Albanian media suffer self-censorship

Report from Scoop’s national seminar in Southern Albania and Tirana where Scoop’s help is more appreciated than ever.

By Solveig Gram Jensen, posted March 15th, 2011

The political situation in Albania has been rather tense these last months with 4 people getting killed during demonstrations against the government. Probably this will escalate further as local elections approach, since the risk of allegations about corruption about the results is rather high.

To the good side it should be mentioned that journalism now seems to discover some of the mismanagements. As an example: Artan Hoxha, an investigative reporter we have supported in an unrelated project, managed to film the shooting of three demonstrators by the police. This meant that it could be proved that they were killed by the state and not by other demonstrators (like the government wanted the population to believe).

Albanian media

We, the coordinators, talked to reporters in the south – Gjirokastra, Saranda, Fier – and in Tirana. Most of the places local or national media covered the event.
During the trip we met with around 30 reporters that Scoop hasn’t supported yet and expect at least 6 good applications from them. In Tirana we meet with 3 reporters we already have supported who told us that they would not have been able to do the investigations without our help.

All of them consider it more important than ever that Scoop is there. There are several reasons for this.

-    The media situation in the country it has worsened in general – it is extremely hard for reporters to get access to public documents. With the prime minister threatening reporters during the events in January and February, this has gotten worse.
-    The media now suffer so badly in terms of financial resources, that some of the reporters we spoke to – who work for big daily newspapers – haven’t been paid for several months.
-    The reporters also fear revenge when ever publishing investigative stories – e.g. this can lead to getting fired for the reporter or members of his family. This seems to be particularly difficult in the smaller cities where everybody knows everybody.
-    Media are no longer independent. Because of the political pressure they have to take side and actual self-censorship takes place everywhere.
-    Even though the law guaranties the freedom of the press, this is not precise or detailed enough and does not exclude all kinds of pressure on journalists and media.
-    The other international donors have moved on, so they fear being left on their own without any possibility of investigating the corruption and organized criminality still plaguing the country.

At the moment Scoop is supporting investigations on arbitrary layoffs in the public administration by the ruling party, drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime, corruption at the customs and corrupt public tendering practices.

Effetcs of Scoop’s support

-    A story Scoop supported on drug trafficking made it all the way to the national parliament where it was intensely debated. A Japanese TV station has made a documentary on this reporting.
-     Another story which showed that the ruling party in Albania uses to fire people in the public administration allegedly for political reasons, has also helped in building pressure on the issue.
-    One article on smuggling in the Kosovo-Albanian border resulted in lay-offs with the specific border police covering the area.

The national seminar tok place from February 28th – March 4th, 2011, and was carried out by coordinators Altin Raxhimi and Solveig Gram Jensen

About SCOOP Balkans

SCOOP was supporting and promoting investigative reporting in the Balkans from 2003 to 2012. For the moment the Danish Association for Investigative Journalism (FUJ) has no funding for SCOOP Classic, but is working to find new donors. .
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