Online media and human rights in Albania 2022

Freedom of speech and information is a constitutional principle in Albania. In recent years, the Albanian media environment has been accompanied by the replacement of traditional print media with online media. From 18 daily newspapers in print over a decade ago, there are now only 4-5 such with minimal printing circulation, while there are more than 1,200 online media outlets registered. Albania is currently in the phase of negotiations for the EU membership and the need for legal standards, for independent and informative media, but also for integral respect for human rights, constitutes an essential obligation and criteria.

The spread of online media and informative online outlets comes at a time when there is a lack of basic regulatory legislation and other by-laws in Albania. There is legal ambiguity in the way the administration and operation of these outlets is done and there are difficulties in identifying a “media” based on its classic functions for informing and forming public opinion. In addition to positive achievements and the expansion of informational freedom, online media have also been associated with elements of human rights’ violations. The parliamentary elections of 2021 highlighted the great political influence of online media in a situation of informality and its acceptance as a standard of freedom, in a society dominated by harsh political rhetoric and minimal respect for free thinking.

ISP analyzed the media legislation, current practices, positive achievements and critical issues, as well as deliberated on the findings with institutions, representatives of civil society, the media and academia, in order to identify and address the main issues related to the relationship between online media and human rights in Albania. The findings of this report strengthen this thesis and show that the Albanian society tries to take advantage of, and imitate the newest technological developments without being prepared both in the legal and administrative point of view, as well as in the necessary human resources, performance evaluation and measurement standards and opportunities for success. The recommendations serve to solve most of the identified problems.

Recommendations for institutions

Freedom of expression and the right to information are fundamental constitutional rights that must be guaranteed in any democratic state, and what is being noticed is that online media are beginning to play an important role in the right to information. This rapid development of online media and the growth of their role in informing citizens has brought a series of problems, which need to be identified and addressed for solutions by the Albanian state institutions, such as the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data, Audiovisual Media Authority, Parliament of Albania, Parliamentary Committee for Legal Affairs, Public Administration and Human Rights; Parliamentary Committee for European Integration; Parliamentary Committee for Education and Public Information Means; Council of Ministers, Electronic and Postal Communications Authority, and Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination.

  1. As an issue related to the standards of the rule of law and with the criteria of the process of Albania’s membership in the EU, the Parliament and the responsible institutions will need to have an active role regarding the legal basis, with priority treatment in the aspects of constitutional rights and national security, as well as with the accountability of the institutions charged by law for the protection of human rights and freedom of the media. The one-sided and critical approach followed in the drafting of the “defamation package” should be avoided, reflecting the suggestions coming from the EU, the OSCE, the UK, civil society and the media community.
  2. Considering the fact that we still do not have a legal regulation of online media, the responsibility until its regulation remains with the online media themselves. Online media entities should be more proactive in monitoring fake news or abuses online, in order to prevent violations of citizens’ rights by various media for third party purposes or outside the professional framework. In this case, it is important that all media organizations and unions cooperate and act with common synergy for a healthier and better media environment for the benefit of the citizens.
  3. The strengthening of self-regulatory instruments requires the strengthening of the professional culture and ethics of the media itself; through support programs for journalists; through the reformation and “democratization” of civil initiatives for the representation of the media and the rights of journalists; through a more active and more ethical role of the AMA and state structures in protecting ethical standards; as well as through strengthening the education components and standards of journalism and public relations departments.
  4. Online media outlets will have to review the methodology and system of unrestricted and unidentified access to insulting and derogatory comments about authors or other citizens, mainly for insults related to gender, religious belief, geographical regions, origin, family, political opinion or other elements of human rights. The media community through their organizations and self-regulatory instruments can apply annual reports for the evaluation of positive and negative online media outlets in terms of respect for human rights.
  5. Albania needs to create a public database of online media and other media, in such a way that it can be easily identified in case of violations of the legislation in force, both in relation to their financing and administration. The media must be more proactive about data transparency on their contacts, ownership, staff, and funding.
  6. Albania has a vital need to strengthen the component of media independence and create a more professional information system independent in every aspect from political pressures, political efforts to establish and impose media, for censorship and for direct or indirect pressures on the media. The highest political and state officials should give up the personalized and state-funded media (the case of ERTV), create equal access for the media and be transparent and accountable in their public functions.
  7. Discriminatory language towards journalists, for journalists or by journalists should be subject to monitoring and intervention by the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination. Any official and individual in power who insults, denigrates, bullies or discriminates journalists in the exercise of their function, for their opinions and in their profession will have to be investigated and punished according to legal practices against discrimination. On the other hand, the media must give the public the opportunity to complain, and respect the principles of publishing correction and denial statements, if necessary.
  8. The media community needs to constantly be part of EU programs for information and continuous training in the field of human rights, but also for in-depth knowledge of the decision-making practices of the European Court of Human Rights and good legal and ethics’ practices in European Union countries.
  9. There is a need to organize awareness/informative/educational campaigns with young people regarding online media and access of information from young people.
  10. Regarding the online publication of individual cases or videos that violate human rights, the intervention of Albanian state institutions is required in the regulation and sanctioning of cases of publication of citizens’ personal data.
  11. Until the existence of a functional legal framework related to online media, Albania must have self-regulation of online media and in this aspect, civil society actors have a key role, interacting to guarantee self-regulation of online media, but there is also a need for a society capable of enabling it.
  12. Actors of the civil society should undertake various initiatives to punish the aforementioned cases with force, this way providing the education of the society about the identified problems.
  13. Civil society must undertake initiatives within the legal interventions necessary for the regulation, operation and role of online media; condemn cases of encouraging the use of hate speech; the evidence of the positive changes brought about by the online media, but also the forceful punishment of cases of violation of human rights.
  14. The media community, especially journalists under pressure, censorship or threats, will have to receive free legal assistance from supporting instruments from civil society, media regulatory bodies themselves and from international institutions operating in these

This publication of the Institute of Political Studies (ISP) was realized in the framework of the project “Online media and human rights in Albania”, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, through the “TRANSITION” program. The content of this document is the sole responsibility of the ISP.

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ISP – Online media and human rights in Albania 2022

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