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Albanian institutions enhance the obstruction of the right to information


8 years after the enactment of the “Right to Information” law, the situation regarding its implementation remains worsened.

A report by the Respublica center has analyzed the level of response by institutions to information requests. “There seems to be no positive trend, in fact, it is seen as the worst situation in the last four years,” the report states.

Authorities provide partial responses when it comes to public procurement, concession contracts, or other matters of public interest.

8 years after the enactment of the law, “public authorities have sophisticated methods of obstructing access to sensitive information,” according to the Respublica report.

During the year 2022, complaints addressed to the Office of the Commissioner for the Right to Information increased compared to previous years. In 2022, 1032 cases were registered, and although the number of complaints increased, the report does not reflect the same number of decisions made by the commissioner.

“Based on the data, it appears that in recent years, the number of decisions given by the Commissioner has been increasing since 2019 when the lowest number of decisions was recorded. It should be noted that this number is still very low compared to the number of submitted complaints,” the report states.

The figures of the complaints indicate an increase in citizens’ awareness to exercise their right to information, while on the other hand, there is a refusal by institutions to provide information.

Regarding the response of institutions to initial requests in 2022, before the intervention of the commissioner, it is presented as the worst in the last four years.

Complete responses were given in 54% of the cases, partial responses in 18% of the cases, and non-response in 28% of the cases.

The year 2022 marked a deterioration in the situation with the return of responses from institutions. The report states that there is a decrease in cases where a complete response is returned, while partial responses remain unchanged. On the other hand, there is an increase in non-responses compared to the previous year.

This report has also analyzed the response time. Authorities tend to spend 15 calendar days for responding. However, compared to previous years, there is an improvement in the situation.

“Although this indicator has improved, the average is still beyond the legal deadline, while public authorities do not lack infrastructure or knowledge of the law to respond more quickly. This indicator does not include the response time for those cases continued with an appeal to the Commissioner,” the report further states.

On September 19th, the Law Commission approved amendments to the “Right to Information” law without debate.

The “Right to Information” law is being amended for the first time since its adoption in 2014. The amendments have been met with criticism from media actors and civil society.

This proposal for amendments to the law was initially put up for consultation by the Ministry of Justice. The law envisages several fundamental changes such as reducing fines for public authorities, increasing salaries for information coordinators, and introducing the concept of abusive or repetitive requests. However, this proposal was later amended after criticism from the media and civil society to withdraw the provision for “abusive requests.”

The proposed amendments to the law by the Ministry of Justice were criticized by field experts who assessed that abusive requests and fines were not the main problem of the old law.

According to the new amendments to the law, the commissioner, after investigation, can impose fines on the head of the institution or the official who has hindered the provision of information.

Blerjana Bino from the “Safe Journalists” network states that when it comes to legal changes, it is necessary to monitor how they will be implemented in practice.

She emphasizes that there have been some improvements in these changes following suggestions from civil society.

Blerjana Bino, Representative of the Network of Safe Journalists:
“The provision for abusive requests has been removed after many efforts and reactions from civil society organizations and media protection.

Find the original article here/

Institucionet shqiptare sofistikojnë pengimin e së drejtës për informim


CJA: government proposes law with dangerous intentions


The Croatian Journalists’ Association (CJA) and the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (TUCJ) express their deep concern and dissatisfaction with the proposed introduction of a new criminal offense in the Criminal Code, which refers to the unauthorized disclosure of the content of an investigative or evidentiary action concerning a participant in the proceedings. We believe that such a proposal can be called a law with dangerous intentions because it represents a serious threat to the journalistic profession and free journalism.

Although the Ministry of Justice and Administration claim that the goal of the proposal is to protect the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy of the defendant and other participants in the proceedings, it is difficult to ignore that this change is happening at a very sensitive political moment, right before the 2024 super election. Such a context raises suspicions that the authorities are using the aforementioned legal solution to stop the unpleasant leakage of information that is of public interest.

