Journalists in Albania have made history today by signing an agreement to create the countries first and only self-regulation platform for ethical media.
The result of months of work on behalf of the Albanian Media Council, journalists, members of civil society and with input from the European Union, Council of Europe, UNESCO and the Embassy of the Netherlands, a total of 19 news portals signed the Memorandum of Understanding. Creating the Alliance for Media Ethics, it is designed to promote and ensure ethical journalism, as well as being a response to the proposed “anti-defamation laws” pushed by the Albanian government.
The Alliance will establish a group of portals and journalists that respect the Code of Ethics of the Journalists and Article 80 of Law 35/2016. It will also establish an independent board that will make decisions on the complaints of citizens and will coordinate activities to protect the rights of journalists, the media and free speech.
Each member of the Alliance will display the logo on their website and if a citizen has a complaint about an article, clicking on the logo will take them directly to a complaints platform. Complaints will then be reviewed by the board and a decision will be made. Members of the Alliance are required to accept decisions of the board, and if the citizen is still not happy with the outcome or the portal refuses to cooperate, they can proceed to court.
Another key part of the Alliances activities is putting an end to the rife practice of copying articles and infringing on a copyright. Members agree to respect the copyright of other users and to remove content which has been taken without permission. Failure to comply can result in legal action by the Albanian Media Council.
The Alliance is open to all media in Albania who recognises and respects the rules of the Alliance, national law, and the Code of Ethics. A range of incentives will be given to members, including funding to strengthen and develop the newsrooms and skillsets of journalists.
The EU Ambassador to Albania, Luigi Soreca gave a lengthy speech during which he reiterated the position of the EU- that self-regulation is the preferred way forward and that the Albanian government must align with EU and CoE guidelines and best practices. He also raised a number of concerns regarding media freedom in the country, including political and economic pressure, lack of transparency, bad labour conditions for journalists and issues of a lack of pluralism.
He added that the EU fully supports the Alliance and that the involvement of so many portals gives a strong signal that there are journalists that care about professionalism, free media and freedom of speech.
Soreca assured those in attendance that his office would be “very vocal in the weeks to come” following the Venice Commission’s opinion on the law, and further steps by the government.
Adeline Hulin from UNESCO’s Freedom of Expression Division stated that the initiative is not about promoting ethical journalism, but rather just journalism because without ethics you cannot be a journalist.
“Media that is not ethical is not journalism it is just advertising or PR”, she said.
“Anyone can pretend to be a journalist, this is about separating what is journalism and what is not,” she added.
The Ambassador to Albania from the Netherlands Guusje Korthals Altes reiterated her countries support towards improving media freedom and ethics in Albania and gave her full support to the Alliance.
Signatories and founding members of the Alliance include Exit.al, both English and Albanian editions, Citizens Channel, Dita.al, Dosja,al, Faktoje.com, Lapsi.al, Liberale.al, Ora New and ORA TV, and Politiko.al, amongst others.