In 2009, Together for Life (TFL), an Albanian non-governmental organization focused on gender and human rights, recognized the need to establish a network of journalists in Albania to encourage environmental reporting. Spurred on by the battle to save Vjosa, Albania's ‘’last wild river in Europe’’, TFL began working to encourage media reporting on biodiversity issues.
In 2021 TFL was selected for an organizational media grant through EJN’s Biodiversity Media Initiative which aimed to strengthen TFL’s efforts to protect biodiversity through increasing journalists’ awareness and capacities.
TFL’s Executive Director Eglantina Bardhi told EJN that “The project implemented by TFL and supported by EJN helps journalists reporting on biodiversity problems to better understand the most pressing issues, from conservation on climate change to public institutions making poor decisions. Training provided by TFL will help journalists adequately understand how to report on protecting the environment paying attention to the concerns of environmentalists and making the community aware in general to react to any government decision that affects the damage to the environment.”
As part of this project, TFL trained 10 journalists from local and national media outlets who were selected after a competitive application process.
- Lindita Çela, OCCRP.org
- Entela Bajramaj, Top Channel;
- Oralda Lahe, Radio Tirana
- Leart Miraka, Babel.al
- Alma Lahe, Travel Magazine
- Eralda Zito, Monitor Magazine
- Denisa Canameti, Shendet.com
- Dritan Laçi, News 24
- Desara Çela, Shendet.co
- Fiona Çela, Syri Television
In early April, Together For Life hosted a training workshop for the journalists for three days in the city of Përmet, southern Albania. Experts in European and Albanian legislation, journalism and biodiversity attended and shared their insights with participating journalists.
As part of the workshop, TFL organised a fieldtrip to the Vjosa river and the Fir of Hotovë-Dangëlli - Albania’s largest National Park. On the second day, participants took the initiative to form an informal network called Pro Mjedisit “which aims to exchange information between group members in order to provide safe and real-time information for the public on environmental issues,” Arlinda Shehu told EJN. The journalists wanted to be able to increase pressure on the government and raise awareness through the publication of stories about nature conservation. To help the group stay connected, a Facebook page was established where members could post about biodiversity issues.
So far, 12 articles have been published by the trained journalists.
In an attempt to raise more awareness about Vjosa, "the last wild river in Europe", four of these journalists published in-depth articles which covered the threats to Vjosa’s biodiversity, including the proposed damming of the river. Their stories amplified the work of environmentalists working to conserve Vjosa.
In mid-June 2022, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced the government would be joining forces with Patagonia to establish Vjosa National Park which would improve the conservation of the fragile ecosystem.
Lindita Çela, whose story reported the impacts of a proposed airport in the region, raised concerns about cronyism and became a hot topic of discussion in a plenary session of the Parliament of Albania as her investigation revealed corruption in the highest levels of government.
At a time when government corruption dominated headlines, some of the other trainees’ environmental stories were overshadowed, shared Shehu.
“Journalists in Albania face many barriers to reporting on environmental issues and media outlets there rarely produce in-depth investigations on these subjects. Together for Life has made great progress in addressing these gaps by training a cohort of journalists and supporting the emerging network that they have formed,” said Charlie Debenham, EJN’s Senior Programme Officer.
“Some of the trainees have already produced impactful stories exposing threats to the country’s biodiversity. This highlights the power of EJN’s media grants to strengthen environmental journalism in Albania and around the world,” she added.
Despite the efforts of Together for Life, funding and gaining interest in stories on the environment continues to be a struggle for many Albanian journalists, however with improved reporting skills on the issues, TFL hopes they will gain traction.