A group of Albanian media organisations, including Exit, and human rights organisations have signed a declaration raising concerns over ways that the government is managing information around the Coronavirus outbreak.
They state that the government has monopolized information on the situation by making it almost impossible to gain independent information. Medical personnel have been prevented from speaking to journalists and verification of press statements has been restricted. The only way to find out what is happening in terms of facts and figures is directly from government spokespersons at closed press conferences.
This restriction, apart from being unconstitutional, is harmful. The declaration states that “the government has failed to communicate the situation day after day. If there are Albanians who still believe that “we won’t get the virus” this is a direct consequence of the government’s media communication strategy in recent weeks.”
As well as many Albanians being left in the dark, the countries expat community has been thrown into confusion as many have struggled to find up to date information on what is happening. Instead, many have turned to Facebook groups to ask for help and advice on the situation as it develops.
In addition to this, the organisations drew attention to the bizarre voice communications message sent by Prime Minister Edi Rama to all mobile phone users in the country. The message, played before outgoing phone calls can be made advises citizens “to protect themselves from the media”. This political call has no place in the context of the current situation, and the personalisation of communication by the Prime Minister is potentially very dangerous.
By advising the public to ignore the media who are working tirelessly to communicate vital information in Albanian and English, Rama’s words are considered unethical and wrong. Health information should be disseminated properly through the institutions, not via methods such of this.
The declaration states that such a move is similar to one taken by autocratic leaders who use disasters to reinforce their position as a “supreme leader”.