Although journalists are expressly excluded as persons who could be held criminally liable by such a law, it is evident that it will be impossible or at least difficult for them to report in the media on criminal proceedings and the prosecution of politically exposed persons. By accepting this proposal of the Criminal Code, journalists would be put in a situation where they would be pressured to reveal their sources, and the question can rightly be asked whether all the communications of our colleagues will be checked in order to find out who broke the law. and disclosed information from the investigation.

We remind you once again that the initiative to introduce a new criminal offense came from the political elite at the beginning of this year, after the transcripts of the conversation in the case of Josipa Rimac, in which high-ranking officials of the ruling party were mentioned, were published. Then Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced that leaking information would become a criminal offense.

“Situations like this, where someone uncontrollably, deliberately, politically, selectively, and arranged things from the files go out to us, cause political problems and girls, that will not happen because it will be a criminal offense,” Plenković, the most powerful political figure in the country, said at the time.

Croatian citizens should be aware that the application of this law will seriously limit media coverage of important affairs and ultimately deprive them of information of public interest. Such a legal solution would represent a new exhaustion and intimidation of journalists and the media, i.e. – like SLAPP – another form of judicial abuse aimed at limiting the freedom of reporting and the right of the public to be informed about the actions of the authorities.

For the CJA Executive Board, Hrvoje Zovko, president of CJA

For TUCJ, Maja Sever, president of TUCJ

Luljeta Progni: Albanian media in its “darkest day”


A new study takes a look at the trajectory of Albanian media freedom, from its “glorious” days in the 1930s to its nonexistence during communism and the new means of control today.

If the 1930s marked the “most glorious period” in the history of Albanian journalism, almost a century later it faces its “darkest day,” argues Luljeta Progni.

A veteran journalist, Progni is the author of “Albanian Media: The Difficult Journey to Freedom,” a study on the history of journalism in Albania and the result of 18 months of archival research at the National Library.

Progni said that for a brief moment in the 1930s, there was a free exchange of ideas among intellectuals, magazines, and newspapers that ended with World War II and the arrival of communist rule in 1944.

Then, for more than four decades, “there was no dissent,” Progni said in an interview with BIRN, and journalists were imprisoned or executed, labeled as “enemies of the people.”

Today, instead of being free, journalism is suffocated by political and business interests, she said.

“The idea for this study was sparked by my readings out of curiosity about certain authors, journalists from the 1930s in Albania, because I believe it is one of the most glorious times in the history of Albanian media,” Progni said.

“This idea also arose… when I consolidated my opinion that media freedom in Albania is going deeper into its darkest days.”

During communism, there was no real dissent

Progni started to engage in journalism in 1993, not long after the fall of communism and at a time when critical media could finally exist.

But it is the 1930s that remain in Progni’s mind as the days of glory for Albanian journalism.

“The journalists at that time… were generally educated individuals who had established a certain economic existence, which they momentarily abandoned to write and create newspapers, magazines, and publications,” she said.

“The opposite is happening now,” Progni explained. “Today’s media owners are building their businesses in the name of media. And this really saddens me.”

During communism, there was no genuine journalism.

Several journalists were quickly imprisoned or executed after the war. “In the dictatorship, the mission of the journalist ended, and a very important path, like that of the journalists of the 1930s, was cut short,” Progni said.

“And for 46 years, many other journalists were condemned – those who managed to resist for a while, but not because of their dissent, because there was no dissent, but because the regime decided to classify them as ‘enemies of the people.'”

“I did not find any serious attempts to attack the communist regime. It was impossible.”

Journalism, in the traditional sense of the word, did not exist.

“There was no journalistic research, because every article, every word and letter went through all party structures, through all the filters of the dictatorship, and of course through the State Security,” Progni said. “They manipulated people’s minds simply with the achievements of the party during the dictatorship.”

