Albania: Private data breaches and intimidation of journalists must…

Albania: Private data breaches and intimidation of journalists must be investigated

The partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), together with Safe Journalists Network and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), have written to Mr. Besnik Dervishi, Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection of Albania, calling for a swift and thorough investigation into a recent private data breach and intimidation of at least two journalists in Albania.



Sent electronically


Dear Mr. Besnik Dervishi, Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection,


The undersigned media freedom and journalists’ organisations are writing to express our serious concern over the recent private data breaches and intimidation of at least two journalists in Albania linked to their reporting on the high-profile vetting process of the now dismissed Head of Tirana Prosecution Office, Elizabeta Imeraj.


Our organisations urge your office to conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the breach of personal data – which was then used to frighten and pressure one of the journalists – and for those involved to answer questions about their role in what appears to be coordinated intimidation of the press.


In late March and early April 2022, Albanian journalist Isa Myzyraj of Ora News faced intimidation from multiple individuals who demanded he stop commenting and reporting on the appeals process for the vetting of Imeraj, which was being carried out as part of a judicial reform project in Albania aimed at rooting out corrupt judges and prosecutors.


The pressure started after Myzyraj posted on social media that some of the online media with non-transparent ownership that had been publishing smear pieces attacking members of the International Monitoring Operation (IMO) – a constitutionally mandated body made up foreign judges and prosecutors which was supervising the vetting process – had links to Imeraj.


One of Myzyraj’s family members was approached by an individual with a deal for the journalist to stop covering the prosecutor. This was followed by a threatening phone call by another individual who said there would be consequences for him and his family if he continued. As the vetting continued, Myzyraj was then sent a message by another individual which contained a screenshot of the certificate of his family from the Civil Registry – a document only available to registered notaries in Albania. The messages contained threats against the journalist and were clearly aimed at intimidating him.


In late April, Edmond Hoxhaj, a journalist at the BIRN Network Albania and who had also been covering the vetting process, discovered a similar suspicious breach of his personal data on the e-Albania portal. Hoxhaj could see that a notary named Agron Bajri, who is the former husband of Elizabeta Imeraj, had generated their family certificate on April 14, 2022, without their authorisation. Unlike Myzyraj, Hoxhaj did not receive threats about his reporting linked to the certificate.


In the case of Mr. Hoxhaj, there appears to be clear evidence that the notary, Mr. Bajri, accessed their data without the family’s permission. As Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection, we urge you to firmly establish the facts about this case. The MFRR partners will also write to Agron Bajri with a request to clarify his role in accessing the family certificates of both Mr. Myzyraj and Mr. Hoxhaj without their authorisation. We also welcome the investigation opened by the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office.


At the wider level, our organisations suspect these two cases are linked and are part of the same campaign of harassment against members of the IMO. Pressure and intimidation of journalists reporting on the vetting process of a prosecutor – a clear matter of public interest – are unacceptable and were clearly aimed at frustrating transparency and reporting the much-needed implementation of justice reform. These cases also point to a wider issue of threats to the safety of journalists who investigate the nexus between state authorities and corruption.


Effective investigations and definitive answers on these two cases are needed. Our organisations will continue to follow your investigation closely in the coming weeks and look forward to seeing thorough findings. We will also continue to closely monitor the wider challenges facing media freedom and threats to independent, watchdog journalism in Albania, which plummeted in 2022 to 103rd rank – the last in the Balkans – in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • Safe Journalists Network

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

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Albanian ‘Ministry of Propaganda’: Where we are today?

Albanian ‘Ministry of Propaganda’: Where we are today?

New government Media and Information Agency (MIA) up and running. Lines of communication between the Albanian government and the media have long been tenuous. Whoever is in power picks and chooses the media they interact with and feeds them with information to report, whereas those who are out of favour or ask difficult questions often find themselves sidelined.

By IPI Contributor Alice Taylor

Whether journalists ask spokespersons for comment or file formal requests, information is hard to come by. Some portals report a response rate in the single digits, while those who do get a response often find key information withheld.

