The Director of Albania’s controversial Media and Information Angecy, Endri Fuga claimed that the institution is based on the German model, but research and consultation with German journalists confirmed that this is not true.
MIA was established by the first decision of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s third government in September. The agency will control all government communications, including that of separate ministries and other state agencies. It will hire and fire PR officers in any state institution and will organise the press conferences of any minister.
In a country where media freedom is on a rapid decline and where the government are under fire for a lack of transparency and even direct attacks on media workers, the new institution has caused great concern.
Earlier this week, Fuga told parliament that the new institution had improved government transparency with the media. He claimed that it had increased traffic to the government website and improved the way that ministers communicate with the press.
He also claimed that the MIA is modelled on the German system.
“My objective, which is the Albanian Media and Information Agency is to be like the model of the German Agency.”
This has been repeated throughout the process of the MIA’s establishment, even by Rama himself.
Exit spoke with EURACTIV.de, a German media partner to find out what the German model is and whether it is indeed similar to Albania’s.
Germany has an agency that the first stop for journalists to put forward media inquiries – the Press and Information Office (BPA) that provides information for journalists. However, journalists are not required to send their inquiries to the BPA, as all of the ministries have their own press departments that can be reached via phone or email for questions regarding the area of competence of the respective ministries.
While the BPA, and its head who also holds the function of government spokesperson, is able to speak on behalf of the whole of the government and the chancellery, the press departments of the ministries are issuing statements on behalf of the ministries.
This approach is also represented in the federal press conference. While organised by the BPA three times a week, the press spokespersons of the ministries are also regularly participating in the federal press conference, so that journalists are able to ask more specific questions regarding the work of the ministers.
However, the responsibilities of the BPA are not just to provide journalists with information on the work of the government, but also to monitor national and international reporting on the government. For this purpose, a variety of sources, including current national and international news tickers and newspapers, are evaluated.
As it turns out, there are a number of differences between the MIA and BPA, mainly that ministries and officials in Germany can still engage with the press as and when they choose. Furthermore, the level and consistency of engagement with the media is considerably higher than in Albania. For example, press conferences are often not open to all media and journalists are prevented from asking questions.
Recently, during a press conference, Rama asked journalists to keep all questions to the topic at hand—i.e., the national consultation—and not broach other issues.
“I’m hoping that our pact, the compromise we have made, that you will find another time for off-topic answers and will not distract from the current topic with your reports,” he stated.
Asked by BIRN about this so-called “pact”, the head of Agency for Media and Information, Endri Fuga, claimed there is no written agreement as such.
“It has become a bit of a habit that when someone comes out to speak about a certain topic, [journalists] then ask questions about other topics and the topic they came to cover in the first place is ‘forgotten’,” Fuga told BIRN.
It is also worth considering that the German media freedom environment is significantly better than Albania’s, ranking at 13 globally, compared to Albania’s 83.
The establishment of MIA has caused significant concern in the local and international media community who have referred to it as the “Ministry of Propaganda”.