3 May 2023
Speech is free and its truth should be protected, not poisoned
May 3rd is a day of remembrance and appreciation for journalists who have been threatened, attacked or even lost their lives during their work. The International Press Freedom Day serves also as a moment of reflection for all of us, journalists, on the challenges to guarantee press freedom, but also to ensure ethical and professional journalism.
We, more than anyone, must realize and make it known to all actors and the public that speech is free and its truth must be protected, instead of poisoned.
Even according to the media freedom index of Reporters Without Borders this international day again finds the freedom of the media in Albania in a vulnerable position. Journalists and the media are faced not only with threats and censorship, but also with disinformation and “noisy” propaganda coming from both the political and business environment. The lack of transparency and blocking of official information continues to remain a challenge for journalists who seek to inform correctly, independently and qualitatively. It is only a few days away to the local elections, and election campaign materials continue to be prepared in the press offices of the institutions. The media broadcast pre-prepared messages preventing journalists from performing their main task, that is informing the citizens accurately.
“Faktoje” is the only media that periodically verifies the promises of politicians and local officials, offering a reliable way of verification for voters.
During the last 12 months, we have verified 285 statements and 84 promises of public officials, according to the internationally unified methodology as signatories of the IFCN Code of Principles, with the public interest prevailing.
Out of the 285 statements, 20 were categorized as true and 129 as false. Out of 84 promises, 73 were verified as unkept promises, and only 11 as kept promises. Although, these indicators alone are sufficient to prove the fulfillment of the mission to hold public officials accountable and citizens well-informed. Faktoje also contributes to media literacy in schools, universities and public institutions. Through comprehensive projects, the development of critical thinking is aimed at the audience, which has been bombarded by fake news and copy-paste conspiracy theories, packed in sensationalist and untrue headlines, especially in periods of crisis such as the earthquake, pandemic or the war in Ukraine, turning into an infodemic, putting public safety and health at risk.
In obtaining the information needed, we face an increasingly hermetic administration or answers that try to hide the truth. We have thus decided to face the government, not for the interest of someone else who is waiting to come to power, but to ensure proper accountability and transparency for the public.
The shift of media consumption to online platforms, from social media to messaging platforms, coincides with phenomena such as online disinformation, hate speech and electoral manipulation, which have led to a decrease in trust in serious media sources, but even in democratic institutions.
“Faktoje”, as the only fact- checking organization in Albania , part of the IFCN International Fact-Checking Network, has started cooperation with the META company in 2022, with the aim of verifying fake news on various portals. Verifications of disinformation about the war in Ukraine or conspiracy theories that question the legitimacy of the authorities in Albania and our Euro-Atlantic allies often provoke intimidation and personal attacks against “Faktoje” team from the media, portals or even the people affected by the denunciation of fake news.
“Faktoje” team verifies disinformation news and offers each portal the opportunity to correct fake news, in order to reduce disinformation, conspiracy theories, or news produced just for views. To date, no media has claimed that the news verified by “Faktoje” has been unjustly categorized as false, or appeal against it by addressing META. Unfortunately, the path chosen is that of attacking journalists and struggling to find elsewhere the reasons for blocking fake news.
Unfortunately, in addition to politics and business, we are now faced with these blackmail portals, which under the guise of heroes of free speech are further threatening an independent and professional media.
Journalism is a mission to serve the truth and citizens whose voice has no power to be heard. Thus it serves the strengthening of democracy and the development of the country. Therefore, stopping disinformation that dares to appear openly on anonymous portals, in the name of freedom of speech, is today an even more important mission. We continue to believe that the public and other professional media actors will find the right strength not to remain indifferent to the media that are used as tools of propaganda and blackmail.
 The main purpose of “Faktoje” is to check on promises made, statements and how public money is spent by high officials. It applies a verification methodology that protects editorial independence, aiming to increase transparency and strengthen accountability of public institutions.