A 2021 report found that the Albanian Ministry of Health was the worst performing institution in the region in terms of answering freedom of information (FoI) requests. The institution also had the highest number of complaints filed with the Data Commissioner.

This is despite the fact that Albania has one of the world’s top 10 best FoI laws. The implementation of this law continues to face challenges and difficulties as public institutions remain silent, don’t answer requests, and classify increasing amounts of information.

In April, the Data Commissioner tabled changes to the law that would give him more power to demand information be made public. This came after a record 992 complaints against state institutions during 2021 for failing to provide requested information to media, civil society, and the public. With an increase in complaints of 39% on the year before, the commissioner found in favour of 700 of the complaints.

These facts and figures are just the tip of the iceberg but give an idea of the need for change in Albanian society. But a set of recent measures introduced by Prime Minister Edi Rama’s government have left the media community concerned.

Introduction to the Information and Media Agency

Following his reelection for a third mandate in April 2021, the first decision of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s new government was to create the Media and Information Agency (MIA), dubbed the ‘Ministry of Propaganda’ by critics.

The MIA functions as a public legal entity, under the prime minister, based in Tirana and funded from “the state budget, donations, and other legal sources”. According to the government, its mission is to ensure transparency regarding policies, activities, projects, events and other matters including acts of the Council of Ministers and any state institution.

Its sole responsibility is to inform and communicate with the public and the media and prepare government positions on issues of public interests. In addition, it creates press releases and media content to supplement the reams of pre-edited footage produced by Rama’s personal TV channel, which is currently sent to every newsroom. The MIA also monitors media and “means of mass communications” to assess opinions on the government.

The general director of the new agency is Endri Fuga, Rama’s long-time communications chief, who is accountable and answerable only to him. Fuga holds a position equal to that of Minister of State, a position at the same level of an elected MP but without accountability before parliament or the public. Each ministry and government department currently has its spokesperson, appointed by the minister. Requests for comment and information are addressed to that spokesperson, who then responds.

The new system is supposed to work similarly, except the MIA manages everything behind the scenes. All responses are coordinated centrally, and press materials are created and sent out from one location. Communication with the media or members of the public can only take place with the explicit authority of Fuga, who also has the power to hire and fire spokespersons.

‘German model’

The Albanian government has consistently claimed that the MIA was built “exactly” on the German model, following two visits to the country. Exit asked – a partner media in Germany – to explain how the German model works. They explained that Germany has a government agency that is the first stop for journalists to put forward media inquiries: the Federal Press Office. This entity organises three press conferences a week and journalists are invited to answer specific questions here and in federal press conferences.

In Germany, the responsibility for appointing spokespersons is down to each institution, whereas in Albania, it lies with Fuga. Furthermore, Albanian fact-checking site reported that the agencies were not similar. “As far as I know, there is no such agency [the same structure as MIA] in Germany, I have never heard of it,” said, German fact-checking organisation. The website of the Federal Press Office also explains that the institution does not supervise the media in any way, something the Albanian MIA does.

For Koloreto Cukali, the head of the Albanian Media Council, it is clear that the similarities are negligible. “First, ‘based’ is the wrong term to adjudicate it. They got the idea from there and adopted it according to their ‘wish’. Second, our society, media and government are different and work substantially different from German,” he told Exit.

Albanian media lawyer Dorian Matlija was also quick to debunk the government’s claim. “It has a similar name but not similar functions. In Germany, the main objective is to coordinate between ministries…It is not obligatory for ministers, and no one is overlooking ministers. It is totally different,” he told Exit.

The situation has raised concerns amongst the country’s media community, particularly when combined with other legislative and institutional measures. In 2018, the government put forward an anti-defamation package to bring online media under state supervision, with media facing high fines for vague violations.

