Remarks of the Ambassador of the OSCE in Albania, Bernd Borchardt:
It is a pleasure to be here with you today, to open our annual round table event. Being familiar with your country for almost 10 years now, I know a bit of Albania's media dynamic developments well. Yet, despite many achievements, there are still challenges ahead of us.
The world is changing, the digital era has brought new challenges to every country. The need of regulating the Internet, online media or social networks brings an intrinsic and necessary national debate. Issues likeself-regulation, privacy, security, and content have been brought to the spot-light. Keeping the Internet free, open and safe for all remains a foremost challenge.
Let me quote the words of the OSCE Representative for freedom of media - Dunja Mijatovi?: "Governments have a crucial role to play when it comes to regulating the Internet and guaranteeing its freedom... There are aspects of the Internet that require regulation, but just as important are those aspects that must remain out of the reach of government control." Legislators have to make sure that legal initiatives do not negatively affect media freedom.
Another relevant issue to our media reality will be discussed in this forum. It is the need to transform RTSH into sustainable professional and independent public service media, fully accountable to tax payers. The recently elected RTSH top management has started some ground work in the demanding process of transforming the public broadcaster. I would like to emphasize achievements such as the newly approved organizational structure, and two other in the final stage of approval: the RTSH Statute and the Editorial Principles document. We commend these initial results and encourage RTSH management to keep up the momentum for introducing necessary changes. In this light, we also invite all relevant institutions and stakeholders to offer their full support to the RTSH transformation. The European democratic model relies on the functioning balance between the public and the private broadcasting sectors. Achieving this balance is still a challenge in Albania.
Next year will also bring additional challenges: Elections; and with them the momentum to discuss the role of media in times that are crucial for defining people's future and political views. Media's professionalism, balance and independence in their election coverage is a requirement for democratic elections. We are concerned about the wide-spread practice in Albania to air productions of political parties' Public Relations units instead of impartially reporting on political campaigns. The so called "party tapes" should only be aired within clearly labelled political marketing programs. I can not stress enough that there is no replacement for genuine and independently produced media coverage.
As you all well know, the OSCE Presence in Albania is committed to support the electoral reform. In this context, let me remind you about one of the 2015 ODIHR recommendations: "the abolition of the provisions of Article 84 of the Electoral Code: that allows footage produced by political parties to be aired in the news."
Last, but not the least, we would like to show our support to journalists, they deserve a better social position and job security. Informal employment in media, remains a widely spread practice. This unfortunately leads to the lack of editorial independence and opens the door to many kinds of pressure. Critical journalists can just be made disappear from editorial teams without legal recourse exposing them to all kinds of pressure. We call for the implementation of the existing labor legislation in all media outlets.
In conclusion, the improvement of the existing media situation in the country requires clear, broad, political commitment as well as full journalists' engagement and participation as well as media-related civil society. For these reasons we need professional dialogue, such as today's Forum. I am looking forward hearing your views on these issues.