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)
The legal system protects freedom of the press, and it is generally respected by the authorities. Press freedom advocates in 2006 continued to urge the government to decriminalize defamation, which could incur a maximum sentence of two years in prison under existing statutes. Although the Parliament failed to act on draft amendments introduced in 2005, Prime Minister Sali Berisha in October of that year ordered government officials to use the right of reply rather than civil or criminal defamation suits to address perceived bias or inaccuracy in the media. No major libel cases were reported in 2006. The prospects for legal reform improved in June, when Albania signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). The pact, which capped more than two years of negotiations, was considered a key milestone on the path to EU membership, and EU officials said media freedom would be among their priorities as they pressed Albania to make additional structural improvements. The country’s Parliament-appointed broadcast regulator, the National Council of Radio and Television, continued to face accusations of political influence and incompetence. However, Berisha and Tirana mayor Edi Rama, leader of the opposition Socialist Party, agreed in August to add two opposition appointees to the council’s membership. The plan came as part of a deal allowing municipal elections to proceed in early 2007.
Independent media continued to be active and were generally able to criticize the government. Coverage by state-owned broadcasters had favored the incumbents in the run-up to July 2005 elections, and at least four cases of violence against journalists were reported that year, but the country largely avoided a repeat of such problems in 2006. The media played a prominent role in at least two new incidents that proved embarrassing to the government. In March, the Tirana-based television station Alsat broadcast a gaffe in which Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj predicted further regional border changes if Kosovo were partitioned between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. In September, an investigative television show aired recorded conversations in which a government official appeared to pressure two nephews of President Alfred Moisiu to convince their uncle to fire the attorney general, whom Berisha has accused of corruption in a politically charged standoff.
Albania has 66 private television stations, at least 45 private radio stations, and roughly 200 print publications in circulation. Many independent media outlets are hampered by a lack of revenue. Publishers and media owners tend to dictate editorial policy based on political and economic affiliations, which together with the employment insecurity journalists face nurtures a culture of self-censorship. The internet is a relatively unimportant source of information, since access is limited by a weak telecommunications infrastructure outside major urban areas. Despite the absence of government restrictions, barely 6 percent of the population is able to use the internet on a regular basis.