Albania | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Albania

Albania

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

50

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

16

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

18

The media environment in Albania remained stable during 2007, though political polarization and economic pressure on private outlets continued to limit media independence. The constitution guarantees freedom of the press, and the government generally respects it in practice. Despite pressure by press freedom groups for parliament to approve draft legislation that would decriminalize defamation, at year's end, it remained a criminal offense with a maximum sentence of two years. Nevertheless, no such cases were reported in 2007, and Prime Minister Sali Berisha's government appeared to adhere to a 2005 commitment to use the right of reply rather than defamation suits to address perceived bias or inaccuracy in the media. Freedom of information is guaranteed in the constitution, but officials often resist media requests and journalists complain of limited access to government ministries. The country's parliament-appointed broadcast regulator, the National Council for Radio and Television, continued to face accusations of political bias in favor of the government, and its staff levels and funding remained inadequate. However, appointees nominated by the parliamentary opposition were added to the council as provided for in a 2006 agreement. In May 2007, the parliament passed a Digital Broadcasting Law to regulate terrestrial and satellite broadcasts. The law was widely seen as damaging the interests of Top Media, a company whose popular stations were consistently critical of Berisha, and whose number would be significantly reduced under the new legislation.

The media continued to reflect a diversity of viewpoints in 2007, but key outlets tended to support one political faction or another. Journalists practiced self-censorship to support the political or economic interests of their employers. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported that broadcast media curbed their usual bias to provide balanced coverage ahead of local elections in February, although smaller parties did not receive their fair share of airtime and reporting focused on personalities rather than on policy issues. In addition, rules on allocation of advertisement sales and media silence immediately before voting were not respected. The Berisha government put selective pressure on opposition-oriented media throughout the year, accusing unidentified outlets of receiving funding from organized crime groups. In July 2007, authorities sought to impose a 12 million euro ($16.6 million) fine on Top Media for unpaid taxes, prompting objections and demonstrations by civil rights and press freedom groups. While violence against journalists has declined in recent years, in April 2007, an explosion damaged the car of Erion Brace, a parliament member and editor of the opposition newspaper Zeri i Popullit.

Albania has a diverse, although politically polarized, media landscape. In addition to public television and radio broadcasters, there are dozens of private television stations, radio stations, and print publications, including at least 30 daily newspapers. A lack of transparency of ownership and funding leaves the media open to unsubstantiated accusations of criminal influence or ulterior motives. Public broadcasters are typically biased in favor of the authorities and suffer personnel changes under each new government. Print outlets often have explicit ties to political parties or other interest groups, and virtually none are able to survive on advertising and subscription revenue alone. Larger private television stations are more profitable, but they are subject to pressure from major advertisers. The radio market is dominated by music and entertainment, with only 4 of about 40 stations producing original news content. Most journalists in Albania work without contracts, adding to job insecurity and encouraging self-censorship. All media have difficulty reaching rural areas owing to poor infrastructure and economic considerations. This particularly affects the internet, which is accessed by roughly 13 percent of the population and is without restrictions.