was organized by Albanian Media Institute, Proteus Career Institute, and Radio Kontakt.

SEMINAR ON ROLE OF PARLIAMENT IN INTEGRATION PROCESS

A seminar on the role and tasks of the parliament on European integration of the country was organized on May 15th at the Albanian parliament. The seminar also marked the 10th anniversary of the Parliamentary Commission on European Integration. Opening words were from representatives of the Delegation of the EU Commission to Albania and chairman and member of the Parliamentary Commission on European Integration. The topics addressed by speakers from other countries with EU integration experience included current Parliamentary tasks on EU integration, relations between parliamentary bodies and EU institutions, and the Hungarian experience on this matter. The seminar was organized by the Albanian parliament and EU.


AMI NEWSLETTER - June 2013


ALBANIAN MEDIA INSTITUTE BECOMES IFEX MEMBER

Albanian Media Institute became member of IFEX on the networks’s General Meeting, held in June. IFEX is the largest global network of free expression organisations. Following the voting on 17 June at the 2013 IFEX General Meeting in Phnom Penh, 12 new organisations joined this dynamic network, including AMI. IFEX was first established in 1992 in Canada. Now IFEX has more than 80 IFEX network members in 60 countries that work together to defend and promote free expression, drawing the world's attention to these issues through the strategic use of new media and mobile technologies and participating in joint advocacy campaigns and capacity building programmes.

OSCE/ODIHR REPORT ON MEDIA CONDUCT DURING ELECTIONS

OSCE/ODIHR addressed media conduct during June 23 elections in its preliminary findings, stating that media environment was pluralistic, but editorial independence was hampered by political influence. The late establishment of the Media Monitoring Board and its lack of collegiality lowered its effectiveness. According to the report, the Central Elections Commission adopted a controversial decision implying a requirement for broadcasters to air campaign material prepared by electoral subjects in their newscasts that impinged upon editorial freedom.  In addition, although prohibited by law, the CEC did not suspend the airing of spots funded by the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Justice, the Albanian Development Fund, and the Albanian Postal Service, which featured government achievements. Furthermore, the two major political parties exceeded the 90-minute limit of paid advertising, in breach of the law.

The media monitoring effort revealed that the public broadcaster granted the larger parties equitable news coverage, but was more positive in tone towards the ruling party. The monitored private broadcasters were divided in their coverage. TV Klan devoted 53 per cent of its news coverage to the DP (mostly positive in tone) and 28 per cent to the SP (often negative). While relatively balanced towards the two large parties, Top Channel and Vizion Plus news coverage of the government was often negative in tone. The news channels News 24 and Ora News provided generally neutral coverage of the main parties. For the print media, the OSCE/ODIHR EOM media monitoring noted a similar polarization with Shqip and Shqiptarja.com mainly favoring the opposition and Mapo and Panorama the ruling party. The OSCE/ODIHR EOM media monitoring noted that women candidates received marginal news coverage (from one to five per cent on the monitored TV channels), reflecting continuing issues with women’s participation in political life.
 
CONSULTING ON DIGITAL SWITCHOVER PROCESS

In June the Audiovisual Authority on Media (AMA) organized two roundtables with media operators, in the context of public consultations in the framework of licensing of digital operators, on June 17 and 28 respectively. Based on the criteria set by the newly approved Law on Audiovisual Media, the regulator would issue a call for granting licenses for the three national networks available in Albania, following the “beauty contest” principle. The call would be restricted first to existing, or so-called “historical” multiplexes. Invited were representatives of the two national commercial TV stations, TV Klan, Top Channel, plus Vizion +TV, and those of existing digital multiplexes, Digitalb, Supersport, and Tring. The main aim of the meeting was to discuss with the representatives of these televisions and multiplexes the criteria for call of applications that will be issued on July 5 for the national multiplexes. The only representatives attending the meeting were those of Tring multiplex and Vizion +TV, who had also provided comments in writing previously. The representatives of the other media outlets did not attend the meeting, claiming that they needed more time to examine the draft regulation and provide their comments.