While the package has undergone several facelifts in the following years, the latest public draft is not in line with Venice Commission recommendations or EU standards. There have been multiple calls to drop the package, but it sits on the agenda of parliament, where it can be passed at any moment with a simple ruling party majority.

In addition, the Albanian Audiovisual Media Authority, which would take on the role of judge and jury as per the above package, is now headed by Armela Krasniqi, another long-time comms aid of Rama and the Socialist Party. She was voted into the role against the calls of the European Commission by parliament, which at the time did not feature an opposition.

When you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, it is not hard to come to the conclusion of total state capture of public interest information.

“If you combine intimidated media and no guarantee for free speech, with lack of access to information, confused journalists, and a centralised agency, you see the big picture. Everything is related to how the government wants to control the message from the government to the media and media to the public,” Matlija explains. “The government wants to create its own landscape and narrative.”

Where we are now

While the decision to set up the MIA agency was taken in September, it has been functional since January 2022. Described by Fuga as “a modest agency in terms of budget and assets”, it is currently funded entirely from the state budget.

The agency currently has a total of 69 employees spread across six directorates; the Directorate of Citizen Information, the Directorate of Media Information, the Directorate of Information of Institutions, the Directorate of Coordination of Ministries and Agencies, the Directorate of Production and Events and Directorate of Finances.

According to Deputy Secretary of the Council of Ministers Elira Kokona, the agency’s budget is in total EUR 1.93 million, including salaries, insurance contributions, capital expenditures and operating services.

Journalists needing information are not convinced that it is worth the money. The editor-in-chief of Faktoje, Viola Keta, said: “There has been a decrease in transparency since January 2022. In my opinion, there is a misuse of the law on the right to information.” She added that answers were not received within the legal deadline in more cases than before, meaning journalists had to take the matter to the Data Commissioner.

In a parliamentary hearing, Fuga said that the only thing that has changed is that “there is better coordination on issues that affect several ministries together”.

Keta said that since the MIA started, refusals to provide information appear more coordinated and are using the same response, namely, an article of the transparency law which provides no answer to the question.


The Albanian government has been adamant that the purpose of the agency is to promote better transparency and communication with the media. Exit asked Cukali if he felt this was genuine.

“In Albania, the government is opaque and non-transparent; it has made a habit to keep successfully secret every decision and operation. Getting the information that is due by law is already a ‘hell’ for independent media or journalists. This institution will add another layer of opacity to the information flow,” he said.

Cukali explained that there are concerns of troll factories operated by the government, backed up with in-depth investigations, that could be pushed through the new agency. “There is fear that these troll factories will be included in the new “Ministry” and paid by the taxpayers,” he said.

But are these fears justified? Cukali and Matlija both agree that we will just have to wait and see, although hopes are not high.

What the government says

Exit reached out to Fuga to ask for figures on requests made and granted since January, what methods are used for media monitoring, if monitoring includes social media, and for a response to allegations from media that transparency has actually decreased since MIA was established.

Having previously taken issue with reports in multiple media, including Exit, that criticised his public claims in parliament the MIA was based on the German model, his response focussed predominantly on that.

Fuga replied by dismissing the claims made by some media, adding “the answer is no, we respond to everyone and our job is not to keep numbers, but to respond. As I am doing to you now, even though your question is baseless.”

Even when it comes to the functioning of the agency, it seems that transparency will remain hard to come by, let alone when it comes to getting answers on important documents or government actions.

This article is part of IPI’s reporting series “Media freedom in Europe in the shadow of Covid”, which comprises news and analysis from IPI’s network of correspondents throughout the EU. Articles do not necessarily reflect the views of IPI or MFRR. This reporting series is supported by funding from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and by the European Commission (DG Connect) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response, a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

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Photo by Roshan Nebhrajani/Medill News Service Library

Albania: news outlets faced cyber attacks following reports about…

Albania: news outlets faced cyber attacks following reports about Mayor of Tirana

The partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) are worried about developments in Albania this week. Cyber-attacks on news outlets believed to be in relation to their reporting on Tirana’s Mayor Erion Veliaj and the appointment of government loyalist Endri Fuga to lead the Media and Information Agency add to existing challenges for media freedom in the country.

