Albania Govt Accused of Funding Allies With Ads

Socialists accuse government of Sali Berisha of funneling millions of euro in advertising money to friendly media, close to the ruling centre-right Democratic Party.Albanian Socialist MP Eduard Shalsi has revealed data showing that in the past five years several government ministries have paid for expensive TV advertising campaigns, with the lion’s share of the contracts going to an agency close to the pro-government TV Klan.

Apart from the TV adverts, the MP said that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of money was also spent over the same period in newspaper adverts in the Democratic Party’s own tabloid paper, Rilindja Demokratike, and in two pro-government papers, Gazeta 55 and Koha Jone.

“Unable to build a democratic government that can push the country forward, Sali Berisha is paying any amount to control the media and brainwash the people with propaganda,” Shalsi claimed on Friday.

The government has not reacted. However, MPs from the ruling coalition turned down an opposition request for a parliamentary commission to probe the distribution and use of government adverts in the media.

Albania has a large number of broadcast and print media, which compete fiercely for limited advertising revenues and generally depend on businesses to subsidize them.

Combined with other interferences in editorial policy from politicians and business interests, it has had a clear impact on the Albanian media’s independence.

The World Press Freedom Index, released by the Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders in January, underlined that the economic crisis has accentuated the media’s problems in the country.

During the past year, Albania dropped from 80th to 96th place in the media freedom index, becoming the second-worst performer in the region after Montenegro.

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