Some of the matters discussed during the meeting included the channel line-up in the multiplexes, the ratio allowed to other operators and the procedure for selecting these operators, and the composition of Evaluation Commission. Concerns expressed during the meeting included the unwillingness of other operators to participate in the roundtable and the impact on the licensing procedure, the parallel procedures for building the public broadcaster’s network, and the generally low awareness of local operators on digital switchover process.

CONTROVERSY OVER DECISION ON ELECTION FOOTAGE IN THE MEDIA

On June 3, 2013, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) passed a decision that made it mandatory for commercial television operators to include in their news editions and special electoral campaign coverage footage prepared and supplied by the electoral subjects. The decision also specified detailed rules on logo display and duration, as well as identification of political subjects in the footage aired. According to this decision, the operator had the option of refusing to broadcast the prepared material by the electoral subject on technical ground. The final decision on the footage was left to CEC, upon recommendation on the material by the Media Monitoring Board.

This decision came after previous experience of broadcasts of footage prepared by electoral subjects in general elections of 2009 and after recent statements from some commercial media that refused to accept such party-prepared footage. Some of the main media outlets in the country reacted by publishing editorials and commentaries on the matter. On June 4 the Union of Albanian Journalists issued a press release, condemning the repetition of this practice, which they thought was an offence to Albanian journalists. They also called on audiovisual media to ignore this decision and refuse footage that comes ready prepared from party headquarters. The People’s Advocate, upon the Union’s request, reviewed the decision and called on the CEC to repeal its decision.

TRAINING COURSE ON COMPUTER ASSISTED REPORTING

Two training courses on computer assisted reporting were organized at the Albanian Media Institute on June 4-6 and 11-13 respectively, with the participation of 15 journalists from both print and electronic Tirana-based media in each course. The main aim of the courses was to introduce Albanian journalists to the main principles and skills of computer assisted reporting. In this context, the main topics addressed during the courses included the main traits of computer assisted reporting, its definitions and priorities, a discussion of the news websites and their classification, while peculiar attention was paid to the characteristics of news written for online media. The lecturers focused on the sources of information when reporting for an online media, the need for accuracy, as well as the ethical aspect involved in this kind of medium. Participants focused extensively on acquiring and practicing the basic skills needed for writing and editing in online journalism. The courses were part of a project implemented by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of the Civil Rights Defenders.

NATIONS IN TRANSIT

According to Freedom House’s annual report “Nations in Transit,” the ranking of independent media in Albania remains unchanged from last year. The report states that freedom of expression is legally guaranteed and freely exercised in the country, though the media sector lacks both a clear legal framework and self-regulatory mechanisms. Although the number of media operators has increased along with internet penetration, this has not resulted in more diverse or high-quality content, according to the report. In 2012 the report has not recorded any major confrontations between the authorities and journalists. “Nations in transit” cites the legal changes early in the year abolished imprisonment as a penalty for criminal defamation, even though the provision had rarely been used.


AMI NEWSLETTER - July 2013


HUMAN RIGHTS WEEK TRAINING FOR JOURNALISTS

The training of Human Rights Week for journalists was organized at the Albanian Media Institute on July 15-19, with the participation of mainly social reporters from mainstream media. The topic of this training course was improvement of reporting on minorities. The main aim of the training was to provide journalists with the basic standards on reporting minorities and introduce them to the existing regulation, as well as problems in this field in Albania. For this purpose, the course focused on particular minorities, whose coverage is most sensitive, and provided an overview of legislation, regional background on the matter, and main existing problems in media coverage of minorities.

More specifically, the course focused on LGBT community and on inter-ethnic relations in Albania. Participants also discussed with the lecturers the very concept of minority, focusing on the main minority groups that need to be reported in Albania, and comparing the situation with other countries in the Balkans. They also became familiar with the main legal framework pertaining to minorities in the country. Finally, they discussed with lecturers specific cases of media coverage of minorities, especially Roma, analyzing the professional level of this coverage. The course was organized by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Civil Rights Defenders.

DIGITAL LICENSING PROCESS TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED

On July 31 the Court of Tirana decided to accept the lawsuit filed on July 22 by Digitalb, Top Channel, and Media 6 companies against Authority of Audiovisual Media. This means that until the court process is over, AMA will have to suspend the process it has started of issuing the national digital licenses for network operators.

