Internationals Have Double Standard on Press Freedom US Ambassador Donald Lu meeting the journalists. June 16, 2017. Photo © US Embassy.

A few weeks ago, High Council of Justice judge Gjin Gjoni and his wife Elona Çaushi filed a lawsuit against BIRN and journalists Besar Likmeta and Aleksandra Bogdani, as well as Shqipartja and journalists Elton Qyno and Adriatik Doçi for several reports on legal issues surrounding the couple. The wealth of Gjin Gjoni, who is the wealthiest judge in Albania, has come under close scrutiny, as he wields his influence in the court system to curtail investigations into the source of his wealth.

Gjoni and Çaushi demand 7 million lekë from BIRN and 4 million lekë from Shqiptarja for “moral damages,” claiming that both media spread “false information.”

The European Federation of Journalists and the US Embassy immediately issued statements of support for the journalists, and rightly so. However, these and other institutions in the past has been much less prone to defend the freedom of the press, especially when the attacks and lawsuits came from someone who has been less publicly criticized than Gjoni.

For example, while the European Centre for Press & Media Freedom pledged to support journalist Artan Rama in a similar case filed against him by Edil Al-It because of critical journalism, a powerful construction and media conglomerate, the US Embassy remained silent about the freedom of the press.

Or when recently Prime Minister Edi Rama, live on Arian Çani’s “Zonë e Lirë,” called out a large number of well-known Albanian journalists by name as “trash” and “poison,” including Blendi Fevziu, Sokol Balla, Ylli Rakipi, Henri Çili, Armand Shkullaku, Andi Bushati, and Artan Hoxha. The only two journalists for whom he had “respect” and with whom he was “friends,” were Eni Vasili and Iva Tare.

Where are the internationals when the Prime Minister personally intimates journalists in the midst of the electoral campaign?

It seems that press freedom is only defended against those who soon to be subject to the judicial vetting, while companies and politicians are still free to attack and intimidate whomever they like.