DDoS cyber-attacks

In previous days starting on 24 January, several online media were targeted by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) cyber-attacks, making it difficult to access their websites. RTV Ora,,,,,, and SportEkspress were among the affected outlets. Although no concrete evidence has been presented yet, the outlets believe the attacks to be coordinated and connected to their reporting on an ongoing dispute involving Veliaj. He is accused of threatening board members of the Albanian Football Federation (FSHF) ahead of a vote for the head of the governing body. The targeted websites all published an audio recording related to the FSHF elections. On the tape, Veliaj is heard using slurs, coarse language and threats in an apparent attempt to influence the upcoming vote in favour of his preferred candidate. Veliaj has confirmed the authenticity of the recording but stated it should be considered in context. His spokesperson said it was just “boys’ talk”. Chairing the Federation is nominally a non-political position; however, most football teams in Albania are owned by local municipalities, whose mayors vote in the elections.

We call for a swift and effective investigation into these cyber-attacks. DDoS attacks constitute a significant threat to media freedom, as they prevent information from being disseminated resulting in direct censorship, and add financial pressures on the affected outlets.

Doubts about Media and Information Agency impartiality

In addition, we condemn the appointment of Fuga to head the newly established Media and Information Agency (MIA), which centralises control over the government’s public relations within a single entity. Yesterday, following a request for information by BIRN Albania, the government confirmed that Fuga was appointed as General Director of the new Agency by Order of the Prime Minister No. 96, dated 29 September 2021. Fuga was previously the spokesperson for Prime Minister Edi Rama. His appointment in the new role, which holds a status equal to that of a government minister and comes with wide-ranging powers, exacerbates existing doubts about the MIA’s independence and impartiality and fears that it may be instrumentalised to restrict journalists’ access to public information.

The decision to put the MIA into operation is a grave step backwards for government transparency in Albania. We reiterate our call for the establishment of greater safeguards to ensure the Agency functions fairly and transparently, even more so following the public confirmation of Fuga’s appointment as its General Director.

Signed by:

  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

Albania flag Library

The struggles of Albania’s 30-year-old media landscape

The struggles of Albania’s 30-year-old media landscape

Anti-defamation package and new information agency pose fresh challenges
Alice Taylor, IPI member & co-editor of

For almost 50 years, Albania was in the grips of a brutal Communist regime. After it fell in 1990, the first independent media began to navigate a complex social and democratic situation. Over the past 30 years, the sector has grown to include hundreds of online portals and tens of TV stations. Despite this, Albania is still struggling to break free from some constraints of its past, and its media environment is plagued with obstacles and pressures.

Last December, I conducted a poll amongst my peers and found that almost 100% said they’d experienced political pressure while performing their work. This included threats not to publish a story, demands to take down articles, and even threats against safety. While this is a reality for many journalists and can come from every side of the political spectrum, it’s exacerbated by the behaviour of Prime Minister Edi Rama.

An artist-turned-politician, Rama is creative with his insults and has publicly called journalists parasites, ignorant, trash, dogs, human rights abusers, and poison. During the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, his voice played on people’s mobiles before they made a phone call. He reminded them to wash their hands, wear masks, and protect themselves from the media.

He and his cabinet have also filed a concerning number of libel lawsuits against journalists- 34 lawsuits in just two years. Not only does this intimidate the plaintiff, but it also has a chilling impact on reporting from other journalists. But the government hasn’t stopped there.

In 2018, Rama announced the so-called “anti-defamation package” that would bring all online media under the control of a parliament-appointed board. This board could block, fine, close, and enforce corrections on any site that it believes publishes ‘defamation’ or ‘fake news.’ His reasoning for introducing the law was to combat fake news, though many think it will be weaponised to silence critics.

