The SafeJournalists Network has taken note of the Albanian Government’s initiation of the consultation process for the Roadmap to the Rule of Law – Chapter 23 “Judiciary and Fundamental Rights.” This significant political and strategic document outlines the key measures anticipated to be undertaken in response to the European Commission’s screening report on Albania, specifically addressing Chapter 23 which focuses on “Judiciary and Fundamental Rights.” We observe with interest the roadmap’s specific focus on media freedom and the safety of journalists, as highlighted in section III.G on “Freedom of Expression, Media Freedom, and Pluralism.”
We commend the inclusion of the pivotal objective: “Albania must take measures to protect the safety of journalists and media workers from intimidation and threats.” This acknowledgment is a positive step toward fortifying the media landscape in Albania. Furthermore, we appreciate the roadmap’s alignment with several recommendations presented in our annual reports (Indicators on the Level of Media Freedom and Safety of Journalists and the Journalists’ Safety Index), including:
- The State Police designates contact points within its structure responsible for handling attacks on journalists by 2024 and provides public information on such cases from 2024 onwards.
- The General Prosecutor’s Office publishes case-by-case the results of investigations into the cases of journalists from 2024 onwards.
- The High Judicial Council (HCJ) collects and generates data on cases involving journalists from 2023 onwards.
Building on extensive research and advocacy work, SafeJoutnalists Network further recommends:
- A clear expression of the intent to fully decriminalize defamation, a revision of the associated fines in accordance with EU standards, and consideration of the chilling effect that exorbitant fines and legal hurdles can have on investigative and critical journalism.
- A revision of the Penal Code to enforce stricter penalties for attacks on journalists or media workers in the line of duty.
- A proactive and transparent approach by the State Police in publishing cases of attacks against journalists or media workers and establishing specialized protocols for addressing such attacks, including cyber-attacks.
- The collection and publication of data on investigations into cases pertaining to safety of journalists by the General Prosecutor’s Office, to be included in their annual report.
- The design and implementation of a risk-based inspection methodology for journalists’ labor rights by the State Labor Inspectorate, adhering to EU and Council of Europe standards, and following consultation with the sector. This should also apply to the General Directorate of Taxes.
Concerning the proposed amendments to the Law on Audio Visual Media, we urge for clarity and specificity, particularly regarding the issues of media concentration, the powers of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), and the transparency of online portal ownership and funding.
We call for a comprehensive consultation process with civil society, media protection organizations, and the involvement of EU/Council of Europe experts for any legal changes. Additionally, we propose a structured dialogue with relevant stakeholders, an enhanced role of the Parliament in monitoring the roadmap’s implementation, and a careful evaluation of the Media and Information Agency’s role in public information dissemination.
The SafeJournalists Network remains dedicated to the safety of journalists and media freedom in Albania.
Pristina – Skopje – Sarajevo – Zagreb – Belgrade – Podgorica – Tirana, November 3, 2023
Association of Journalists of Kosovo
Association of Journalists of Macedonia
BH Journalists Association
Croatian Journalists’ Association
Independent Journalists Association of Serbia
Trade Union of Media of Montenegro