Media, Transparency and Accountability in Albania
Media, Transparency and Accountability in Albania sought to strengthen the role of the Albanian media to promote transparency and government accountability by 1) investigating and informing citizens on issues of civic concern and corruption, and 2) developing, implementing and enforcing its own ethical and professional standards. The project did help to improve the media’s capacity to investigate and inform citizens on issues of corruption and civic concern, but that the difficulty in airing the shows on national TV, and in particular, national public TV, limited its potential impact, as did the lack of synergies with other anti-corruption or good governance activities. The mix of local and national topics for its reports seemed appropriate as it attracted the interest of both audiences and drew national attention to some of the problems in the local areas.
Lessons from Project
Evidence collected during interviews and group discussions, and as self-reported by the grantee, indicated that women’s new-found confidence to exercise their democratic rights was sensitive to the attitudes and decisions of their male relatives. If this confidence does not get translated into actual democratic participation the motivation of the women involved may weaken.
The sustainability of the project has perhaps been compromised by the fact that elections in Pakistan were delayed. Given the prevailing lack of confidence in democratic processes, the failure to be able to exercise the right to vote, which the project participants had been educated about, could eventually compromise the results of the project.
Not much thought was given to the design of the media campaign element of the project at its start. In planning for this element of the project the grantee could have included a qualitative market research component, even as simple as a few focus groups, to help assess impact and revise messages and materials accordingly. This would have also allowed an assessment of the impact of the media campaign.
The project aimed to reach an exceptionally high number of people and succeeded in doing so. Quantitative targets were either met or exceeded. However, the effectiveness of the project, as well as its impact, might have been higher if it had delivered a smaller set of more tightly focused interventions. As it was, interventions were broad rather than deep.
A positive factor for the sustainability of the project was the established track record of the grantee in the target communities. The grantee’s familiarity with local culture and institutions, its position of trust in communities, and its expertise all contributed to project success. The NGO has also proven its ability to attract funding.
An especially important impact of the project was that it encouraged a large number of women to obtain national identity cards, a potentially life-changing event for many. During the 2010 floods in this area there had been a general awareness raising of the rights associated with identity cards but the project converted this general knowledge into a concrete entitlement to public relief.
The website that was reportedly created for the project was no longer accessible due to the expiration of the domain. There was a record of some project activities on the grantee’s Facebook page, but those posts are very dated and not easy to find.
There was very little hard data available for the evaluators’ use. The Final Narrative Report was not completed until more than a year after the project was finished and the report was completed by remaining grantee staff and youth district managers, primarily on recollection and what was in the midterm report. If the grantee recorded activity level data, this did not appear to have been systematically collected and aggregated or used for project management or monitoring purposes.
Albania is the only country in Europe without audience monitoring, and the outlets now sell advertising time based on anecdotal information. A more realistic set of indicators could have tracked more closely the actual impact of the project– such as changes to government practices or policies, the number of persons held accountable for reports aired, and numbers of outlets adopting a full formal system of employment.
The Journalist Union’s activities to increase its membership were effective as they were linked to something tangible– the issuing of a membership card which had value to journalists. The card was provided as a receipt for the payment of dues which provided the Union with some income. However, most journalists seemed to have interpreted this as a one-time requirement, and did not see the need during interviews to pay dues on a regular basis. The number of members increased from 480 in 2008 to 790 in 2010. There were 870 members by the time of the evaluation. The union’s regional offices did not appear to be open, but they still had representatives for the offices who managed the Union activities in their areas and who convened meetings when needed.
The grantee mastered the reporting and production aspects of the project activities, but its biggest challenge was finding a market for its products. This was illustrated repeatedly by stations pulling out because of political or advertiser pressure. Perhaps linkages with a strong enterprise are necessary to ensure a platform to broadcast such shows and to be able to withstand the subsequent political pressure.
Project activities could have been made more effective had they not been done in isolation from the other good governance and anti-corruption work being done in Albania. Developing synergies with other projects and organizations working on the same issues could have ensured follow-up to the issues uncovered by the grantee reports and Union activities. Link investigative reports with civic and legal action to maximize their effectiveness and ensure accountability. Work with other civil society organizations government Ombudsmen and other organizations, such as international non-governmental organizations working on issues of freedom of the media, protection of journalists and anti-corruption, as well as international organizations such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other donor programs.
National public TV (TVSH) and other TV stations in Albania with nationwide coverage would not broadcast its programmes because of the nature of their content. To compensate, the grantee productions were uploaded onto YouTube and the grantee helped to create a project website to serve as a repository for its programmes, which was originally not anticipated in the project.
The project built on portions of an earlier media development project funded by USAID in Albania. As a result, most of the project framework was already in place, making implementation of the UNDEF-funded activities relatively straightforward. Most of the stations in its networks, and about half of its reporters, had already been trained under the previous USAID. project and the grantee was able to leverage this experience to its advantage. This helped to consolidate the position of investigatory journalism and the role of the media as a public watchdog. It also ensured that the Union functioned long enough to become an established part of the Albanian media environment.