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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article15 November 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

New edition of EU-Western Balkans Media Conference in Albania reaffirms the importance of media freedom and freedom of expression

EU-WB Media Conference

The new edition of the EU-Western Balkans Media Conference took place on 10-11 November 2022 in Tirana, Albania and it hosted almost 200 participants, including journalists, media professionals, civil society organisations, fact-checkers, professors and more from the Western Balkan region, the EU and its partners.

The Conference, jointly organised by the European Commission and the European External Action Service, started with a workshop opened by Andris Kesteris, Media and Civil Society Principal Adviser at the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, who, who together with the Commission’s main partners, such as USAID and GIZ, presented the newest media assistance programmes in the Western Balkans.

The conference officially started with Ambassador Hohmann, Head of the EU Delegation to Albania, who highlighted that free and independent media are a key pillar of democracy in forming a public sphere, shaping public opinion and holding those in power to account.

Michela Matuella, Acting Director for the Western Balkans at the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, followed up commenting: “Freedom of expression is a core European value and a prerequisite for accession and precisely it is also at the centre of the EU’s enlargement policy.” However, she underlined that governments and relevant actors (regulatory bodies, public broadcasters and media owners) must step up their efforts too, to create an enabling environment for media freedom.

The conference continued with several panels on key issues such as information manipulation and foreign interference, modern content production, disinformation and collaborative approaches.

One of the highlights of the conference was the delivery of the EU Investigative Journalism Awards in the Western Balkans, during which the three top investigative journalists from the WB6 were awarded.

EU support to media in the Western Balkans

Currently, the European Commission is supporting the media sector in the Western Balkans with almost €38 million, through regional and bilateral programmes, and this will increase even more in the upcoming period. Supporting media actors and counteracting the challenges of the new technologies is also one of the main objectives of the new Thematic Programme for Human Rights and Democracy 2021-2027. The Thematic Programme will also support civil society organisations to promote independent media and a digital sphere compliant with human rights standards.

The Commission has recently put forward a number of legislative and policy proposals in the European Union, covering aspects, which are burning issues for the Western Balkans. Some of these are the EU action against abusive litigation (SLAPP) targeting journalists and rights defenders and the European Media Freedom Act, addressing issues as independence and financing of public broadcasting, transparency of media ownership, the distribution of the state advertisement and that of big state owned companies.

For More Information

EU-WB Media Conference website

Factsheet – EU support to the media sector in the Western Balkans

Brochure - EU investigative journalism awards in the Western Balkans and Türkiye