The lawsuit demanded from the court to declare the administrative acts of July 2 on the initiation of the licensing process according to “beauty contest” principle as invalid ones. The acts included the regulation with the criteria and organization of the beauty contest for licensing of the existing multiplexes and the AMA decision to publicly open this contest. The claim of Top Channel, Digitalb, TV Klan, and Supersport so far has been that AMA does not have the necessary quorum to start such procedures. They also state that a proper consultancy phase has not preceded the process. They also continue to consider the process as an unnecessarily hasty one, claiming that other preparations must be made before such important decisions are taken.

On the other hand, the Authority of Audiovisual Media claims that it is only implementing the Strategy and the Audiovisual Media law that was approved last March, expressing the disappointment for the refusal of multiplexes to participate in the consultation phase on the digital licensing and on drafting of technical regulations. AMA representatives also claimed at court that a proper discussion and consultancy phase has taken place, while Digitalb demanded proof of this consultancy. The court proceedings will resume in September, meaning that the issuing of licenses will be postponed indefinitely, until the court process is over.

PUBLICATION ON DIGITAL MEDIA ETHICS

“Digital Media Ethics” by Charles Ess is the latest publication of Albanian Media Institute. This is a textbook focusing on the central ethical issues of digital media, ranging from computers and the Internet to mobile phones. It is also the first book of its kind to consider these issues from a global perspective, introducing ethical theories from multiple cultures. It further utilizes examples from around the world, such as the publication of "the Mohammed Cartoons"; diverse understandings of what "privacy" means in Facebook or MySpace; why pirating CDs and DVDs may be justified in developing countries; and culturally-variable perspectives on sexuality and what counts as "pornography." Readers and students thus acquire a global perspective on the central ethical issues of digital media, including privacy, copyright, pornography and violence, and the ethics of cross-cultural communication online.

The book is designed for use across disciplines - media and communication studies, computer science and informatics, as well as philosophy. It is up-to-date, accessible and student- and classroom-friendly: each topic and theory is interwoven throughout the volume with detailed sets of questions that foster careful reflection, writing, and discussion into these issues and their possible resolutions. Each chapter further includes additional resources and suggestions for further research and writing. The book was published with the support of the U.S. Embassy.

TRAINING COURSE ON INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
 
A training course on investigative journalism took place at the Albanian Media Institute on July 3-5, 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 Civil Rights Defenders.


AMI NEWSLETTER - August-September 2013


OSCE MEDIA FREEDOM REPRESENTATIVE URGES REFORM OF PUBLIC BROADCASTER IN MEETINGS WITH NEW GOVERNMENT
 
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović stressed the need to reform the public broadcaster and ensure independence of the broadcast regulator in Albania. During a two-day official visit on September 18 she also urged the new government to fully decriminalize defamation, ensure access to information and move forward on digitalization of the broadcast media. “The public service broadcaster RTSH needs to be fully reformed to provide citizens with balanced news and information, as well as to educate and entertain them. I am very encouraged that media reform issues are also high on the agenda of the government that is only two days old,” Mijatović said, following her meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Urging government authorities to make tangible progress with digitalization she said: “Digitalization of electronic media is important. If it is properly implemented it provides for greater media pluralism. Independent broadcast regulators play a key role in this process.” Mijatović also emphasized the need to ensure independence of the broadcast regulator AMA from political influence and to ensure that it is adequately funded. Other issues discussed included decriminalization of defamation and ensuring public access to official information.

She also said that the need to ensure that all citizens have full access to official information, as guaranteed by Albanian legislation, is vital: “Access to information allows the journalists to perform their duty as public watchdogs and to ensure that all authorities are accountable and working for the benefit of the people.” Mijatović also offered OSCE support to the authorities in reform of the public broadcaster, digitalization of broadcasting, ensuring independence of the regulator and implementation of the freedom of information legislation.