The package was widely condemned, and the Venice Commission issued an opinion on the draft, noting it would have a “chilling effect” and should essentially be scrapped.

While this law sits in parliament, the government changed provisions in the electoral code, allowing them to shut any TV station for 48 hours if they breached certain conditions during electoral periods. They also proposed increases to criminal defamation penalties, including fines of up to EUR 36,000 (the average Albanian salary is EUR 350 per month), and that punishments should be increased by half if people insult a politician, judge, or administration employee. This runs directly counter to long-standing European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence that public officials must accept a higher degree of criticism than ordinary citizens.

Tightening control

Just before the elections, in the absence of parliamentary opposition, the Socialist Party voted to install Armela Krasniqi, a former party communications aide, as the head of the agency that would supervise all online media. The EU delegation in Tirana, and various international organisations, including IPI, asked the parliament to wait until September when the opposition would be present, but they refused.

After Rama’s party secured a third mandate to rule in April 2021, their first decision was to create the Media and Information Agency, which would prevent individual ministries from communicating with the media. Instead, all communications, plus statements, information, and comments would come from a centralised agency, under the control of Rama’s right-hand communication aide Endri Fuga. This agency would also monitor local media and mass media to gauge public opinion of the government.

The news sparked outrage amongst local and international media stakeholders, who called on the EU to intervene. They asked for improvements in media freedom and for the withdrawal of the draft law and media agency to be conditions for continued EU accession talks. The EU refused.

Then in October, at the OSCE South Eastern Europe Media Freedom Conference, Rama compared the online media to “Nazis” and “paedophiles”, adding that regulating them was necessary, even if wanting to do so made him unpopular.

Concerns abound that through a series of stealthy legal and administrative changes, the government is moving to assume total control of the media. This, combined with an increasingly hostile environment which includes police violence against media workers, and impunity for attacks, causes journalists to worry.

All of these complexities take place in a country where independent journalists struggle to be heard. Most mainstream media is owned by a handful of wealthy businesspeople with political connections. With interests in construction, real estate, and private schools, they use their media to win favourable treatment from the government, including tenders and funding.

This means that the editorial line of the main media is controlled by a need to remain on the good side of the state. Fake news, propaganda, and smear campaigns are common. Simply put, the vast majority of Albanian media can be weaponized by political figures at a moment’s notice, vastly impacting the information that the general public receives.

Those journalists that do speak up are at risk of being targeted via smear campaigns. I was branded a Russian spy and had my residence permit revoked while six-months pregnant, all because I reported on corruption and anti-government protests. This is a common occurrence and more often than not, the targets are women.

To write about the intricacies of the Albanian media environment would take up many thousands of words. But amid all these issues, there is growing resistance. Solidarity, self-regulation, and possible EU accession all present hope for Albania’s journalists. Furthermore, a desire for change, fuelled by accountability and transparency creates a new generation of journalists who are not so easily controlled.


This is a guest post. Any views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of IPI, or other MFRR partners.


Albania: MFRR urges government to scrap new Media and…

Albania: MFRR urges government to scrap new Media and Information Agency

The undersigned partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response today express serious concern over a new Media and Information Agency (MIA) established by the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama in Albania and urge the ruling Socialist Party to immediately cancel its establishment to ensure it will not be used to further solidify control over the flow of public information. We also urge the European Union to immediately engage with the Albanian government to raise these concerns as a matter of priority in future accession talks.

Plans for the new agency, announced during the first session of the new parliament on September 18, would centralise control over the government’s public relations within a single entity. Under new rules, spokespersons at ministries and government departments will be prohibited from talking to the media directly and public information or comment will have to be approved by the MIA’s director general, who will be appointed directly by the Prime Minister and hold a status equal to that of a government minister.

The director general will have the power to appoint and dismiss spokespersons in every ministry, as well as approve their public appearances or interviews. The MIA will also decide on journalists’ requests for interviews and organise the press conferences of the Prime Minister and other ministers. In addition, the MIA will conduct monitoring of both the press and social media to track public opinion of government activities.

