Albania: Propaganda suffocates the news, just weeks before the general election

by Leon Menkshi

Albania ranks 76th in the Media Freedom Index 2017, published by Reporters Without Borders, while the Freedom House in its annual report designates the Albanian media as "partially free". Fake news and propaganda have always been present in the Albanian media landscape, and by being re-invented and justified in the ‘spirit’ of new media and reporting freedom, they are sadly growing and suffocating the real news.


Although Article 84* of the Albanian Electoral Code strictly forbids propaganda, as in comments or other political stances within news bulletins in the audio-visual media, a lot of Albanian radio and television outlets are using the electoral campaign month (ahead of Albania’s General Elections of June 25, 2017) to sell their broadcast-time to any political party or subject willing to pay. Thus broadcast time is used for purely propagandistic purposes, with hardly any journalistic stance to filter, question or test the political content for the sake of the public interest. This practice constitutes a flagrant violation of the basic journalism principles, as well as a pure offence against public information rights.

According to BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network), several audiovisual operators (radio and television) with a countrywide signal coverage announced publically through the Central Election Commission (CEC) the sale of their prime time broadcast to political parties and candidates during the previous parliamentary elections of 2013. To the CEC such a practice seem to be a normal thing, as far as CEC’s Media Monitoring Board exercises control over the measurement of the time allocated to the contestants in the electoral campaign; that means it entitles the contestants (political subjects or candidates) to own those allocated broadcasting times and use them however they wish.


*) In case of violations, the Central Election Commission would fine a local Radio/TV up to one million Albanian Lek (aprox.7400 Euro) and a national Radio/TV up to two and a half million Albanian Lek (aprox. 18500 Euro). In case of repeated violations, the CEC orders AMA (Audiovisual Media Authority) to block such operator's broadcasts for 48 hours.

Unfortunately, this defamatory practice constitutes only the tip of the iceberg floating on the waters of the relationship between media and politics in Albania. This is yet another sign of the fake news gaining momentum and jeopardising the right of the Albanian public to be properly informed. Sadly, instead of proper news analysis, media channels are abolishing journalistic standards for their pure financial gain, by allowing in political propaganda to brainwash the public during electoral campaigns.

The public interest remains a fake background and an alibi during electoral campaigns in Albania, while the primary interest for winning the vote is the personal gain of the political class and the oligarchs they serve. Following the unmet promises of the 2013 general elections, the main political parties in Albania have once again make the same sort of promises to the voters they could not keep four years ago. They are recycling their lies once more for the forthcoming elections, reflecting the crisis of genuine ideas within Albanian politics. It seems as the vote of the Albanian people will once more be exchanged for jobs promised to the militants of the political parties, and for tenders and other financial benefits related to the interests of oligarchs who control the private media landscape in Albania.

This ugly story repeats itself once again in 2017, while Albanians feel utterly disappointed by their political class, which is to blame for the poor economy, high rate of unemployment, a corrupt administration and justice system, and mostly for crushing the hopes of the bright Albanian intellectuals, who are still seeking ways to leave the country in pursuing their dreams abroad, as they cannot see themselves being a part of Albania’s current political swamp.

Leon Menkshi is a current Journalist in Residence in the ECPMF programme. He is a freelance journalist from Albania, with contributions to several media organizations in Albania and abroad. He will also be a speaker at ECPMF’s Truth conference on 13th of June in Leipzig, where he will talk about the fake news reality in an EU candidate country.