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Edi Rama, in power since 2013, there has been little real improvement in media freedom in Albania. Last year, the country ranked 103rd in the annual Reporters Without Borders ranking, placing Albania at 96th. Reporters Without Borders said that editorial independence “is threatened by partisan regulation” in the country.

“Journalists are victims of organized crime and sometimes police violence, encouraged by the government’s failure to protect them,” RSF wrote.

Journalists critical of the government often face politically motivated attacks aimed at discrediting them, and they often have difficulties accessing information from the state, RSF said.

Progni described the situation as dramatic.

Find the original article here

EU Delegation announces winners of Investigative Journalism Award 2023


The Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Albania announced on Thursday the winners of the EU Investigative Journalism Award 2023. They are News24 TV’s Osman Stafa, BIRN Albania’s Aurora Velaj, Top Channel TV’s Anila Hoxha, and independent journalist Artan Rama. “Congratulations to Aurora Velaj, Osman Stafa, Anila Hoxha, and Artan Rama for being awarded with the EU Investigative Journalism Award 2023!

Recognizing the work of investigative journalists and supporting them is an important aspect of the EU’s support of the media sector in Albania. In these difficult times of growing disinformation, we need now more than ever the diligent professional work of journalists,” the EU Delegation wrote on its official social media channels in regard to the investigative journalism awards.

BRAF 10th annual meeting talks disinformation on digital media and public education

photo: canva

The challenges of media licensing in the digital age, disinformation, and media education of the public in the form of critical skills to understand and engage responsibly in the media, were some of the topics addressed at the annual forum of regulatory bodies of countries of the Black Sea, BRAF. At the conference held in Antalya, Turkey, the head of the Albanian Audio-visual Media Authority (AMA), Armela Krasniqi, led the panel on Disinformation and digital media education, organized by the Supreme Council of Turkish Radio-Television (RTÜK), with the participation of leaders of the regulatory bodies of Greece, Turkey, and Serbia.

In addition to the presentation on AMA’s role as a regulatory body in the Albanian audio and audio-visual media market and the challenges this market faces, Krasniqi also briefed the attendees on the amendments made in May 2023, the law on audio-visual media in the Republic of Albania. Krasniqi emphasized that the amendments made in accordance with the 2018 EU Directive, further strengthened the competencies of the AMA, increasing its role in encouraging actors and broadcasters operating in the Albanian market, for media education of the public.

Moreover, Krasniqi stressed the importance of educating the public using online media in order to be able to distinguish and select the correct information from the false one and be equipped with the proper analytical and critical skills. For this purpose, during the last two years, AMA has organized a series of activities with actors operating in the market and certain target groups of the population, Krasniqi added.

Speaking about the challenges of licensing in the digital age Krasniqi underlined the necessity to draft and implement guidelines and regulations that adapt and monitor the new media environment and the online communication system without affecting the freedom of expression. The process requires strategic planning, setting priorities for compliance and implementation policies, but also staff training for the implementation of new regulations Krasniqi said.

