The High Prosecution Council (HPC) announced on Tuesday, 11 October, via the Whatsapp application the approval of the new HPC regulation for communication with the media. The regulation threatens journalists with the removal of accreditation for relations with HPC “if there are clear violations of objectivity and professionalism, as well as for violations of the Constitution, the law, and the principles of this regulation”. In this regulation, it is unclear who will do the professional assessment of journalists or the transparency and objectivity of their reporting, in order to determine the measures taken by the Coordinator for the Right to Access to Information at HPC or the member of the Council assigned for the media.
Concerns have been raised by independent experts and media organisations about this new regulation. The lack of prior consultation with journalists and media organisations is to be noted. In addition, the regulation does not distinguish between access to public information and documents and requests to access daily information and comments from HPC. Also, it includes only journalists, camerapersons and photographers working for media companies in the accreditation, thus omitting freelance journalists, bloggers and others. Another concern regards the stipulation to prohibit any contact between journalists and the HPC Coordinator for the Right to Information, which means that contact with journalists can only be established by the HPC Chair.
The representative of SafeJournalists Network in Albania, Blerjana Bino, said that the regulation stipulates that if the journalists do not report objectively, they will be stripped from their accreditation to HPC, which means they will not have access to information. “The concern here is that the High Prosecution Council (HPC) is attributing itself with the right to do professional judgment of the work of journalists. How can HPC assess the objectivity of the reporting? Second, the regulation seems to be more restrictive than the actual provisions in the Law on the Right to Information, the latter being under revisions to improve it considering the challenges in its implementation so far. What we are witnessing is yet another public institution attempting to close the doors to the media. While we recognise the problems with information disorder and quality of journalism in Albania, we cannot solve problems of poor quality journalism with restricted access to information, particularly in the context of Albania with various concerns raised over the past years regarding media freedom and freedom of expression”, said Bino.
SafeJournalists Network, representing more than 8,200 media professionals in the Western Balkans, calls on the HPC to reconsider this new regulation, to have a broad consultation meeting with journalists, media organizations, and civil society before going ahead. Also, HPC should ensure transparency and free access to public information allowing journalists to do their work.
SafeJournalists Network will inform relevant national and international stakeholders about this case.
Each attack on journalists is an attack on public interest, democracy and rights of all citizens.
Skopje – Belgrade – Podgorica – Pristina – Sarajevo – Zagreb – Tirana, 18.10.2022.
Association of Journalists of Kosovo
Association of Journalists of Macedonia
BH Journalists Association
Croatian Journalists’ Association
Independent Journalists Association of Serbia
Trade Union of Media of Montenegro