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19.03.2018

Albanian media and investigative journalism

By Mercan Daci

Different reports have considered Albania's media as being free from censorship but not free from the influences of the government, politics and economic interests of media owners.

Albanian media and attempts at investigative journalism Screenshot of BIRN animation: Self-censorship in Albania

It is obvious that journalists in Albania work under difficult circumstances. Fear of losing their job forces them not to raise their voices. Albanian media are quite politicised and often influenced by business and political interests. 

The Albanian journalism market is unstable and journalists often work without contracts. Ninety percent do not have contracts, according to a 2014 study conducted by the European Parliament on media in the Western Balkans. The same study notes that up to seventy percent have worked unpaid or faced delayed salary payments. Links between politics, business and media undermine the quality of reporting in the Albanian media and generate both censorship and self-censorship among journalists.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network's YouTube animation (pictured above) shows how self-censorship in Albania operates in practice.

My view is that many business owners in Albania have become very important media owners and their media outlets are kept alive by their other businesses, while they maintain close relationships with politicians and other high officials in the country.

According to a 2015 report by the Balkan Investigative Journalism Network (BIRN) Albania, media professionals in Albania act under the strong  influence of factors such as pressure from public institutions, pressure through state-sponsored advertising, pressure from big advertisers and also pressure from owners’ economic interests and owners political links.

As a result of all these pressures, self-censorship is a widespread phenomenon in the Albanian media.

Investigative journalism is quite rare. A couple of TV networks try to make in-depth reports but it seems to me that most of their “investigations” end up blaming only certain people (they make it quite personal) and not the system.

Lab for training investigative reporters

For a year I was part of PSE (Investigative Lab funded by the American embassy in Tirana) where thirteen young journalism students were trained to bring out in-depth stories with a great impact in the public. That was something new in the panorama of the Albanian media. We were not influenced by advertisements, politics or anything else.

In six months, PSE investigated fuel quality, archaeology, the education system, mining, factories, and different topics on environment. It turned out that we were invited to appear on TVand our reports were re-published in other online media outlets in- and outside Albania.

Our newsroom was really satisfied with the impact we made with our investigations. We realised that the Albanian audience was really interested in in-depth stories since we saw how many people shared our investigations and observations on social media.

It was also interesting that even the traditional media were interested in our work too, even knowing that they are strongly influenced by politics. 

This article is produced in co-operation with the EIJC investigative journalism network. The views expressed are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the ECPMF.

 

You are an investigative journalist working on a pan-European story? Apply now for ECPMF's Investigative Journalism for the EU grant!





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