A newly created media watchdog has accused Albanian news outlets of “media bias” in an editorial published in Albanian newspaper “Prava” Wednesday, in a move that critics say is part of a trend of the government to censor and silence opposition voices.
The editorial, published in the Albanian-language newspaper, was penned by Adriana Baje, a veteran reporter for the country’s top news agency, the Albanias State News Agency, who served as the countrys chief information officer for several years before being promoted to a position with the state broadcaster, Albania Radio.
Baje said she was outraged that “a government department that is supposed to monitor the media” had published an editorial criticizing the country, calling the decision “unfortunate” and calling for the resignation of the editor of the newspaper, who she said had “not done a good job.”
She said the editorial was not about the role of the Albanians National Assembly, which oversees the country and which is largely made up of Albanian politicians.
Instead, it was a thinly veiled attack on the new media watchdog, called the Commission for the Protection of the Right to Information, that has been established by the Albania government to combat a wave of censorship that began in 2017.
Babak Pashos, a member of the commission, said the new watchdog, which has been working since October, would “fight against any attempts by the state and the authorities to distort the truth in the media,” calling the editorial “unprecedented.”
“It’s an example of what the Albanese are capable of, of not being afraid of the media, which is a very important element in the country,” Pashot said.
Pashot is also an adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, which recently launched a campaign to educate the country on its media laws and regulations.
He said that if the government wants to get the country back on track, it must focus on the media and not the other areas where it is not well-connected to the rest of society.
“The country needs a government that is responsive to the needs of the people, and not just the needs that are being dictated to it by its political elites,” he said.
“The media is one of the tools of democracy, not the state.”
Pashos said he would not be surprised if the commission is soon called upon to investigate a number of cases of alleged media bias.
“I am very certain that it will come up with a number and I am sure it will be a very difficult investigation,” he told Al Jazeera.
Baja, which translates to “city of news,” is located on the border with Turkey, and is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Tirana, the capital of Albania.
The capital, Tirana is also home to the countryís most important airport.
Baba is a city of about 1 million people in a region where ethnic Albanians make up around 15 percent of the population.
The majority of Albanians live in the north of the country where Pashots ethnic Albanian minority has been living since the 1980s.
The country has a rich history and tradition of ethnic Albanias culture, but has experienced the decline of their population in recent decades.
In 2016, about 1.2 million Albanians, or 10 percent of its population, left the country.
Pashottos is a vocal critic of the Balkan countries’ policies on migration and refugees, who have caused tensions between Albanian and Balkan Albanians in the past.