THIRD OSCE MEDIA CONFERENCE ON SOUTH EAST EUROPE TAKES PLACE IN TIRANA

The third OSCE Media Conference for South East Europe was organized in Tirana on September 18-20. More than 180 journalists, representatives of civil society, government and academics from the region, along with international experts, discussed the most pressing media freedom issues in the region. Media freedom in the South East European region is deteriorating, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović told journalists and government authorities at the conclusion of the conference. “Many problems are not being addressed, many questions not answered. Public broadcasters are not yet fully reformed; independence of the regulators is endangered or not guaranteed; digitalization of electronic media is behind schedule, putting media pluralism at risk; and the safety of journalists is threatened,” said Mijatović.

The conference was opened by Dunja Mijatovic, Ditmir Bushati, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania, and Robert Wilton, Acting Head of OSCE Presence in Albania. Participants discussed the importance of applying media freedom principle to all forms of journalism, be it professional, open or “citizen” journalism.  They concluded that the Internet must remain an open public forum for free speech and expression, with authorities refraining from over-regulation and mandatory blocking of online content or websites.

They also called for the right of free access to information to be clearly established in law in line with OSCE standards, with mechanisms for effective oversight and appeals by independent bodies put in place. Spending on advertising by public companies must be regulated so that it is not used to put pressure on the media. The conference also stressed the importance of independence for broadcast regulators, the efficiency of self-regulatory mechanisms, and the importance of digital switchover to media pluralism.

ROUNDTABLE ON ONLINE HATE SPEECH IN ALBANIAN MEDIA

Hate speech in Albanian media and the balance between combating intolerance and defending free speech were the topics of a roundtable held on 24 September in Tirana, Albania. The event was organized by the Albanian Media Institute in cooperation with UNESCO and the South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM). Gathering around 40 media professionals, together with representatives of international and civil society organizations and academics, the event was opened by H.E. Ambassador Ettore Sequi, the Head of the EU Delegation to Albania; Remzi Lani, Director of the Albanian Media Institute; and Adeline Hulin, UNESCO consultant.

Participants discussed the state of hate speech in Albanian media and its causes. Political debate was identified as one of the main reasons for hate speech in the Albanian media, while other forms of hate speech, while present, are not especially problematic, the discussion and findings of the monitoring report concluded. Reporting according to professional journalistic standards was presented as a solution to avoid sensationalism and counter the spread of intolerance and hatred in the media.

In addition, the event shed light on the grey areas and challenges brought by new technologies in the domain of media accountability and hate speech. The question of liability for users’ comments in online media was examined along with the moderation of comments as a tool for tackling the issue of hate speech. Participating Albanian media professionals discussed the need to update ethical guidelines following media digitization and adopt new rules for newspapers’ websites and discussion forums. The event took place in the framework of the EU-UNESCO project, “Media Accountability in South East Europe”, which started in January 2013.

SEMINAR AND STUDY TRIP ON EU INSTITUTIONS

A seminar on EU institutions was organized in Tirana on September 19-20 and then was followed by a field trip to Luxembourg on September 21-26. Participants were seven journalists and editors of mainstream media from Albania. 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.

UNION OF JOURNALISTS CALLS ATTENTION TO FINANCIAL HARDSHIP OF JOURNALISTS

The Union of Albanian Journalists denounced through a press conference on September 21 the difficult financial situation of journalists. The union noted that the situation is critical, characterized by long delays journalists experience in receiving their salaries. According to the union, in 75% of the cases the monthly salary is delayed from two to six months. Another concern was that in the last five months 48 lawsuits have started involving cases of unfair firing of media employees and breach of contracts. The union drew attention to the fact that over 300 media employees have been fired in the last three months, 130 of whom were journalists.

In addition, the union noted that in some media the administration had failed to pay the contribution to social security for a number of journalists for several years. The Union called on all journalists to draft and sign a memorandum that would reflect all demands and strategies to face the difficult financial situation of journalists. The union declared journalists should be prepared for wider-scale protests and strikes, if necessary.

