Journalists Flee Hostile Climate of Albania

The Union of Albanian Journalists (UGSh) announced yesterday that more than 45 journalists of different media have left the country seeking asylum in the US and EU because of threats they received during their work. The number of journalists leaving Albania has grown considerably in 2017–18, according to UGSh director Aleksandër Çipa:

Twelve journalists have sought asylum in the EU and US because of the risks of work, while 34 have sought citizenship in other countries. Nearly everyone has prepared their dossiers with proofs and documents concerning the threats received on duty and are preparing to leave.

Most recently, News24 journalist Klodiana Lala was the target of a machine gun attack on her family’s house, while another journalist was threatened in Laç. Writer and critic Fatos Lubonja has argued that the increased (physical) threats against Albanian journalists investigating crime are related the increased intertwinement of the mafia and the Rama government.

As recently as May, a journalist was beaten by the police during an anti-government protest, at which the links of Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj and drug trafficking were denounced.

Prime Minister Rama himself has contributed considerably to the hostile climate for journalists. Last year, Prime Minister Rama claimed at an EU-sponsored press freedom event that the Albanian media “violate […] the dignity of people in Albania […] from morning to midnight,” a statement that failed to be countered by the European Commission, with Commissioner Johannes Hahn claiming that Prime Minister Rama “had the right to express [his] opinions.”

Instead, former EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin joined the Trumpian claim of “fake news […] connected to political and criminal interest groups,” a claim that has also repeatedly been made by Prime Minister Rama, without providing any form of evidence.

Meanwhile, the Rama government has consistently taken legal and other steps to curtail the freedom of the media in Albania.