Roundtable discussion on “Strengthening Journalistic Safety through Engaged Stakeholder Collaboration"

Roundtable discussion on “Strengthening Journalistic Safety through Engaged Stakeholder Collaboration”

Roundtable discussion on “Strengthening Journalistic Safety through Engaged Stakeholder Collaboration"

To mark the International Press Freedom Day 2024, SCiDEV hosted the roundtable discussion on “Strengthening Journalistic Safety through Engaged Stakeholder Collaboration” on 17th May 2024 in the framework of the project “Strengthening Journalistic Safety through Engaged Stakeholder Collaboration and Journalists’ Capacity Development” implemented by SCiDEV in collaboration with Citizens Channel and Free Press Unlimited, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Albania.

While physical assaults on journalists in Albania might not be widespread, ongoing systemic pressures, intimidation, and threats—both online and offline—are obstructing journalists’ efforts to serve the public interest. To tackle these issues and explore potential solutions, SCiDEV brought together approximately 50 representatives from Parliament, government, law enforcement agencies, independent institutions, media, civil society organizations, and international partners. This roundtable discussion built upon the advocacy and research work of SCiDEV regarding media freedom and the safety of journalists in Albania and previous panel discussions with journalists.

In her opening remarks, Ms Kusari, raised concerns on the latest negative trends dominating the decrease of media freedom globally and in Europe. She mentioned that the 2023 report from Reporters without Borders particularly mentions the lack of progress in Albania toward strengthening media freedom, while public authorities and governmental representatives often undermine and threaten the safety of journalists in the country.

The discussions were first addressed by the Executive Director of SCiDEV and Researcher for the Safe Journalists Network Albania, Ms Blerjana Bino who highlighted the need for transparent and inclusive structured dialogue for media freedom.

Executive Director of Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – BIRN Albania, Ms Kristina Voko, raised concerns about the recent establishment of a parliamentary commission on disinformation and its repercussions on the wider ecosystem.

Emphasizing the Press Freedom Day, Mr Lorin Kadiu, Executive Director of Citizens Albania, argued that the interlinked politics and media in the country have been bringing pressure and continuous threats to media freedom.

The National Council for EU Integration Chairwoman, Ms Jorida Tabaku opened the high-level panel discussion. Ms Tabaku, noted the worrying figures of media freedom decline in Albania, as the RSF report of 2023 indicated, and urged changes to the penal code to be revised to protect the safety of journalists and prevent threats and intimidation posed to them.

Speaking of collaboration among the prosecutor’s office with the state police and other relevant actors involved in the process of the protection and safety of journalists, the Prosecutor General, Mr Olsian Çela, renewed his commitment to the safety of journalists, noting that media freedom is directly linked to stronger democratic countries. “We will ensure a proactive engagement and commitment from our side,” concluded Mr Çela.

Further on, Ms Etilda Gjonaj, Member of the Albanian Parliament and Vice-Chair of the European Affairs Committee emphasized the need for more work to be done regarding cyber violence and cyberbullying against women journalists.

Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, Ms Romina Kuko, underlined that journalists’ safety is crucial. She explained that since February 2024, there is a new contact point at the Ministry of Interior Affairs where journalists can directly report on their cases.

Highlighting that media freedom is vital for democratic development and EU Integration, H.E Reinout Vos, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Albania noted that political will and the wider society’s culture are two important factors that need to be considered when addressing mechanisms for strengthening media freedom in the country.

During the intervention session, Mr Tedi Dobi, Deputy Minister of Justice, stressed that the approximation of legislation with the EU provides opportunities to improve further the legal framework on media freedom and the safety of journalists.

Mr Jean-Baptiste Le Bras, Deputy Head of the Political Section of the EU Delegation to Albania, brought to attention the legal changes implemented at the EU level and their components which relate to media freedom, adding that the screening process will continue to provide reports and recommendations for the country.

Member of the Parliament, Ms Dhurata Çupi emphasized the need to improve the access of journalists in the Parliament and strengthen the role of the National Council of European Integration in holding the government accountable regarding media reform in line with the EU accession process.

To bring to attention best practices and address the practices and lessons learned in Western Balkans and EU, Ms Albana Shala, Senior Programme Coordinator at Free Press Unlimited Netherlands, raised attention to the need for stronger collective action from the media community and collaboration between the police, prosecution, and judiciary to protect journalists.

During the discussions, journalists raised concerns about access to information, labor rights, working conditions, and due process in cases of attacks. They also exchanged information on their challenges with national representatives in the panel. They shared their experiences of threats, intimidation, and disrespect for their journalistic integrity. Journalists added that captured media and disengaged political leaders challenge them in their daily job of seeking the truth and exposing it to the broader public.

In her concluding remarks, Ms Kusari urged the institutions to create an action plan for the safety of journalists and join the Council of Europe Campaign for the Safety of Journalists. She invited representatives of the government of Albania and of the civil society to implement EU recommendations and learn from best practices to meet the standards of a democratic society where media freedom thrives and where journalists can execute their work freely and with integrity.

To access the full event held on 17 May 2024, please visit the recording on this link.

To read the full summary of the roundtable, click here.

The next planned stakeholders gathering and discussion for 2024 will take place in November 2024 to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, where we hope stakeholders will take stock of the measures and progress and discuss challenges and next steps to improve the safety of journalists.

To learn more about the activities implemented within this project until now, alongside SCiDEV’s engagement and advocacy work to support improving media freedom and safety of journalists in Albania, as well as the project plans ahead, please read the project brief here.