EIGHTH EDITION OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL
 
The eighth edition of the Festival of Human Rights was organized at the Academy of Film and Multimedia Marubi on September 23-29. During the festival a selection of 43 feature, documentary and short movies was projected, coming from different countries of the world. The main themes of this edition dealt with social key topics, such as domestic violence, organized crime and corruption, mafia and state capture, as modern slavery as a new form of exploitation, virtual revolutions and media power, cultural disregard and updated ephemeris, mild brain bombing and its keeping under control, identity, multi – identity and universal culture, etc. In addition, a forum was organized on the topic of media and social movements. The key speakers were Remzi Lani, Ilir Kulla, and Ted Orlin, president of the festival. The forum focused on virtual revolutions and new media, civil activism and social networks, galvanization of public reaction, and digital media as an escape from censorship. The festival is organized by Academy of Film and Multimedia Marubi, Albanian Media Institute, and a number of domestic and international organizations.


AMI NEWSLETTER - October 2013


EU ANNUAL PROGRESS REPORT ON MEDIA SITUATION IN ALBANIA

According to the EU Progress Report for Albania the country made some progress in the field of the information society and media, particularly in aligning legislation on audiovisual media services and electronic communications with the acquis and enhancing competition in the electronic communications market. However, problems still persist. The report noted that “the appointment procedure of the members of the media regulatory authority - Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), provided for by the law, does not fully guarantee their independence.” In addition, progress on the process of digital switchover has been halted, due to a court case of broadcasting operators. The report notes that efforts to achieve timely implementation of digital switchover should be stepped up, including the freeing of illegally used frequencies and improving regulator’s capacities and independence. The report also states that “the public service broadcaster’s editorial independence and fee collection system have not improved.”
In the area of freedom of expression, the report notes that “the moratorium on the use of defamation suits by government officials has been observed,” but more specific guidelines are needed to ensure the proper implementation of amendments on defamation, as well as better training of the judiciary. The report states that some cases of violence against journalists have been reported. In addition, according to the report “media continue to be used as a tool to promote political and private economic interests. Public advertising is still not regulated in a way that guarantees transparent and non-discriminatory allocation of funds. The lack of transparency of media financing remains an important challenge.” The report also draws attention to the need to guarantee proper enforcement of labor rights for media workers, as part of the efforts to prevent self-censorship. The report also called for a more professional treatment of ethical matters in the media, as well as the need to address complaints from the public.

IN-HOUSE TRAINING SESSIONS IN DAILY NEWSPAPERS’ NEWSROOMS

This month Albanian Media Institute organized a series of in-house training sessions on ethical issues and implementation of Code of Ethics in the newsrooms of four daily newspapers. The sessions took place at the Mapo, Tirana Observer, Gazeta Shqiptare and Shqiptarja.com newspapers respectively on October 7, 9, 21, and 28. Participants were reporters and editors of each newsroom. The trainer and the reporters addressed the main criteria established in the Code of Ethics for a correct and fair coverage of events and persons. The training sessions were in the form of discussion between the trainer and the newsroom on several problems and criteria of ethical coverage, such as fairness, accuracy, language used, intrusion into privacy, coverage of sensitive events, etc.

The main discussion evolved around the challenges of implementing the Code of Ethics against a background of fierce competition with many other daily newspapers, while having a small newspaper staff, with modest salaries. In principle, the newsrooms agreed on the need to step up efforts to improve ethics, but they had doubts on the potential ways to do this in practice. The participants also discussed in detail the ethical dilemmas in their everyday profession, especially focusing on ways to report on police statements or on serious accidents or crimes.

Specific attention was paid to online media ethics. In the framework of a project to strengthen media accountability in South East Europe, these newsrooms have tried to establish the reader’s editor in their newspapers. These editors spoke of their difficulties in carrying out this new duty, due to the novelty and lack of rules in this new, scarce interest from audiences, and the tendency to deal directly with the journalists with online comments, rather than address problems to the editor. The reporters in newsrooms discussed potential techniques to avoid offensive and violent comments. The problem of plagiarism and republishing of material from other websites was also a concern. These sessions were organized by the Albanian Media Institute, in the framework of a project supported by UNESCO and EU.

