Do free media exist in the Western Balkans?
You could put it like this: As in many other regions across the globe, the media scene in the Western Balkans is free but not independent. This means that in Albania, for example, many publishing houses, radio stations and TV stations serve commercial or political purposes rather than the public interest. Added to this are the current challenges that media are equally facing everywhere else. Take the dark side of the Internet, for example: hate speech is attacking the credibility of journalistic work here too. What is more, truth seems to become increasingly less important, drowning in a sea of disinformation.
Is fake news the dominant topic?
Nowadays anyone can call anything fake news. There is no ultimate tool to uncover the truth, which plays into the hands of those that exercise a dominant power over public opinion, in particular governments. The truth is that media are losing their influence – and appear to accept the waning of their power all too willingly. With the rise of social media, it seems everyone’s a journalist now. But that’s not true. Journalism is a profession, a profession we need to defend. People must recognise the role independent, professional reporting plays in a democracy.
Does the Internet pose a threat to journalism?
We all embrace the possibilities offered by the Internet. Its emergence has brought freedom, but also the illusion of freedom. What does that mean? In Albania many young people make their voices heard through social media like Twitter. Then election day comes, and they don’t go to the polls. Do you want people to write tweets or to cast their votes? Freedom of expression has got out of hand in Albania, but here too, less is sometimes more: we don’t need 20 daily newspapers, we need five good ones. We don’t need 700 news portals but a few quality media that strengthen democracy.
Photo: © Michael Sommer