BIRN Albania Opens Call for Investigations on Labour Rights

BIRN Albania launched a call for investigative stories on labour rights on July 19.

BIRN is offering grants for three journalists to cover labour rights stories, with mentoring by experienced editors.

The call is held as part of the project ‘Strengthening Media’s Role in the Fight against Corruption’, supported by the Open Society Foundation in Albania.

The project aims to strengthen reporting on corruption in the country through cooperation with civil society, in order to help create a more informed citizenry that is engaged in the democratic process.

Three journalists will be awarded grants to cover their expenses while conducting investigations and writing their stories on labour rights.

The journalists will have around three months to dig deeper and research their ideas, and will also have the opportunity to work with experienced editors as mentors to guide them through the process of writing in accordance with BIRN standards.

The call only applies to journalists from Albania and closes on August 25, 2019.

Click here for more information (in Albanian) about the application procedure.

Click here to download the application form (in Albanian).

Albania Anti-Defamation Laws Condemned as ‘Censorship Package’

Ten Albanian human rights organisations on Friday denounced a government proposal to ‘regulate’ the online media as a ‘censorship package’ without precedent in a democratic country.

Ten human rights organisations in Albania on Friday denounced the Prime Minister’s initiative to “regulate the online media”, calling it “a censorship package”.

The Albanian Center for Quality Journalism, MediaLook, the Albanian Institute of Science, the Albanian Media Council, the Albanian Media Institute, the Association of Professional Journalists of Albania, BIRN Albania, Civil Rights Defenders, Res Publica and the Union Of Albanian Journalists urged the Socialist Party-led government to withdraw the proposal, arguing that current laws on defamation are sufficient.

“We encourage the government of Albania to withdraw these two bills and call on parliament not to approve them,” the statement reads.

“These drafts laws risk the increase of censorship and self-censorship in the local media and could contribute to further setbacks on media freedom and freedom of expression in Albania, which, based on the June 2019 assessment of seven international organizations, is ‘deteriorating,’” the statement adds.

The government of Prime Minister Edi Rama claims the country needs “to discipline” the online media in order “to improve the quality of the information and public discourse”.

This draft law gives the Complaints Council the power to oblige electronic publications service providers to publish an apology, remove content or insert a pop-up notice if they are found to have violated provisions on dignity and privacy.

This council has the power to fine media up to 8,300 euros for such violations. A second law subjects online media to the Telecommunication and Postal Authority, AKEP, which will have the power to insert pop-ups on websites if they have been found in breach of the law by the Complaints Council. Failure to comply with AKEP would result in fines up to 830,000 euros.

“These draft laws, in an unprecedented way in democratic countries, seek to impose a regime of administrative control on the online media,” the rights organizations say.

Link: Statement in English

BIRN Albania Holds Roundtable on Labour Rights

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held a roundtable in Tirana on Monday, July 15th, bringing together journalists and non-governmental organizations to discuss labour rights.

The event was held as part of the project ‘Strengthening Media’s Role in the Fight Against Corruption,’ financed by the Open Society Foundation in Albania.  The project aims to strengthen reporting on corruption in the country through cooperation with civil society, in order to help create a more informed citizenry that is engaged in the democratic process.

The roundtable was moderated by Vasilika Laci from Civil Rights Defenders and saw contributions from a variety of activists, journalists and labour rights groups in Albania.

During the roundtable, the participants suggested a series of key topics to be investigated, including problems with the management of properties of unions, abuse of collective contracts in public companies, the cost of illegal dismissals of public servants, women’s unpaid work in Albania, abuse of labour subsidies, minimum wage and living income and many other topics.

The goal of the roundtable was to draw attention to an upcoming call for grant proposals to fund investigative reporting on the topic of labour rights. The call will be launched in the coming days by BIRN Albania.

Three journalists will be selected by an independent jury and will be mentored by BIRN editors for a period of three months as they produce hard-hitting investigative reports on the topic.

Calls Open for EU Investigative Journalism Award

Applications are now open for submission of investigative articles from the Western Balkans and Turkey for the annual EU Investigative Journalism Award.

