Albanian human rights media portal, Historia Ime has penned an open letter to domestic media, calling for an end to fake news, misleading titles, and the proliferation of hate speech via their portals.
The open letter was also addressed to the Union of Albanian Journalists, the Audiovisual Media Authority, and the Albanian Media Council.
The letter was written after a number of portals ran misleading headlines relating to the rights of LGBTIQ parents in the country. Two women who are mothers to four-month-old twins have so far been unable to register their babies in the country, as Albanian law doesn’t provide for two parents of the same sex. They have called for the right to be able to register them under the word “parent” instead.
Some media portals however have wrongly stated that they are calling for the words “mother” and “father” to be removed from the law completely and replaced with Parent 1 and Parent 2. This is not the case.
But the misleading headlines caused outrage and resulted in activists and the aforementioned mothers being bombarded with abuse, death threats, and rape threats.
Historia Ime stated that the use of sensational titles misdirected the audience and created dozens of instances of fake news, which triggered hate speech, threats, and defamation towards LGBTIQ individuals, their family members, and allies.
Additionally, they noted the lack of effective moderation on television shows, particularly on Top Channel and ABC News, whereby debates escalated and hate speech was used and not apprehended.
In one case, journalist Blerta Tafani said that same-sex couples “denigrate society” and that it’s “misfortunate” if an LGBTIQ person gives birth, amongst other things.
Historia Ime was clear that they are not trying to censor the media, but rather to ensure ethics are upheld, especially when vulnerable minorities are involved.
“Aware of the dangerous situation in which the media environment finds itself in the country, with increased risk of state regulation, the presence of censorship and self-censorship, we would not want in any way that this request seemed to be a request for bypassing topics that affect the cause of the LGBTI + community.
On the contrary, this request is an invitation to an absent and important media debate for our community and society. But the lack of self-regulation and effective mechanisms to address hate speech has turned the current media environment into an increased risk to LGBTI +, which is periodically increasing prejudices on these persons, exacerbating also the respecting of their rights and representation as equal in the media.”
They called on the media to adhere to the principles of ethics, in particular, paying heed to ensure accuracy and fair and clear communication. They state that these principles have been violated and continue to be regularly violated around LGBTIQ questions.
Historia Ime asked the Union, Council, and Authority to give a public response on the cases in question and the “incorrect portrayal of the LGBTIQ community by both visual media and online media.” They added that a detailed analysis of the situation is required, recalling the ethical principles from which journalists should be guided.