Albanian journalists advocate for gender equality in the media.

June 24, 2023by admin

A group of Albanian journalists, human rights experts, and legal professionals are urging the government to change the law regarding gender equality in media organizations and the portrayal of women in the media.

Albanian Women in Audiovisual (AWA) has long worked to eliminate gender inequality in audiovisual environments. They published an article in 2018 about the implementation of the law on gender equality in public media and were disappointed to discover that women’s representation in Albanian Radio Television (the state broadcaster), the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), and the Albanian National Center of Cinematography (KKK) was far from gender equality. Furthermore, they were already aware of the sexism that dominates Albanian television screens and the lack of mechanisms to address it appropriately.

They sent letters and statements to Parliamentary Committees and Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruci, but their concerns were ignored.

The main issues, according to Valbona Sulce, a journalist with more than 20 years of experience and author of the first manual for gender-responsive journalism, are misrepresentation of women in the media and under-representation of women within the media and corporate structures.

“Studies show that women are underrepresented as professionals on show panels and at decision-making levels in media companies.” “They are also frequently objectified in television programs, particularly sports programs, video clips, and commercials,” she told Exit.

According to Sulçe, their sexualization in this form means that society perceives them as the “fair sex” – without brains or the ability to do things like men do. She went on to say that women on screen are frequently depicted in the context of soft news, cooking, fashion, family, or children.

“We rarely see women in positions such as politicians, directors, police officers, lawyers, successful entrepreneurs and diplomats,” she said.

Dorela Lazaj, a democracy and human rights expert, adds that sexist portrayals of women in the media have been a problem for many years.

“Recently, my concern has grown as the media normalizes and promotes this culture.” “We want to see a media that portrays everyone with dignity, portrays social reality in a balanced way, promotes women in leadership, and makes Albania a country that embodies gender equality,” she told Exit.

This sexist culture extends to the workplace as well as the media. Although Albania has a gender equality law, it is not enforced within media organizations. Furthermore, the Law on Audiovisual Media contains no provisions for the prevention of sexism, which is contrary to European Standards.

Because the initiative is still being reviewed, the specifics of AWA’s proposals cannot be made public. Dorela stated that their proposal is based on the Council of Europe’s recommendations “On Gender Equality in the Media” and other resolutions aimed at preventing sexism.

According to the Council of Europe (CE), gender equality is a human right, and combating stereotypes and sexism, achieving a balance between men and women in public decision-making, and incorporating gender into all policies are all important steps toward achieving this right.

According to CE, the audiovisual sector has the opportunity and power to shape and influence society, and as such, it has the potential to slow or accelerate structural change toward gender equality.

The resolution specifies six actions that member countries must take. The Albanian government, which is a member of the Council of Europe, has not completed these actions.

They hope that the legislation will bring EU regulations on gender equality and sexism in the media into line with Albanian legislation. There is currently a gap in domestic legislation, and the government has “completely ignored European legislation” and has failed to recognize any issues in this area.

AWA’s work is centered on three main pillars: equal gender representation of women in all public decision-making bodies, including the AMA, RTSH, and KKK; harmonization of local legislation with CE standards, specifically the prohibition of sexism; and proposing a structure within the AMA that will address sexism rules violations, monitor, and take action where violations are identified.

In due course, AWA intends to present their findings and proposals to the AMA and legislators. Informally, they’ve been told that the AMA is eager to embrace the new changes, which will give them new powers to better monitor the media for sexist content. The United Nations Women’s Organization (UN Women) is also assisting the AMA in monitoring international standards.

The real challenge comes when the media is required to follow the new rules. According to Sulçe, we need to change the culture in media companies, which is rooted in society’s patriarchal mentality, in which women are marginalized.

“The Labor Code contains anti-discrimination provisions that do not apply to media companies.” “These include maternity leave, overtime, protection from a hostile work environment, and anti-sexual harassment policies,” she explained.

So, what can journalists do to help alleviate the situation?

Sulçe explains why it is critical to adhere to the highest professional standards when it comes to gender issues:

“We must understand the dynamics of gender reporting and avoid bias; we must constantly improve our reporting; and we must remember that we have the right to speak in the reality of Albanian women and girls.” We have a choice between justifying inequality and challenging it with concrete examples and strict monitoring of the content we broadcast.

“This can be challenging for a country like Albania, which is still in the grip of cultural chaos,” Dorela says, “but if there’s anything we’ve learned these 30 years, it’s that our society is very dynamic and open to change.”