IBNA Interview/Head of the Union of Journalists, Aleksander Cipa for the situation of media in Albania

IBNA Interview/Head of the Union of Journalists, Aleksander Cipa for the situation of media in Albania

In an interview for IBNA news agency, the prominent Albanian journalist and analyst, Aleksander Cipa talks about the situation of media in Albania. He considers the situation with the media as problematic. Why does he believe that today’s journalism is worse than in the first period of pluralist media that started in the ‘90s

IBNA: What is the main problem of the Albanian media?

Cipa: Albanian media today face important problems, which cannot compare to each other, but together, they relate to what the public judges. Lack of trust, loss of the integrity of reports and escape from objectivity. Media are usurped by owners and their interests. Therefore, journalists in these media are mere employees without a status, without a contract and integrity, for as long as they remain in their temporary jobs. After leaving these media, they always whisper the reason to their colleagues, but never make it public and they never announce it as a denouncing act. Colleagues do not offer public solidarity and they do not publish the reason. After this, the other problems follow. Among the main ones I would mention professionalism. It’s lacking more and more amid the media and journalists this is very serious. The mockery with this lack of professionalism has gone as far as the fact that the main political parties have formed their newsrooms in order to distribute readymade reports for broadcast and first of all, to be sent to the editors in chief and news directors(!)

IBNA: Another problem of the media in Albania relates to low salaries that most of journalists are paid, especially, as you mentioned above, the problem with the delays in the payment. Many of them are paid several months later. As a Union, do you see this as a serious problem and have you made efforts to help for a solution?

Cipa: This problem doesn’t relate to the low salaries, but with the delayed and denied salaries. This is a problem which for many years has related to the reason from which it stems, with informality. The system of payments in Albanian media is entirely informal, depending on the will of owners or administrators. This has led to many cases where monthly salaries have not been received on time and there have also been cases where salaries have only been paid twice in six months. We’re the first to denounce this reality. We have created the tradition of e monthly periodical denouncement. We have held negotiations, demanded the intervention of the Work Inspectorate and we have also dealt with the courts of the country. There are many cases of denouncement and lawsuits at the Court of Tirana for 2014. We have mobilized all representatives of the institutions in the country, the former PM, the President, ministers, OSCE and many ambassadors. We have also demanded a hearing at the parliamentary committee for media and social wellbeing. Our challenge relates to solving the issue of the lost social security contributions for Albanian journalists in the past 20 years.

IBNA: The situation seems gloomy in the media, but do you think that Albania has independent and free media to do their job?

Cipa: Albania has free media that attacks and at the same time, media that love the attacked side. This freedom has nothing to do with the journalist, but with the use of media by its owner. There are media in Albania which have leeway in reporting news in the form of gossip, because professional reporting has long died. Freedom of media in the country has turned into freedom to change partnership with politics and people in power. If we want true free media, then we can see it in online media. Meanwhile, in classic media, newspapers and TV channels, this freedom “has died without an obituary”. Of course, there are free journalists and I know some of them and I’m also optimistic that I will see more of them in the future.

IBNA: How protected are journalists in Albania today?

Cipa: The essence of the social aspect of “protection” consists on the greatest wound of the Albanian post communist transition, informality. They are completely unprotected and as such, they have accepted and continue to accept their situation.

They are unprotected because they don’t exert the honorable profession of journalists, but they are employed based on the criteria that are decided by media owners or their administrators. These criteria are decided without any encountering any objection by employees.  They are employed based on the norms of the media owners, “you are worth it if I say so and if you do what I tell you to do”. Otherwise, you are not worth it, even if you have a career, if you have won awards and if you are professional in the mission of the journalist. This is how journalists are recruited in Albanian media. This practice is worse than that in the first period of the pluralist and private media that started at the beginning of ‘90s. Journalists are completely unprotected by the state, or better say, by the constitutional institutions of the country.

There are no criteria and the Albanian legislation on unions, the Work Code and other social guarantees that journalists must enjoy, like miners or workers of other sectors, do not apply During these 25 years, the governments that have existed in this transition period have only allocated three or four special pensions for invalid journalists or retired journalists. This lack of protection doesn’t only relate to the responsibility of others. It relates to us, journalists, because we have never joined in order to demand our rights. The Despair for self regulation has defeated everyone. Everyone is selfish and egocentric. This way, Albania’s journalists have embarked on a journey without making the necessary collective efforts to earn social self protection and the guarantee for integrity or the status of a so called “fourth power”.

IBNA:  How do you consider true journalism? What is needed for it?

Thousands of books and memoirs have been written by stars and heroes of journalism about these characters. I don’t want to take up more of your publication space to mention them. True journalism stems from the work and personal perseverance of the journalist in reporting and for the reporting. True journalism appears and triumphs when the journalist asks the owner in the quality of a common member of the media audience, only once after the publication. What did you make of the news that we published?

IBNA: What chances do young journalists get to be promoted while they complete their studies?

Cipa: Today there are many opportunities. The discontent about the media today is a great opportunity. All young journalists must smartly exploit this opportunity. Let them exploit what the prominent Albanian professor and philosopher Artan Fuga points out: “Journalism is being destroyed by media, while media is being destroyed by politics, while politics is being destroyed by journalism destroyed by media destroyed by politics”. By taking journalism out of this situation, young journalists have the chance to take the credit of change and also benefit a lot for themselves and their career. /ibna/