The government has said the new agency, which will be financed from the state budget and unspecified “donations”, will increase transparency and unify messaging across different ministries. However, our organisations share the concerns expressed by various leading editors-in-chief, civil society groups and media unions in Albania that rather than improve journalists’ access to public information, the establishment of the MIA may result in the exact opposite.

Context is vital here. Journalists in Albania currently work in an extremely difficult climate for accessing information from government sources. The government communicates with journalists via WhatsApp groups instead of using official channels. Reporters working for independent media are regularly discriminated against when seeking information or comment from ministers. Journalists viewed as representing “opposition” outlets are denied accreditation or barred from asking questions at press conferences. Those who seek comment from officials in person sometimes face hostility and obstruction. Official Freedom of Information requests regularly go unanswered and appeals through the Information Commissioner can be lengthy, with rulings often ignored outright.

At the same time, the Prime Minister shuns press conferences and instead relies on his own TV station ERTV to create and distribute sound bites and pre-edited video clips to the press. Interviews are given to selected journalists, shielding the PM and other ministers from facing challenging questions. Under the Socialist Party, other state institutions have emulated this model and now send out pre-prepared news packages to private TV stations and newspapers. The result is that across all levels of government, journalists face significant barriers in posing questions or properly scrutinising ministries. Against this backdrop, further solidification of government control over the flow of information by a single entity risks turning what is already a drip feed of information to journalists into a desert.

The level of influence the government and the Prime Minister himself will wield over the agency is a key concern. Media reports have already suggested that Endri Fuga, a close ally of the PM who spearheaded his public relations for the last eight years, has already secured the role of director general. His appointment would mirror that of another key ally, Ermela Krasniqi, to head the country’s Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA). This selective placement of two loyalists to lead institutions overseeing the regulation of media raises serious questions over their independence and impartiality and violates international standards.

Meanwhile, the oversized ability of the director general to hire and fire spokespersons – previously the responsibility of individual ministries – also poses questions over accountability and transparency. We are concerned that the MIA’s bilateral agreement with the public broadcaster Albanian Radio-Television (RTSH), which has operated without a director general for more than seven months now, may open the door to increased influence over its coverage. Likewise, plans for the MIA to distribute its own content about government activities in the manner of a state press agency raises additional concern over political influence and lack of impartiality. Following major revelations about the collection of citizen’s data by political parties via state institutions, the notion of tax-payer money being used to fund the monitoring of the press and social media by a government agency also sets alarm bells ringing.

In the longer term, this agency ultimately risks being a powerful tool for any government current or future to control the flow of public information to the media and to influence what citizens read, hear and watch. The role of journalists is to act as a filter between government and citizens. Limiting their ability to do so by constraining opportunities to question officials and side-lining critical journalists severely limits the ability of the press to do its job and hold power to account.

With the freedom of the media a cornerstone of Albania’s accession to the EU, it is vital that the EU mission in Tirana and the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi immediately respond to this latest development and address the concerns raised by our organisations and others. Until greater safeguards can be established to ensure the MIA operates in a fair and transparent manner, we urge the government to cancel its establishment pending consultation with national and international journalist groups.

Signed by:

  • Article 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

Albania: Concern after government ally elected to head key…

Albania: Concern after government ally elected to head key media regulator

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today expresses deep concern about the future impartiality and independence of Albania’s Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) following the election of a close associate of the ruling Socialist Party to head the media regulator.

On 7 July, the government and its allies voted without the presence of opposition lawmakers in parliament to appoint Armela Krasniqi as the chairwoman of the AMA, the country’s influential TV and radio regulator.

Our organisations have serious concerns over the impartiality of the new chairwoman, who is a close associate of Prime Minister Edi Rama and previously worked as his director of communications between 2013 and 2017. Krasniqi has worked for the Socialist Party most of her life and currently heads the state news agency, which has faced accusations of political bias.