OSCE in Albania – Media Development Forum, entitled `Roadmap for Media Freedom`

Today, OSCE in Albania brought together media representatives, public institutions, and civil society for the much-anticipated 9th annual Media Development Forum, entitled “Roadmap for Media Freedom: Forging a path for greater journalist protections, independence, and Media Integrity.”
This year’s Forum delved into pivotal topics, including media policy and the legislative framework governing public institutions supporting media operations, journalist safety, and the transformative effects of artificial intelligence on Albania’s media landscape. An essential focus was posed on Albania meeting European Union standards pertaining to media and freedom of expression.
During his opening remarks, Ambassador Bruce Berton, Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, underscored Presence’s unwavering commitment to the noble cause of press freedom and media liberty within the country. “It is crucial that the media are provided the tools and institutional policies to help them navigate the rapidly changing information ecosystem in a responsible and ethical manner. In keeping with OSCE principles that the government has committed to, as one of our 57 participating states, the Albanian public institutions must allow the media the space to operate in an unobstructed way. Thus, we encourage authorities to be mindful of balance and carefully weigh in the dissemination of information that is important for the public to know. Facts must always be allowed to come to light, even they if call for accountability or call out abuses or corruption,” Ambassador Berton said.
Joining this esteemed gathering, Teresa Ribeiro, OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media, Ambassador Luigi Soreca, Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Albania, and Giulia Re, Head of the Council of Europe (CoE) Office in Tirana, highlighted their support to press freedom and media community in the country, as well as the significance of the Forum’s discussions in this regard.
Engaging discussions during the Forum revolved around the critical importance of transparency, access to information, and the verification of facts as potent tools in the fight against corruption and in the advancement of professional journalism.
During the conference, our researcher Dr. Blerjana Bino highlighted the key recommendations from the Safety of Journalists’ Index:
– Zero tolerance 4 attacks on journalists
– Specific protection mechanisms for journalists & media workers under threat
– Efficient investigations & protocols, including for cyberattacks.
Dr. Bino added that the Government must show genuine political will for an inclusive, transparent & accountable structured dialogue to improve media freedom. As Albania seeks #EU accession, it’s crucial for all stakeholders to step up their efforts for journalists’ safety and media freedom.

Dangerous and unacceptable language against Kosovo Media by Deputy Prime Minister Bislimi


Besnik Bislimi, the Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister in charge of negotiations with Serbia, has once again attacked Kosovo’s media, claiming rapidly that they are “financed by Serbia.”

Asked about the harms he had previously stated in an interview with the Serbian newspaper “Danas” during a press conference with Prime Minister Kurti, Bislmi made unacceptable accusations.

During the conference, Bislimi stated that “the word ‘concession’ has been intentionally used by Kosovo media that is funded by Serbia to give it a negative connotation.”

The AJK strongly condemns this unacceptable language coming from the second-highest-ranking government official and emphasizes that when such language comes from the highest levels of authority, it significantly jeopardizes the physical and psychological safety of Kosovo’s journalists.

The Kurti government must stop attacking the Kosovo media and provide them the freedom to carry out their important duties, which include holding people in position of authority accountable.

Journalist Ulpiana Emra attacked during super cup final between Trepça and Peja


Association of Journalists of Kosovo is deeply concerned about the news of an attack on journalist Ulpiana Emra from ArtMotion during the Super Cup final basketball match between Trepça and Peja.

Emra was attacked by fans while reporting on the final of the basketball Super Cup between Trepca and Peja.

It has been reported that the journalist was assaulted by fans in the stands, who threw bottles at her, resulting in injuries to her body.

The AJK firmly condemns this assault on our colleague Emra and calls on the Kosovo Police to immediately find the perpetrator(s) of the crime, bring them to justice, and hold them accountable for their acts.

IPI website under powerful DDoS attack


Dear IPI members, friends, and supporters,

You may have noticed that IPI’s website has been largely inaccessible over the past few days.

This is because IPI has been battling a major distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack since September 6. This is the most significant attack on IPI’s online infrastructure in our organization’s history.

A DDoS attack is an attempt to flood a website with hundreds of thousands of false “visits” to overload and collapse the server that is hosting the page.

This attack began days after IPI published a report about an unprecedented wave of DDoS attacks against more than 40 independent news outlets in Hungary over the last five months.

The first attack against IPI recorded in our logs took place just two days after the publication of the report, on September 1. Since then, overload attempts have increased in magnitude as countermeasures were put in place to mitigate the attacks.

The current wave of DDoS attacks against IPI’s servers appears to be highly coordinated and targeted. We do not know the source of these attacks but we are currently investigating.

Our IT team is currently working to mitigate the attack and keep our website online.

We will continue to keep our community updated on these attacks and the measures we’re taking to restore our site.

DDoS attacks are increasingly being employed as a weapon against the free press. Rest assured that this effort to disrupt our work only strengthens our resolve to fight for press freedom and independent journalism wherever they are threatened.

Thank you for your support of IPI’s important work.