Albania Supreme Court Upholds BIRN Albania’s Landmark FoI Verdict

The Supreme Court of Albania on Wednesday rejected a challenge to an Administrative Appeals Court verdict that told the Independent Qualification Commission (IQC) to reveal the name of a private sponsor who had paid for a retreat in a luxury resort.

The IQC is one of three institutions tasked with vetting judges and prosecutors in Albania.

BIRN Albania sought the records from the IQC in 2022. After the IQC refused to release them, an FoI complaint was filed with the Commissioner on the Right to Information. The Commissioner ruled in BIRN’s favour but the IQC filed a countersuit against his decision.

In the First Instance Administrative Court in Tirana, BIRN Albania journalist Edmond Hoxhaj joined the case as a third party. When the court ruled in favour of the IQC, Hoxhaj appealed. On January 23, 2024 the Administrative Court reversed its verdict, upholding the earlier decision of the Commissioner for the Right to Information.

The IQC then appealed in the Supreme Court, which has ruled in favour of public transparency, upholding the Administrative Court verdict.

BIRN Albania Holds Workshop on Data Processing and Protection

On July 16, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held a workshop in the city of Elbasan on data processing by journalists and on personal data protection.

The workshop was held as part of the project “Greater Internet Freedom” funded by the US Agency for International Development and Internews.

The project aims to enhance awareness of digital rights with a special focus on vulnerable groups.

The workshop was attended by 13 participants, including journalists, editors, journalism students and representatives from non-governmental organisations who work with the media sector or vulnerable groups in the region of Elbasan.

The workshop was held by Silva Arapi, Data Protection Consultant, and Gjergj Erebara, BIRN journalist and editor.

Arapi presented the Personal Data Protection Law, the principles of data processing by journalists, specifically sensitive data, freedom of expression vs. privacy concerns, etc.

Erebara focused on specific cases and lessons learned in the field on the processing and protection of sensitive data.

BIRN Albania Presents Survey on Journalists’ Safety and Media Freedom

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania, the Science and Development network SCiDEV and Faktoje on Thursday in Tirana presented the preliminary findings of a survey on journalists’ safety and media freedom.

The findings were presented at a roundtable with experts, stakeholders and representatives of the donor community in Albania. The roundtable aimed to enhance collaboration between local media, CSOs, academia, and journalists to promote media freedom.

The survey, which included 133 reporters and editors, revealed a number of worrying trends. Nearly 50 per cent of surveyed journalists said they face pressures, intimidation and threats.

Journalists are most vulnerable when reporting on corruption, organized crime, or corporate issues and the main sources of threats are named as public officials, media owners, crime groups, and political parties.

The survey data are part of an upcoming in-depth study, which aims to inform stakeholder on the state of media freedom in Albania as it gears to negotiate the EU accession process with Brussels.

The survey was conducted as part of a three-year project, “Strengthening Media Freedom, Professionalism, and Journalists’ Safety in Albania,” implemented by SCiDEV, BIRN Albania and Faktoje, with the support of the EU, aimed at monitoring and promoting Albania’s progress in line with EU recommendations.

Open Call: Sub-Grants to Support Local Media Outlets in Albania

BIRN Albania is launching an open call for sub-grants in support of local media outlets in Albania (NGOs), which will provide them with technical, editorial and financial resources to report independently, ethically and in a gender-balanced way.

The three-year project: “Strengthening Media Freedom, Professionalism and Journalists’ Safety in Albania” is implemented by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania (BIRN Albania), in cooperation with Science for Innovation Development Centre (SCiDEV) and Qendra Faktoje.

The project is awarded within the EU funded Call: “Civil Society Facility and Media Programme 2022 and Thematic Programme for Human Rights and Democracy 2022-2023” with a reference number: IPAIII/2023/451-708.

In the framework of this project, BIRN Albania has opened a call for 3 (three) Sub-Grants to support local media outlets in Albania (NGOs) with technical editorial and financial resources in order to report independently, ethically and in a gender-balanced way. The objective of this call is enhancing local media outlets (NGOs) production, targeting specific audiences, particularly youth, women and minority/ vulnerable groups, through technical, editorial and financial support.

