Media Landscape Brief - May 2024

Media Landscape Brief – May 2024

Media Landscape Brief - May 2024

As part of its work portfolio in promoting media freedom and journalists’ safety in Albania, SCiDEV is launching its monthly Media Landscape Brief, prepared in cooperation with the Safe Journalists Network and local stakeholders. This monthly brief provides an overview of the current multifaceted developments in the Albanian media landscape.

Draft Resolution for the Protection of Women Journalists

On May 23, 2024, women MPs from the Democratic Party (PD) “Rithemelimi” submitted a draft resolution to the Albanian Parliament to enhance protections for women journalists. The resolution, endorsed by 12 MPs, highlighted the escalating hostility towards journalists fuelled by hostile rhetoric from political figures. The draft resolution called for a parliamentary debate on Prime Minister Edi Rama’s unacceptable behavior towards women journalists. It emphasized the essential role of journalists in uncovering the truth and serving the public interest.

However, during the plenary session on May 30, 2024, the Speaker refused the motion with debate, citing non-compliance with parliamentary regulations. Given the current climate regarding journalist safety in Albania, particularly for women, and the prevailing anti-media sentiment, refusing to debate this draft resolution represents a missed opportunity.

We urge the Parliament to prioritize the safety and protection of journalists by engaging in a meaningful dialogue with relevant stakeholders and taking concrete steps to address the concerns raised by the media community and civil society organizations and in line with the recommendations of the European Union and the Council of Europe Campaign for the Safety of Journalists.

Incidents Hindering Journalists’ Access to Parliament

In the past month, the Safe Journalists Network recorded two alerts concerning journalists’ access to Parliament. On May 17, 2024, media crews were barred from filming a hearing involving 28 journalists and operators recently dismissed from Albanian Public Television (RTSH). On May 30, 2024, during a plenary session, a guard attempted to remove journalists from their designated gallery. This intervention led to a confrontation, with journalists asserting their right to report on parliamentary proceedings.

These incidents echo concerns from November 2023, when the Safe Journalists Network sent an open letter to the Speaker, highlighting a pattern of obstruction and restrictive directives hindering journalists’ ability to report freely. Despite a meeting on November 15, 2023, with the Secretary General of the Parliament and political reporters, proposing improvements such as curbing obstructive behavior by the Republican Guard and increasing transparency, most measures, except for improving camera quality, remain unimplemented. Political reporters in Albania continue to voice these concerns.

SCiDEV recommends that the Albanian Parliament reevaluate the Regulation on Media Accreditation through a transparent consultation process, incorporating suggestions from organizations protecting freedom of expression and the media. This includes ensuring journalists’ physical access to plenary sessions and committee meetings and open access to information and documentation. Furthermore, Parliament must strengthen its oversight role to hold the government accountable, enhance independent institutions, and improve relations with civil society and media access.

The Arrest of Web Journalist Ervis Hasanaga

Regarding the arrest of web journalist Ervis Hasanaga, SCiDEV aligns with the Safe Journalists Network’s declaration on May 30 and is monitoring the situation closely. We urge authorities to ensure transparency and due process throughout the investigation and any subsequent legal proceedings.

While we recognize the importance of holding journalists accountable for their actions, we emphasize that measures such as arrests should be proportionate and well-justified, particularly when it comes to media professionals. Otherwise, they risk setting a dangerous precedent.

We stress that freedom of expression must be balanced with the adherence to ethical codes, integrity, and responsibility in reporting. Journalists must report accurately, fairly, and in the public interest. The use of web portals or any other media platform to blackmail, extort, or engage in other illegal activities cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.

If there are allegations of wrongdoing or law-breaking by a journalist, the relevant authorities must investigate them properly and thoroughly. The evidence must be clear and compelling, and the legal process must be transparent and fair. Arresting a journalist should be a measure of last resort, employed only when there is a serious breach of the law and when other means of ensuring accountability have been exhausted. Safe Journalists Network has expressed reservations about the decision to classify the publication of unverified news as computer fraud.  Their updated statementalso provides recommendations, voiced also by SCiDEV and other local media freedom organisations.

SCiDEV, together with Safe Journalists Network, will continue to monitor the case of Ervis Hasanaga closely and advocate for a fair and just resolution. While we call upon the authorities to ensure transparency and due process, we also urge all journalists to uphold the highest standards of ethics, integrity, and responsibility in their reporting and use their platforms for the public good.