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Attacks on the Press 2002: Albania

Despite some modest media-related reforms implemented by Parliament in 2002, Albania's contentious political scene and economic underdevelopment continue to make the country a relatively chaotic and difficult place for the independent press. Journalists face government harassment, criminal libel lawsuits, arbitrary dismissal by politicized owners, and limited access to basic government information, particularly when investigating official corruption and organized crime. Furthermore, low professional standards, an editorial emphasis on sensationalism, and the financial influence of political parties over many media outlets mean that journalists have little credibility with the public.

The media and the ruling Socialist Party enjoyed a more cooperative relationship during the first half of 2002, but when Fatos Nano was appointed prime minister in July, he took a tougher stance, instructing ministers to order their staffs to stop speaking with the press.

Blatant intimidation and violent attacks against journalists are less common than they were in the 1990s, when war was blazing in neighboring Kosovo and the Albanian government was reeling from a national scandal over failed pyramid schemes. However, in October, several independent media outlets faced politically motivated financial inspections and government pressure to dismiss journalists for their critical reporting. Financial inspectors investigated the offices of the independent daily Koha Jone and the independent Gjeli Vizion television station shortly after both outlets criticized Prime Minister Nano for alleged abuse of power. Also in October, Arban Hasani, editor-in-chief of the independent television station Arberia, and Enton Abilekaj, news director of the independent TeleNorba Shqiptare television station, were both fired for criticizing the government's response to devastating September floods.

The Parliament pressed ahead with reforming the broadcast media. On September 30, legislators appointed Artur Zheji, a political analyst from Arberia television, to head the public broadcaster, Albanian Radio and Television. He will be responsible for addressing significant financial and managerial problems at the outlet. On November 7, Parliament approved amendments to the Law on Public and Private Radio and Television to create a legal framework for issuing licenses and to develop a strategy to improve government oversight of broadcast media.

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