BIRN Albania will grant EUR 8,000 – 15,000 to three successful applicants interested in this open call, with duration of action from 10 months to 12 months. Any grant requested under this call for proposals must cover 100% of total eligible costs of the action.

Expected results for each grant:

  • Media articles, fact checking and other multimedia content (video, visualizations, podcasts, etc) on human rights abuses, fundamental rights violations, local government accountability and underreported topics relevant to local communities, will be produced and published by the grant beneficiaries.
  • Freedom of Information requests to relevant public bodies will be submitted by the grant beneficiaries
  • Joint meetings with local representatives (CSOs and community member) conducted by the grant beneficiaries.
  • Active participation of the grant beneficiaries on networking and exchange meetings, training and mentoring activities, organised by the contracting authority.

Who will be supported:

In order to be eligible for a grant, the applicant must be:

  • a non-governmental organization registered and acting in the territory of Albania for more than 12 months from the date of application;
  • have an active, periodically updated media outlet;
  • non-profit making;
  • directly responsible for the preparation and management of the action;
  • have previous experience (during the last 12 months) in implementing grants on media sector

How to apply:

Applications must be submitted in one envelope which should contain the following documents:

  • Administrative documents as per list in section 2.1.1. must be sent only in electronic format (USB or CD).
  • Full Application Form (Annex 1), Budget (Annex 2) and Log-frame (Annex 3) must be sent in hardcopy, signed and sealed by the legal representative, and in the electronic version.

On the outer envelope must be written: The name of the applicant organization and title of the project proposal.

Applications must be submitted at the address below:

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Albania (BIRN Albania)
Address: Str. Nikolla Jorga, Apt. 8/8, Tirana, Albania

Applications sent by any other means (e.g. by e-mail) or delivered to other addresses will be rejected.

The deadline for the submission of applications is July 15, 2024, 17.00 hours

For more details regarding the application procedures please see the Guidelines for Subgranting Scheme.

Please find attached the application package:

Annex 1: Application Form
Annex 2: Budget Form
Annex 3: Logical Framework Form
Annex 4: Checklist for the application
Annex A – Annex E: Administrative documents

BIRN Albania Holds Workshop on Women’s Representation in Online and Social Media in Elections

On Tuesday May 28 the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held a workshop in Tirana on women’s representation in online and social media during electoral campaigns.

The workshop was held as part of the project “Greater Internet Freedom” founded by US Agency for International Development and Internews.

The project aims to enhance awareness of digital rights, with a special focus on women and vulnerable groups.

The workshop was attended by two dozen students from the communication and political science department of the European University of Tirana.

The workshop was held by Kristina Voko, Executive Director of BIRN Albania, who presented the students with published BIRN Albania research on gender representation on social and online media during election campaigns, both at local and national level.

Voko highlighted the data on the online media and social media coverage of the political discourse and portrayal of women, both as political candidates and as voters during the 2023 local elections.

The presentation follows two major campaigns on social media on online rights abuses and the right to privacy and data protection.

BIRN Albania Screens Documentary on Sexual Harassment

Premiere of Body of Shame, which challenges the societal norms that blame victims of sexual abuse, kicks off week of Women’s Rights Activism.

On March 4 in Tirana, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Albania held a screening of its documentary Body of Shame, to launch Women’s Rights Activism Week.

The screening was attended by the British, EU and German ambassadors to Albania as well as women’s rights activists and civil society representatives.

The documentary was produced in collaboration with Barraka Productions and director Elton Baxhaku. In the first two weeks of March it will be screened across Albania, including in Saranda, Shkodra, Peshkopia, Kukes, Vlore, Berat, Durres and Elbasan.

Body of Shame explores sexual abuse and harassment of women in Albania in light of the #metoo movement, exposing the fact that few woman remain unscathed by this phenomenon.

The documentary showcases the stories of brave women who challenge stigmas and share their stories with a determination to shatter society’s wall of silence.

Body of Shame challenges the societal norms that blame victims and turn a blind eye on them, seeking collective change.

Through the powerful narratives of sexual violence survivors, the documentary seeks to promote culture change, sharing the ugly truth of sexual harassment and violence against women.