Under Albanian media law, the AMA is required to be a politically independent authority. Impartial leadership of such regulatory bodies is vital for upholding public trust in a country’s media landscape and strengthening professional standards. Media freedom is deeply connected to regulatory responsibility, as powers to sanction alleged breaches of media law and decide on the allocation of broadcast licenses must be applied fairly.

The appointment of a partisan figure with long-standing links to the ruling party, in the absence of opposition votes in parliament, therefore risks seriously undermining the credibility and legitimacy of the AMA, as well as wider trust in the Albanian media ecosystem.

Confidence in the regulator’s political independence is even more important given the government’s controversial “anti-defamation package” of amendments, which if passed, would hand the AMA greater powers to impose disproportionate sanctions and fines on media outlets. Our organisations remain strongly opposed to these plans.

Rather than seek consensus over the leadership of the AMA, however, the Socialist Party has rushed ahead with the vote despite urgent calls from both the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to postpone the selection until the new parliament is convened in September.

The decision to appoint a politically-connected figure contradicts the recommendations set out by the Venice Commission for strengthening the AMA’s independence. Instead of adopting these recommendations and creating greater safeguards, the government has taken a step backwards and exacerbated the issue further. This should be of concern to the EU as it assesses Albania’s accession to the bloc.

Going forward, we urge the government to move ahead with implementation of the recommendations set out by the Venice Commission regarding the AMA and the so-called “anti-defamation package”, which remains on the parliamentary agenda. Our organisations retain serious concerns about the effect this will have on media freedom in Albania if passed in its current form. Greater communication is required from the government about the status of the proposed amendments. Until such clarity is provided, the package will continue to have a chilling effect on the media.

It is also vital that when the second stage of the appointment process for the AMA’s board members recommences in September, all political parties act in the public interest by prioritising professional expertise and independence over partisan loyalty when electing candidates. Our organisations will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Signed by:

  • Article 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

Albania: MFRR partners concerned about restrictions on access to…

Albania: MFRR partners concerned about restrictions on access to Parliament

Concerns over new restrictions for journalists and media workers in access to Parliament


Speaker of the Parliament of Albania, Gramoz Ruçi



European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović


Sent electronically


Subject: Concerns over new restrictions for journalists and media workers in access to Parliament


Dear Mr Gramoz Ruçi,


We, the undersigned partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), are concerned about recently approved restrictions for journalists and media workers reporting from the Albanian Parliament.

On 2 June 2021, the Bureau of the Assembly of Albania published an amended regulation for the Accreditation, Accommodation and Orientation of Mass Media in the Parliament. The rules, adopted without consultation with journalists and media workers’ associations and unions, civil society or other pertinent stakeholders, will come into effect in September 2021.

Compared with the rules currently in force, we are concerned these new restrictions to freedom of movement will negatively affect the ability of journalists and media workers to report and decrease the level of transparency of the Parliament:

  1. Accredited journalists from private media will only be able to report from a designated newsroom and will not be able to follow and report directly from the rooms where plenary or committee meetings take place or freely move around the building, as is currently the case. However, journalists from public broadcaster RTSH and public news agency ATSH will continue to have access.
  2. Access to video broadcasts during the meetings will be provided to the media by the Parliament itself.

These measures will restrict the access of journalists to lawmakers, limiting opportunities to ask critical questions and meaningfully engage. Concerns have been raised also that the control by parliamentary staff over the video feeds could give rise to censorship or manipulation. Moreover, the distinction between journalists working for private media and those working for the public broadcaster will create a dual system of access that is arbitrary and unfair.

In light of these concerns, we respectfully ask you to withdraw these new rules and maintain the current high standards of access for journalists and media workers. Any new changes should be introduced only after consultation with journalists’ associations and unions and civil society stakeholders. Equal, fair and unhindered coverage of parliamentary proceedings is a hallmark of a strong democracy. We urge the Albanian National Assembly to adhere to these principles.

Signed by:

  • Article 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)