Albania has joined 50 other countries in calling on the Belarusian authorities to respect human rights and put an end to assaults on journalists, media workers, human rights defenders and civil society.
An open letter was published on behalf of the United Nations Group of Friends for the Protection of Journalists, of which Albania is a member. The letter expresses “profound concern over the deteriorating situation of human rights in Belarus including multiple reports of harassment, arbitrary arrests, intensifying persecution and detention of journalists and media workers”.
It noted specifically that reports of specific targeting of local and international journalists were creating an “atmosphere of fear” and resulting in a situation where journalists no longer feel safe to wear a press badge.
More than 200 incidents against journalists have been noted since the beginning of the protests. Foreign journalists were stripped of their accreditation and more than 70 websites were blocked by Belarusian authorities. Additionally, several independent print media were not allowed to print.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this apparent stifling of the freedom of opinion and expression and of independent journalism as well as attacks against press freedom in Belarus,”
They said its essential journalists are allowed to continue their work as the people of Belarus have the right to access impartial, independent information about events in their country.
“Only free, open and independent media that report in the public interest and hold power to account, as well as public access to free and impartial information can secure democratic processes and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly the rights of freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
While Albania has signed the letter, it’s worth noting their recent performance in terms of media freedom. Albania has dropped seven places in two years on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index and media freedom continues to be a cause for concern in other international reports.
During national protests following the electiongate scandal in 2019, many journalist were gassed, assaulted, and denied the right to work by police. Foreign journalists reporting on the reason for the protests were smeared, had residence permits revoked, and had interference from the government and Albanian embassies with their editors.
Similar violence and arbitrary detention of journalists was noted during the protests folowing the demolition of the National Theatre.
Prime Minister Edi Rama regularly and publicly insults journalists and is leading the way for the implementation of a law that would have a “chilling impact on media freedom” by bringing all online media under state control.
Rama, the current Chairman of the OSCE, has put forward a Socialist Party MP for the position of OSCE Representative on Media Freedom.