START OF PROCEDURES FOR ELECTION OF REGULATORY AUTHORITIES

On October 16 the Parliamentary Media Commission issued a call for proposals for new members of the Audiovisual Media Authority and the Steering Council of public broadcaster. The mandate of all 11 members of the Steering Council is over for at least a year now. The ruling majority has maintained that the public broadcaster is politicized, non-professional, and is having an illegal moment, since the mandate of all members of the council has expired for more than a year. The regulator, Authority of Audiovisual Media (AMA) also has one member with expired term, as well as two vacancies.
Along with the routine completion of these bodies, the procedure has started a new controversy. The ruling majority claims that the current set-up of the AMA council is also misbalanced, since both the chairwoman and her deputy belong to the current opposition, while, according to the law, they are elected with simple majority votes. The opposition maintains that the current composition should change, in accordance with the formula that the current opposition insisted to vote last March. On the other hand, the law contains a transitory disposition that states that current AMA members will complete their mandate to the end. In this case, the ruling majority in the media commission stated the need for a legal interpretation on whether the chairwoman could continue her mandate, since this situation would preserve the misbalance in the regulator. In an effort to prevent the tension created, the deputy head of AMA resigned on September 28, while claiming he would still serve as a member. The deadline for nominations is November 15, while there have been no further statements on the proceedings.

SURVEY IDENTIFIES CHALLENGES IN ACCESS TO INFORMATION

On October 18, ResPublica center organized a roundtable on the implementation of the right to information on official documents in the country. For a year the center filed 202 requests for information, completing all steps, to the administrative complaint and lawsuits. The center declared that the survey clearly showed that the law, unchanged from 1999, is slow and inefficient. Out of 202 filed requests, only 59 received the information they requested. After 142 administrative complaints, the authorities responded to 53 of them. The average response time was 24 days to initial requests and 10 days to administrative complaints. Judging the current law and its implementation inadequate, the center stated that these findings should urge for an amendment of the law, as well as for steps that can ensure proper implementation of the right to access to information.


AMI NEWSLETTER - November 2013


N-HOUSE TRAINING SESSION IN NEWS WEBSITE NEWSROOM

Albanian Media Institute organized an in-house training session on ethical issues and implementation of Code of Ethics with the newsroom of Respublica, a website dedicated to news and commentary, on November 27. The topics addressed evolved around the main criteria established in the Code of Ethics for a correct and fair coverage of events and persons. The session was in the form of discussion between the trainer and the newsroom on several problems and criteria of ethical coverage, such as fairness, accuracy, language used, intrusion into privacy, coverage of sensitive events, etc.

The main discussion evolved around the challenges of implementing the Code of Ethics against a background of fierce competition with other media, while having a small newsroom staff. While the staff agreed on the need to step up efforts to improve ethics, they had doubts on the potential ways to do this in practice. Specific attention was paid to online media ethics. In the framework of a project to strengthen media accountability in South East Europe, this newsroom has tried to establish the reader’s editor. The staff, which takes turns in responding to reader concerns, spoke of their difficulties in carrying out this new duty, due to the novelty and lack of rules in this new, scarce interest from audiences, and the tendency for defamatory and derogatory comments. The problem of plagiarism and republishing of material from other websites was also a concern. This session was organized by the Albanian Media Institute, in the framework of a project supported by UNESCO and EU.

PRESENTATION ON STUDY ON INTERNATIONAL MEDIA ASSISTANCE

Albanian Media Institute on November 21 organized a promotional event where the study on the Development of Functional Media Institutions in Albania was released. Participants included donor organizations working with media in the country, media experts, academicians, and journalists. The study is part of a regional project which analyzes the scope and impact of international media assistance towards independence and sustainability of media institutions in five Balkan countries. According to the study, thanks also to foreign assistance, the important elements of the regulatory framework have been put in place, but the reforms aimed at public broadcasters, the introduction of self-regulatory mechanisms, and professionalization of journalism have proved to be particularly challenging. While media assistance has been crucial in media development, external factors such as the market, the existing informality, the interaction between politics, business, and media, etc., have affected the outcome of donor efforts in the media field.  Following the presentation of the study conclusions, the participants also gave their own perspective on the matter, sharing their experience in this field. The project “Development of Functional Media Institutions in Western Balkans – A Comparative Study” was led by Center for Social Research Analitika from Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the participation of Albanian Media Institute, Center for Research and Policy Making in Skopje, and Democracy for Development from Kosovo. The project was supported by the Regional Research Promotion Programme (RRPP) in the Western Balkans.