‘New Wave’, BIRN Albania’s Documentary on Migration, Screened in Tirana

New film explores push factors behind latest migration wave from Albania toward the European Union and Britain.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania on February 13 staged the premiere of its documentary New Wave in Tirana. More than 100 people – some of the standing – gathered at the Agimi Art Center for the screening, including members of the diplomatic corps, activists, journalists and filmmakers.

The documentary, produced in cooperation with Barraka Production and directed by award-winning director, Elton Baxhaku, explores the push factors behind Albania’s latest migration wave toward the European Union and the United Kingdom.

It includes interviews with people from different walks of life and different regions of the country, as well as experts and academics that study migration and its impact on individuals, families and society, in an attempt to explain what is pushing so many to migrate and what this means for the Albania and its future.

Elton Baxhaku is an Albanian filmmaker best known for his 2014
documentary Skandal, the 2016 documentary Selita, which was co-directed by Eriona Çami, and Free Flow in 2018.

The documentary was produced as part of the project “Using Big Data and Multimedia to Boost Quality and Independent Journalism in Albania”, which is supported by the European Union and the Swedish government and implemented by BIRN Albania.

The project worked to create an enabling environment for Albanian journalists to produce independent content through training, mentoring, technical and financial support, in close cooperation with civil society, so improving freedom of expression and strengthening media pluralism in Albania.

In the next few months BIRN Albania will take the documentary on the road and hold screenings in several Albanian cities and towns, which are considered as ground zero for the latest migration wave.

BIRN Albania Wins Landmark FOI Case

Verdict forces Qualification Commission to reveal name of private sponsor who paid for vetting institutions staff’s weekend retreat in luxury resort.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania has won a landmark lawsuit against the Independent Qualification Commission, IQC, over the right to public information.

The IQC is one of three institutions charged with vetting judges and prosecutors in Albania.

The verdict, which was adjudicated by the Appeals Administrative Court in Tirana, forces the IQC to reveal the name of a private sponsor who paid the bill for a weekend retreat in a luxurious resort for the vetting institutions staff.

BIRN sought the records from the IQC in 2022. After the IQC refused, a complaint was filed with the Commissioner on the Right to Information. The Commissioner ruled in BIRN’s favour but the IQC filed a lawsuit against his decision.

In the First Instance Administrative Court in Tirana, BIRN Albania journalist Edmond Hoxhaj joined the case as a third party. When the judge ruled in favour of the IQC, Hoxhaj appealed, and on January 23, the Administrative Court reversed the verdict, upholding the earlier decision of the Commissioner for the Right to Information.

BIRN Albania Publishes Manual on Environmental Advocacy in Albania

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania has published a manual on environmental advocacy for activists in the country.

The manual was written by Mihallaq Qirjo, a professor of ecology at Tirana University and environmentalist. It aims to empower civil society actors to raise their voices and to take on important environmental causes on behalf of communities across the country.

The manual’s contents are intended to raise awareness of the need for active participation, better governance and improvements in the management of natural resources in Albania. It is also intended to boost collaboration between civil society organisations, public authorities, local communities and the media over the long term in order to create partnerships that secure sustainable development.

The publication of the manual was financially supported by Sweden and the Democracy Commission Small Grants Program of the US Embassy in Tirana as part of the project ‘Building Resilience through Environmental Journalism’.

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

BIRN Albania Publishes Handbook for Journalists Reporting on the Environment

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania has published a new handbook for journalists in the country on how to report on environment and climate change.

The manual was written by Lawrence Marzouk, a journalist, editor and trainer with almost 20 years’ experience in investigative reporting, and Mihallaq Qirjo, a professor of ecology at Tirana University and environmental activist. The publication was edited by Alken Myftiu, an expert on climate change, renewable and clean energy policies and environmental Issues.

The manual aims to provide journalists with a better understanding of climate change and looming environmental crises, as well as explaining the legal and financial situation in Albania as regards environmental issues and the country’s path towards harmonisation with EU standards.

It also provides Albanian journalists with the latest practical, cutting-edge tools to investigate and report on the subject, while suggesting useful open sources of information.

The publication of the manual was supported financially by Sweden and the Democracy Commission Small Grants Program of the US Embassy in Tirana as part of the project ‘Building Resilience Through Environmental Journalism’.

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

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