A JUSTICE REFORM WATCHDOG
BIRN Albania, with support from the USAID-funded Justice for All Project (JfA), successfully finalized implementation of its 18 month project “Enhancing the Transparency of Justice Reform in Albania.” The project aimed to increase the transparency of justice reforms in Albania through monitoring the work of judicial institutions while strengthening the capacities of local journalists to report on and advocate for an open justice system through data driven journalism and independent reporting.
FIRST OF THEIR KIND MONITORING TOOLS
Among many activities and achievements, BIRN’s work on the project led to the publishing of the first interactive manual on crime and court reporting in the country, as well as a first of its kind monitoring report on the transparency of courts in Albania. As part of the project, BIRN also developed and continues to regularly update the most comprehensive database to date of the vetting process, which includes the activities of the Independent Qualification Commission, Public Commissioners, Special College of Appeals, and International Monitoring Mission. More specifically, in relation to the judicial reforms and vetting process, more than 4,100 asset declaration forms filed by more than 340 judges were obtained by BIRN through Freedom of Information requests and were used to identify key trends in judges’ asset declarations and, importantly, the instruments used to hide or misinterpret income or assets. BIRN also produced and published more than 130 in-depth independent analyses on the wealth of individual judges and prosecutors, which served as a watchdog of the vetting processes and helped the public increase its understanding of the processes and reforms.
With JfA’s support, BIRN’s project also contributed to efforts to increase the transparency of the justice system. Four in-depth reports on the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, administrative courts, and first instance courts were produced, along with a groundbreaking monitoring report on the level of transparency of 39 courts at all levels of the judiciary in Albania. The monitoring report used a methodology developed as part of the project and provided a framework for public access to judicial information for the first time. The project also covered more than 200 public hearings of the Independent Evaluations Commission and of the Special College of Appels and BIRN published more than 400 news articles and in-depth stories on the extraordinary reevaluation process.
According to Krisitina Voko, Executive Director of BIRN Albania, ‘this project was essential for its watchdog role on the vetting institutions, increasing accountability of decision-makers and transforming Reporter.al in the publication of record on the justice reform’.
A LOCAL PERSPECTIVE ON COURTS, CRIME, AND JUSTICE REFORM
BIRN’s project also successfully strengthened capacities of local journalists to report on courts, crime, and the justice reform process through its interactive manual on Court and Crime Reporting, which provided on-the-job and formal training to more than 30 journalists from the 12 regions in Albania. With the support of JfA, BIRN also mentored and trained 20 journalists, who ultimately produced and published more than 880 news and in-depth stories from a local perspective from all regions in Albania focused on the activities of local courts and law enforcement agencies and 44 hard-hitting investigative articles on organized crime and judicial corruption. As a result, the number of investigative stories published by local media outlets was increased.
ETHICAL JOURNALISM WITH AN IMPACT
Ms. Voko described the success of the project as follows: “The project played an important role in training and mentoring local journalists to cover court and crime in an ethical manner that respects the highest standards of journalism, while supporting them, with editorial insight to produce in-depth, hard hitting investigative stories that had an impact in society.”