Investigative stories published from January 1 to December 31, 2018, and related to freedom of expression, rule of law, transparency, abuse of power and fundamental rights, corruption and organised crime are welcome to apply.

The award fund in each country in 2019 (for achievements in 2018) is 10,000 EUR. The first prize will be 5,000 EUR, the second 3,000 EUR, and the third will be 2,000 EUR.

Individuals or groups of journalists are eligible to apply in all journalism forms (print, online, radio and TV) published or broadcast in the media in each country in official, minority or international languages.

Articles eligible for submission must appear in print, online, radio and TV media outlets during the 2018 calendar year.

EU Investigative Journalism Awards in the Western Balkans and Turkey aim to celebrate and promote the outstanding achievements of investigative journalists as well as improve the visibility of quality journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

The awards are a continuation of the ongoing regional EU Investigative Journalism Award in the Western Balkans and Turkey and part of the ongoing project ‘Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey’.

The project partners involved all have extensive expertise in the field of media freedom and have been recognised locally and internationally as strong independent media organisations.

The jury for the EU Award comprises media experts, some of them from the project consortia. Others are drawn from the extensive network projects that the consortium members have, such as editors, members of academia and journalists with merits.

Deadline for the submission of application is July 17th, 2019.

The awards will be given annually in all six Western Balkan countries and Turkey.

For more details, contact [email protected]


To download all necessary documents in English click here

To download all necessary documents for Serbia click here

To download all necessary documents for Kosovo click here

To download all necessary documents for Bosnia and Herzegovina click here

To download all necessary documents for Montenegro click here

To download all necessary documents for Macedonia click here

To download all necessary documents for Albania click here

To download all necessary documents for Turkey click here

BIRN Wins Appeal to Declassify Albanian Secret Police Files

After a legal challenge by BIRN, an appeals court ordered the declassification of reports and statistics from Albania’s much-feared Communist-era secret service, the Sigurimi, which the country’s present-day intelligence agency wanted to keep restricted.

The landmark ruling by the Administrative Court of Appeals in Tirana on Wednesday paved the way for the declassification and publication of written reports and statistical data produced by Albania’s Sigurimi security service.

After almost three years of legal efforts by BIRN Albania, the court dismissed arguments from the country’s current secret service that such information should be kept secret in perpetuity.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed, upheld a first-instance court decision from 2016.

BIRN first made a legal request for the declassification of Communist-era files back in March 2016, demanding yearly reports by the Sigurimi for the period from 1980 to 1989, as well as statistical information on the number of Albanians under active surveillance by the Sigurimi during that period.

The current State Information Service, SHISH, which has controlled a large part of the Sigurimi archive since the fall of Communism, first refused the request, claiming it didn’t have the authority to handle it.

Albania’s Freedom of Information Commissioner ordered SHISH to open the files and to reevaluate their status as secret, based on a 2014 law on freedom of information.

However, SHISH then insisted in September 2016 that the information sought by BIRN should remain a state secret.

BIRN challenged the decision in an administrative court, and won in the first instance in November 2016.

However, the Administrative Court of Appeals has a backlog of some 20,000 cases and the appeal decision only came almost three years after BIRN’s first freedom of information request.

During the hearing, SHISH emphasised that in its opinion, the files and statistics should remain “secrets in perpetuity”, and said that it has “an exclusive right” to decide whether to declassify them or not.

A number of other state institutions in Albania also keep classified information that was labelled as secret during the Communist period.

It is hoped that Wednesday’s court ruling will provide a guidance them on how to handle and publish the information.

For example, an Albanian parliamentary has access to the Sigurimi files, but only provides information from them to people prosecuted under Communism.

Theodoros Alexandritis, a human rights lawyer, told BIRN that the appeals court’s decision was “a brave step” in the right direction.

“The reluctance of the secret service to disclose any info and hold it under wraps forever shows that a culture of secrecy is still prevalent in that institution and that successive governments have not done anything to counter it,” Alexandritis said.