ROUNDTABLE ON INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

OSCE Presence in Albania organized on November 22 a roundtable discussion on the current state and future challenges of the investigative journalism in Albania. More than 30 journalists, editors and lecturers of journalism took part in this event. Key speakers were Remzi Lani, director of Albanian Media Institute, Aleksander Cipa, head of the trade union of journalists, and Alba Malltezi, director of A1 Report. The speakers addressed the main challenges that Albanian investigative reporters face, such as media clientelism and lack of independence, lack of funding and interest, pressure from within and outside the media, lack of professional skills, self-censorship, etc. Specific attention was paid to the importance of formal and fair labor relations in securing an environment conducive to investigative journalism. The speakers also highlighted the significant efforts done by some journalists and programs in advancing the practice of investigative reporting. Finally, some reporters received awards for their investigative stories and for their contribution in this field.

NEW PUBLICATION ON HISTORY OF RADIO BROADCASTING

The latest publication in the field of radio broadcasting is “Dynamics of radio broadcasting in Albania: 1938-2013” by Arben Muka. This book follows the development of the radio landscape in the country in 75 years, from the first radio established to the current days, where there is a variety of radio outlets. The book draws a sketch of the profiles of all radios that have broadcast in the country, including those that do no longer exist, marking the evolution trace of this landscape. The author also describes the relations between media and politics, the evolution of the legal framework, the ownership issues, managing culture, the technology applied, and the online versions of current radio stations. The publication ranges from detailed analysis of the propagandistic role of Radio Tirana under communism, to the emergence of numerous private radio stations that challenged the hegemony of public radio. Specific attention has been paid to the role of foreign radio stations and to the prospects for the radio landscape in the eve of digital switchover. The local radio stations, their evolution, and the opinions of some of the well-known radio experts in the country have also been covered by the author. The book has been published by Albanian Media Institute.


AMI NEWSLETTER - December 2013


BALKAN MEDIA BAROMETER FOR ALBANIA

The Albanian Media Institute launched the publication for the first time of the Balkan Media Barometer for Albania on December 18, with the participation of about 40 journalists, media experts, academicians, and civil society representatives. The Balkan Media Barometer is an analytical exercise to measure the media situation in a given country which at the same time serves as a practical lobbying tool for media reform. Remzi Lani, AMI director, said that this is the first time this report is published in Albania, considering it a good opportunity to reflect on the current media trends and on the way forward, also compared to other countries in the region where the barometer has been conducted. Frank Hantke of Friedrich Ebert Foundation office in Tirana provided his own view of current challenges of Albanian media, stressing the need for greater independence, professionalism, and more active investigative journalism. 

The participants were also introduced to the main findings of the report. The methodology of the barometer consists in in-depth panel discussions of 45 indicators used to assess the media situation by a group of 10 journalists and civil society representatives. The barometer addresses four key pillars: legal framework for media freedom, landscape diversity and sustainability, independence of the regulator and public broadcaster, and media professionalism. According to the BMB panelists the legal framework in place for protection of human rights and freedom of expression is generally good, especially with the introduction of new laws and amendments and ongoing efforts in this field. However, these laws have proven difficult to implement in the practice of the Albanian media landscape on a daily basis. Diversity of media and information seems a well-established fact in view of the high number of media outlets. However, panelists also pointed out that there is a division and polarization of media in accordance with their political and economic interests, which often overlook public interest in reporting. Problems in media content are also deeply related to economic dependency of the media and the pattern of their ownership.

The regulator and the public broadcaster suffer in their independence and smooth functioning, related to political context, as well as to other factors. In terms of professional standards in Albanian media panelists identified the lack of solidarity and poor organization record in media self-regulation initiatives as indicators of low activism among the media community. From this discussion it was clear that media face both external and internal pressures, which affect its independence, quality, and protection of public interest. However, despite these deep-seated negative trends, panelists agreed that media represent a “progressive part of the society.” The Balkan Media Barometer report for Albania was drafted by Albanian Media Institute, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

