Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Press freedom is constitutionally guaranteed in Albania, and the media scene appears vibrant, with 20 dailies, over 40 radio stations, and more than 60 television stations covering a market of 3 million. However, Albania's legal framework remains inadequate, and the judiciary is subject to government pressure. Libel is a criminal offense and carries prison sentences of up to two years. Prime Minister Fatos Nano personally takes newspapers to court. In May, a Tirana court ruled that Nikolle Lesi, chairman of the Christian Democratic Party and publisher of Koha Jone, one of the strongest opposition newspapers, was guilty of libel for implicating Nano in corrupt activities. The London-based media watchdog Article 19 criticized the ruling as politically motivated and in violation of the country's laws and maintained that it threatened press freedom. A month later, the same court convicted another publisher for allegedly defaming Nano.
The independent media are active and diverse but remain vulnerable to government and partisan pressure, and their frequent (and obvious) bias in favor of either the government or the opposition has affected their credibility. Journalists stay clear from sensitive topics, particularly those relating to Nano and the ruling Socialist Party. The state-owned public broadcaster, Albanian Radio and Television (RTSh), focuses its coverage mostly on the government. Physical attacks have decreased, but the government has found new, indirect ways of manipulating the media. The socialist government maintains control of RTSh by appointing members of the broadcast regulatory agency, the National Council on Radio and Television (NCRT). The NCRT chairman resigned in 2004 owing to pressure from broadcasters. In August, the biggest opposition party, the Democratic Party, banned TV station News24 from covering its activities. Several journalists were detained for secretly filming the prime minister. Even though the government does not restrict Internet access, usage is limited primarily to Tirana.
According to a September 2004 report issued by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the main challenge to the Albanian media sector is the growing relationship among politics, business, and media, which undermines press independence. Thanks to decreasing circulation, media have been forced into dependence on advertising purchased by state-owned or partially state-owned companies, which constitutes 60 percent of total advertising revenues. To ensure favorable coverage, the government awards procurement contracts and subsidizes media outlets by leasing state-owned facilities at low prices to media holdings that are less critical. The government's efforts to combat fiscal evasion turned into a means of political intimidation for those who criticize or oppose state policies when the prime minister singled out certain publishers and accused them of tax evasion.