From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Albanian Government Pose Biggest Threat to Freedom of Expression, New Study States

The government and politics are the biggest threat to freedom of expression and media freedom in Albania, according to a new study.

The study entitled “Albanian Media Landscape” was supported by the Embassy of the United States of America in Albania and the Institute for Development, Research, and Alternatives (IDRA).

With the aim of understanding the media landscape in the country including national media policies, the legislative environment, it also placed a specific focus on the challenges faced by journalists. These include editorial independence, political and business interference, job security, truthfulness of the news, the professionalism of journalists, and media freedom in general.

To conduct the study, 800 survey interviews were conducted, seven journalist focus groups were conducted, and interviews were done with 20 media editors, media managers, media analysts, and media owners.

Whilst a quarter of respondents have been working in the sector for 6-10 years and 37% for between 11-20 years, only 29% have a Bachelor’s degree, 15% have a second level diploma and 8% have a high school leaving certificate. Almost half of all journalists have no formal journalism qualifications.

One in three of those surveyed stated that they would not advise a young person to pursue a career in journalism due to the poor level of payment and substandard working conditions. An example of such is the fact that 17% of journalists state that they do not have any kind of contract of work agreement, a figure that goes up to 31% when considering those that work outside of Tirana. 30% state that whilst they do have a contract, they do not feel protected by it or the clauses contained within.

Main reasons for changing jobs were disagreements with the media owner, salary issues, delays with or irregular payments, and the working conditions. Half of those surveyed believe that they are not fairly compensated for their work.

In terms of the quality of work that they do, when asked how they would rate the level of professionalism of journalists in Albania from 1-10, the median score was 5.8 showing a “lack of positive consideration for professionalism in journalism, by journalists themselves”.

Over half said that they have received commissioned orders from the media owner and 78% believe that some journalists engage in corrupt practices such as receiving money or other benefits to create certain news articles.

The majority of journalists in Albania believe that almost all of the media, or some of them frequently self-censor their work. News is often “suppressed” or “delayed” due to government pressure, political party pressure, and business pressure. Over a third stated they had been pressured by their editors not to write about a particular story or event. A further 38% stated they had been pressured by the owner of the media that they work for. In addition to this over half said their work had been rewritten by the editor or media owner and 1 in 3 said they had a story pulled or deleted without anyone informing them beforehand.

When it comes to whether “journalists get verbally or psychologically abused whilst exercising their duties” the results are described as “alarming”. A staggering 65% believe that journalists get somewhat verbally or psychologically abused, and 19% believe that they get “completely abused”. Over a third stated that they have been subjected to verbal and physical threats whilst conducting their work.

In terms of freedom of speech, pressure and interferences on journalists and their work, mainly come from the government (61%) with self-censorship and corruption having the smallest impact. They also describe politics as the main obstacle to freedom of speech within the country, and most journalists state that they rely directly on the political framework of the media that they work with.

Over a quarter of respondents believe that Albanian law does not adequately protect human rights, but noted that verbal and physical violence is a “serious problem in their work with 21% believing that women are more likely to be targeted.