ROUNDTABLE ON REFORM OF PUBLIC BROADCASTER

The OSCE Presence in Albania and the Albanian Media Institute organized on December 9 a roundtable aimed at starting an all-inclusive wide discussion on the need to reform the public broadcaster, RTSH. Keynote speakers at the event included Minister for Innovation and Public Administration Milena Harito, Chair of the Parliamentary Media Committee Genc Pollo and Deputy Chair Alfred Peza, and Director of the Albanian Media Institute Remzi Lani. The second panel was made of foreign experts that shared their experience in the reformation of public broadcaster as well as their ideas of what makes a good public broadcaster. They stressed such elements as independence, accountability, functioning of the governance bodies, with proper independence and competence, proper funding scheme, transparency, professionalism, and public involvement in achieving a quality broadcaster.
Afterwards, a group of Albanian experts presented their view of the challenges the public broadcaster faces, as well as options on how these challenges could be overcome. The main issues discussed included preventing political interference and improving editorial independence, improving the funding scheme, guaranteeing the digitization process and taking advantage with the reform, etc. Another priority was the clarity of the remit and mission statement, along with the preparations for the Statute and mission statement of the RTSH. The proper election and functioning of governing bodies was identified as an essential step to the reform, followed by a clear definition of the roles of these bodies. Parallel to this, aaccountability of the public broadcaster has to improve, in addition to professional level of the RTSH employees. This roundtable will be followed by other steps, in view of the re-election of the Steering Council, implementation of the new law on audiovisual media and the imminent digital switchover process.

DISCUSSION ON GUIDELINES FOR ONLINE MEDIA ETHICS

As part of a regional project to improve media accountability in South East Europe, Albanian Media Institute has drafted potential guidelines on ethical conduct on online media. The draft was presented in a meeting held on December 10 to a group that included the main online news media, media lawyers, academicians, readers’ editors in some media, and media experts. The main aim was to get a general feedback on the draft, make any possible changes, and discuss ways of adopting the guidelines in the existing media. The participants greeted the drafting of these guidelines and highlighted the need to have some sort of ground rules for ethics in online media. They also stressed the importance of ethics and newsrooms in general to adapt to the ongoing convergence in the media. They also provided their own experience in moderating forums of UGC and online comments in general. Most representatives of online versions of traditional media emphasized the shortage of staff in these newsrooms, while recognizing the need to have dedicated staff to filtering and guiding comments in the online environment. The media lawyers brought to the attention of the other participants the recent case of Estonia vs. Delfi and the ramifications it has for freedom of expression and media practice, pointing to the need to have legal counseling at newsrooms, in addition to adopting ethical guidelines.
In general the participants were in favor of a minimal level of monitoring, allowing for maximum freedom of expression, although recognizing that this should come with responsibilities. In addition, some of them said that the value of comments is overvalued, as the people that comment are not so much interested in providing new sources of information or becoming engaged citizens and journalists, bur are rather venting on a particular matter. Other participants expressed the need to have a meeting and discussion with online-only media, since some of the creators of these media do not have any journalism background and these media produce the highest violations of ethics. The need to have a constructive and ethical moderation of the forums was also highlighted, along with the problems in respecting copyright. The event took place in the framework of the EU-UNESCO project, “Media Accountability in South East Europe.”

AWARDS FOR JOURNALISTS

The Union of Albanian Journalists awarded the journalists for best economic reporting in Albania and Kosovo on December 18 with the annual prize “Vangjush Gambeta.” The best economic reporter awards were given to Alban Beqaj, Teuta Shamku, Kreshnik Martini and Zekirja Shabani. The career awards were given to Filip Cakuli, director of the investigative program “Fiks fare” in the last decade and to Tefta Radi, historical news anchor of public broadcaster RTSH. The Union also handed out a special prize to a well-known writer Dritero Agolli, praising his work.

TRAINING SESSIONS FOR JOURNALISM STUDENTS

The Albanian-German training center for new journalists at the department of journalism at public University of Tirana announced on December 11 the start of a series of training seminars on the topic “Media and democratization,” supported by Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Tirana. The main objective is training young journalists, combining knowledge of standards of media in Western democracies to further specialization in their career. The center plans to hold five training modules, with the participation of students of journalism and other young journalists in the next seven months, offering information and management experience in the area of public information.

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