Following the recent gang rape of an underage girl in Kavaja and the sexual assault of a minor in Shkodra, UNICEF have voiced their “deep concern” about the attitudes that prevail towards these matters in Albania.
UNICEF, the world’s global voice for the protection of rights of the child issued a statement this week that called out the failure of the authorities to handle these sensitive matters as well as the way that the media handled its coverage.
“Media coverage is undeniably an indispensable part of the fight to prevent child sexual abuse, however un-necessary, in-sensitive and sensational publicity may cause more trauma to the already devastated survivors of abuse, their families and communities at large.”
The statement noted that the way these cases were handled allowed the most sensitive matters to be disregarded, and instead of safeguarding the dignity and privacy of those involved, they were instead publicly violated.
UNICEF has made a public plea to the authorities, public and private institutions, members of the community, child protection professionals, and journalists to keep in mind the best interests of the child- something that is guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Albanian Law on Child Rights and Protection. Furthermore, it reminds them that this should be at the core of their professional ethic and that “respecting children’s privacy, dignity, their mental and physical wellbeing, must be placed above all other motivations and drivers that determine our professional or personal standpoint,” should be a priority.
Their statement is in clear reference to the fact that such cases were not handled properly by the teachers, police, or authorities, and since the cases became public they have been exploited for political gain. In the case of the violated minor in Kavaja, Prime Minister Edi Rama sent a minister and camera crews from his own TV station to interview the family on television, thus identifying the parents, and as a result exposing the underage victim’s identity to the local community. This is a clear violation of her right to privacy and dignity, and it was done intentionally in order to score political points.
As with any case of sexual assault, domestic violence, or femicide in Albania, the press will often name the victim and sensationalise the matter, resulting in a situation where the victim becomes vilified publicly, instead of the crime receiving the attention it deserves. Victim blaming is rife and the most basic journalistic ethics are repeatedly ignored in the desperate search for a viral story.
In the most recent cases, the victims were children but this did not stop the government and the press from disregarding their fundamental human rights and continuing their violation in the public domain.