Restoring trust in journalism in Albania
According to journalists themselves, trust in the media is low in Albania. ‘Journalists are rarely asked to double and triple check facts and there is almost no attention to the feeling of those damaged. (...) Conflicts with the public (…) are rarely solved institutionally or conform to the code of ethics… The losing of the public has forced the media into becoming dependent on the powerful or rich, who in turn buy “the truth”.’ At the same time, there is widespread distrust of further legislation, which is felt to be ‘repressive enough towards the journalists who are often sent to court and even fined for doing their job’.
These quotes are from the Albanian Media Council website, an independent organization of journalists created to promote the self-regulation within the profession, to restore trust and to maintain the credibility of the media with the Albanian audience.
The signing of a partnership with UNESCO in summer 2017, and the support provided through the EU-funded project ‘Building Trust in Media in Southeast Europe and Turkey’, enabled the Albanian Media Council to set up an office (in September 2017) and a website, to start operating and take part in various training and international events.
UNESCO and the Albanian Media Council, with support from the European Union, have begun working to ensure transparency and accountability in news coverage in the country.
The website includes a code of ethics, a compendium of decisions and a complaint form. Violations of the code that may be punished include invasion of privacy, inaccuracies, hate speech, children’s rights violations, unnecessary exposure to destabilizing images, propaganda, personal data breaches, and discrimination against vulnerable groups.
This was a great success: The Albanian Media Council attracts more and more members and judges to handle more and more complaints.
The evaluation of the project showed that UNESCO's strategy to build trust in the region's media by focusing on strengthening media professionalism, good governance and critical thinking among media users has proven to be relevant and timely.
Press councils have been established in all countries of the region and have become more visible and effective, as measured by the increasing number of complaints they receive and the growing number of media that adhere to their system.
In 2019, determined to go even further, UNESCO and the European Commission renewed their partnership by implementing Phase 2 of the project in Albania but also in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, and Kosovo.
By contributing 2 million euros over three years, the European Commission wishes to focus on improving young people's critical thinking skills, fighting disinformation, and strengthening the responsibility of the media towards their users.
To consider young people’s point of view – frequently missing from the reports – UNESCO had the idea of proposing to some 30 young journalists between the ages of 22 and 30 from all over the region to cover activities and programs to promote freedom of expression implemented by UNESCO or the EU.
Melike Pala, a young Turkish journalist, was able to cover the World Press Freedom Conference organized by UNESCO in Windhoek (Namibia) in May 2021. An online platform entirely dedicated to their work was made available to them.
For more than a year, the media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has once again reminded journalists of their crucial role in providing reliable information in an unprecedented context. To support them in this task, UNESCO has launched a social media campaign with the hashtags #TrustinMediaSEE and #MilClicksSEE based on a series of infographics available in all local languages of the region. They can be downloaded and shared for free.
Like Melike, Katarina and Ivan, many young journalists in Southeast Europe and Turkey are eager to build lasting trust in free, independent, and pluralistic media. They seem to be on the right track.