Albania has not joined 32 other countries in signing a British-Canadian led coalition to protect journalists and media freedom.
Following the Global Conference for Media Freedom, which was held in London in July, a Media Freedom Coalition was launched with a total of 32 governments signing up to be members. In addition to this, they each signed a Global Pledge on Media Freedom, promising to “take action to improve media freedom and the safety of journalists at home and abroad”.
Countries that have so far signed the pledge include the UK, Germany, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Greece, and the USA. Despite sending a government delegation to the event, Albania is the only country in the region that has failed to sign up.
Flutura Kusari, legal counsel at the European Centre For Press and Media Freedom highlighted their failure on Twitter.
At the Global Conference for Media Freedom, representatives of 32 governments around the world signed a pledge to work together to protect media freedom. #Albania, #Malta and #Slovakia have not signed it. #media https://t.co/u8GS6JdYbQ
— Flutura Kusari (@fluturakusari) October 22, 2019
Other countries that did not sign the pledge include Slovakia and Malta- both of which have had investigative journalists murdered in the last two years. To date, no one has been sentenced for either carrying out the attacks or masterminding them. Both journalists were investigating government-linked corruption at the time of their murders.
The commitments that the Albanian government has failed to make include making the case for the fundamental importance of media freedom, taking action on cases where journalists and media freedom organisations are at risk, working towards accountability for violations and abuses of media freedom, intervening with the governments of countries where media freedom is at risk, and addressing violations and abuses of international human rights including rights related to media freedom.
They also did not pledge to bring together media organizations, civil society, journalists, and lawyers to establish government structures to protect journalists from impunity, nor did they commit to supporting the development of diverse, independent and public interests.
According to the British Government, 2018 was one of the deadliest years for media freedom with at least 99 journalists and media workers killed, 350 detained, and 60 held hostage worldwide. Yet despite the risk of death and the threat of assault, judicial harassment, restrictive laws, and other forms of intimidation, journalists continue in the face of adversity.
Members of the Coalition have agreed to “work to ensure that those who violate or abuse the human rights that underpin media freedom – be they governments or private entities – are held to account.”
Albania’s media freedom has been under attacking increasingly over the last few years, slipping seven places in just one year in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. It now ranks among the lowest in Europe and was beaten globally by East Timor, Tunisia, Mongolia, and Croatia.
Over the last two years, journalists have had machine guns fired at their homes, been threatened with firearms, been gassed in the streets, received death threats on live television, had their residence permits revoked, been targeted in smear campaigns, and been sued by the Prime Minister – just for conducting their profession. In addition to this, two TV shows were cancelled and their journalists fired due to alleged government interference after they were critical of the Prime Minister.
The ruling Socialist Party is also trying to push through a widely criticised media law that would bring every online news portal in Albania and even outside of Albania, under the power of the government.
Exit asked Endri Fuga, the Prime Minister’s Communications Director and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs why Albania did not sign and whether they intend to in the future. The questions remain unanswered at the time of writing.