Wednesday, March 22, 2017
She's a programme coordinator at Free Press Unlimited and recently got re-elected as chair of UNESCO's Council of the International Programme for Development of Communication (IPDC). We're talking about Albana Shala; who's on a mission to ensure access to reliable information for everyone. We asked her to reflect on her position as chair in the past two years and share her ambitions for the years to come.

Were you surprised to get re-elected as chair of IPDC?
“I was pleased and honoured by the positive reactions from many member states. The Dutch government has been committed to support my re-election so for that reason I wasn't really surprised.”

Looking back, what were the highlights of the last two years?
“I've enjoyed connecting people and organizations, often with complex relations. Working for Free Press Unlimited and chairing a UN members council requires working at different levels and being flexible. The good thing is that many stakeholders, including governments representatives, have agreed on common goals such as: promoting freedom of expression, access to information, and striving to end impunity for crimes against journalists.

Another initiative I'm pleased with, is the IPDC Talks on the importance of access to information. At UNESCO we wanted to make the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) tangible for 'normal' people. So for this TED-like event, we invited distinguished and local speakers to talk about what's been done - communication wise - to realize each goal. Journalism and communication play a crucial role in triggering more commitment to these goals. Otherwise, these goals will only stay beautiful on paper.”

What are your plans for the coming years? 
“UNESCO has been working on the issue of ending impunity for crimes against journalists for quite a few years now. IPDC is said to be the cradle of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The implementation of this plan is currently under review, because it requires enabling each country in reporting, preventing and addressing crimes against journalists. Furthermore it needs to be supported and implemented by everyone in society, not only organizations such as Free Press Unlimited. Because in the end a crime against a journalist has impact on us all and it leads to less freedom of speech, more fear and more censorship.

Another issue that UNESCO and IPDC try to deal with is gender equality. Mainstream media play a very decisive role and are often conservative in how women and gender issues are portrayed. Global research and monitoring of media show that only four per cent of the produced content worldwide challenges the stereotypes about women. Media need to be more aware of their role and effects in society.”

Are you looking forward to continuing your work with IPDC? 
“I'm relatively pleased with what I've achieved so far but in order to accomplish more I'm glad to have two more years ahead of me. That way I can continue working on the mentioned issues as well as strengthening the cooperation of UNESCO and Free Press Unlimited in order to achieve our common goal: freedom of press and access to information worldwide.”

More information on IPDC and the IPDC Talks can be found here and the UN Plan of Action here.