On Friday, it was announced that Albanian journalists would congregate on Sunday to protest against an increase in violence exerted against them whilst undertaking their work.
Then, last night during the anti-government protests that took place in the capital of Tirana, a number of journalists were injured with tear gas. Some had to cut their broadcasts short, others were rendered unconscious including one reporter from Tema TV. Photographer Arben Dajci was then hit over the head with a policeman’s metal baton whilst taking photographs, leaving a large gash above his left temple.
But these are just timely additions to the other reasons why journalists decided to protest today.
On Friday, the security guard of the Prosecutor General Arta Marku violently shoved journalist Renaldo Salianji whilst he was performing his job. A few days before the Mayor of Puka threatened to “hang” investigative journalist Fiks Fare, again for undertaking his duties as a journalist.
Also this week, journalist Dorjana Bezat was hindered from doing her job whilst trying to report on the forced evictions at Bregu i Lumit in Tirana.
On March 28, police didn’t allow several journalists to report during opposition protests and exerted violence on journalist Erion Skendaj.
The journalists community has condemned these serious and unacceptable acts that have occurred recently in the country.
Over the last 18 months alone, journalists have had machine guns fired at their homes, been threatened with firearms, been gassed in the streets, received death threats on live television, had their residence permits revoked, been targeted in smear campaigns, and been sued by the Prime Minister- just for conducting their profession.
I myself was the victim of a coordinated smear and harassment campaign, levied against me by pro-government portals after my reporting on corruption. My family were also targeted and I had my residence permit approval revoked three days after the smear campaign started, despite being told it had been approved.
These actions pose a serious threat to both the media and freedom of speech in Albania, as well as the physical integrity of media workers.
In a statement, organisers of the protest commented:
“Today, journalists in Albania are facing physical assaults by officials and people of power, as well as with institutional arrogance, which seriously violates the media mission.
As a strong reaction to the violence that threatens journalists, the silence of the institutions responsible for condemning these acts, we decided to protest from Sunday 16:00 to 17:00 before the General Prosecutor’s Office.”
We demand the immediate release of Arta Mark’s Bodyguard and the General Prosecution to apologize for the act committed.
We seek the implementation of the Law on Mayor of Puka Municipality.
We ask you to let us do our duty!
We protest any act that affects the freedom of the media and the journalist!
The messenger is holy!