Tirana's #PressFreedom event was a great success

A very interesting side event was put together in Albania by an online media, Exit.al in collaboration with the Albanian Media Council and the Albanian Helsinki Committee, supported by the Dutch Embassy. A virtual conference ‘Solutions and self-regulation amid a challenging media freedom environment in Albania’ brought together over 40 local journalists, civil society activists and media stakeholders. Thanks to their interactive participation a detailed, honest, and at times, raw, overview of what it’s like to work in a complex and challenging media environment was presented.

Tirana online event

The discussion opened with an address from Ambassador Guusje Korthals Altes who reiterated the Netherlands dedication to supporting and upholding media freedom and the freedom of expression, as a cornerstone of the Dutch human rights policy.

During the event, Exit.al journalist and Ethical Media Alliance board member Alice Taylor spoke about the challenges she faced while covering political news in Albania. This included a smear campaign against her, but undeterred, Alice detailed how she harnessed the fear and channeled it into speaking up on matters of media freedom and freedom of expression in the country.

When you become a journalist, you know what the risks are. You have to be prepared to work without fear, or favor and most of all, to speak the truth, even if your voice shakes,” she said.

She explained the challenges facing media workers, and the public, reminding the audience that there is still hope.

Tirana side event poster

Investigative journalist Rezearta Caushaj explained how Exit.al started as a passion project but evolved into one of the leading, critical, independent voices in the country. But this is not an easy position to hold. With pressure coming from every side, the risk of being blacklisted, struggles relating to funding and maintaining independence are around every corner. “Our biggest fear is that one day, we will have to give up Exit,” she explained.

The Executive Director of the Albanian Helsinki Committee, Erida Skendaj addressed one of the main issues facing journalists, the lack of labor laws and the fact that those that exist are not enforced. She explained how many work without contracts, with low salaries, are forced to work long hours and have no real form of recourse. Fear of losing their job or being blacklisted leads to journalists not speaking up, therefore allowing the cycle to continue. By tackling labor laws, demanding enforcement, and standing up for their rights, journalists can begin to enjoy a fairer working environment.

Koloreto Cukali, Executive Director of the Albanian Media Council noted that in order for things to change, we need to address the business model under which many media operate. Owners should be experienced and qualified in journalism, funding should come from legal sources, and journalists should be empowered to be ethical, professional, and supported. The formation of proper journalist unions and a focus on education and self-regulation models are other ways that a better media climate can be nurtured.

You can watch a clip of the conference on 9th of December on the conference platform!

Or, you can listen to a podcast of the event here.