“In terms of the importance, the decision is clearly a brave step by the Albanian courts to bring their approach on this sensitive issue in line with international law standards and the European Court of Human Rights’ jurisprudence,” he added.

Report on Local Mayors’ Assets

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania has published a report entitled ‘Analysis of the System of Asset Declarations of Mayors in Albania’, which evaluates the wealth of the heads of local government units in the country as well as the integrity of the asset declaration system.

The asset declarations of serving mayors were analysed with the help of three financial experts, who recorded and categorised in a database all the data declared by heads of municipalities in their annual asset disclosures.

Read more.

To download a copy of the report in Albanian, click here.

BIRN Albania’s Local Government Transparency Monitoring Report

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania on April 25 published a national report entitled ‘Local Government Under the Lens of Freedom of Information: A Comparative Monitoring of Transparency Indicators Online and On the Ground’, covering all 61 municipalities in the country from 2017 to 2019.

The report contains assessments of the transparency of the 61 local government units in Albania, based on 55 indicators, evaluated in both 2017 and 2019, tracing the progress made by local municipalities in the implementation of freedom of information and public consultation laws.

Read more.

For a copy of the report in Albanian click here.

For a copy of the report in English click here.

BIRN Albania Issues Local Government Transparency Monitoring Report

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania on April 25 published a national report entitled ‘Local Government Under the Lens of Freedom of Information: A Comparative Monitoring of Transparency Indicators Online and On the Ground’, covering all 61 municipalities in the country from 2017 to 2019.

The report contains assessments of the transparency of the 61 local government units in Albania, based on 55 indicators, evaluated in both 2017 and 2019, tracing the progress made by local municipalities in the implementation of freedom of information and public consultation laws.

According to the monitoring data, the indicators were reached by 41 per cent of local municipalities in 2019, with the majority of the municipalities failing to reach half of the monitored target indicators. Compared with 2017, the average level of transparency of local municipalities dropped by five percentage points.

The monitoring of municipalities for the report was carried out in February 2019 by a network of local journalists across Albania. The publication of the report was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Balkan Trust for Democracy.

For a copy of the report in Albanian click here.

For a copy of the report in English click here.

BIRN Albania Publishes Report on Local Mayors’ Assets

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania has published a report entitled ‘Analysis of the System of Asset Declarations of Mayors in Albania’, which evaluates the wealth of the heads of local government units in the country as well as the integrity of the asset declaration system.

The asset declarations of serving mayors were analysed with the help of three financial experts, who recorded and categorised in a database all the data declared by heads of municipalities in their annual asset disclosures.

The experts analysed the information using a plausibility check, a method of scrutiny used by Albania’s High Inspectorate of Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflicts of Interest, HIDAACI, to investigate the wealth of public officials.

The goal of the report is to identify key trends contributing to the enrichment of the 61 heads of local municipalities in Albania.

The study sheds light not only on how mayors in Albania have accumulated wealth but also on key practices which obscure the origins of their money.

These include dividends from businesses, debts owed by family members, real estate transactions and cash kept outside the banking system.

To download a copy of the report in Albanian, click here.

BIRN Albania Wins Award for Investigative Journalism

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania was given the White Dove award by Partners Albania for Change and Development for its investigative reporting.

The award was presented to BIRN Albania at a ceremony on April 2 by Partners Albania for Change and Development, a domestic organisation focused on strengthening democracy and democratic development.

Partners Albania gave BIRN the award “for the civil courage, professionalism and objectivity shown with investigative reports with a wide public impact”.

At the award ceremony, BIRN Albania executive director, Kristina Voko, thanked Partners Albania for the award, which she dedicated to BIRN’s staff and the many journalists with which the organisation works.

“This award would not be possible without the tireless work of our staff journalists and local reporters and the close cooperation between journalists and civil society,” Voko said.

Apart from BIRN, the Albanian Institute of Science, AIS, and the environmental organization Eco Albania were also recognised for their positive impact on democracy and transparency in the country.