Albania has dropped a total of seven places in the Reporters Without Borders 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
Whilst it had improved from 102 in 2013 to an all-time high of 75 in 2018, it has plummeted seven places just 12 months later. It is now ranked as one of the lowest in the Western Balkans beaten only by Serbia (90), and Macedonia (95), as well as one of the lowest in Europe.
Ranking alongside Kyrgyzstan, East Timor and just five places above Hungary, Albania was beaten by Tunisia, Mongolia, and Croatia – countries that are not well known for their tolerance of freedom of expression.
The latest drop comes after a year that has seen a significant increase in attacks on journalists, as well as attempts by the government to censor the press.
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.
In the last two weeks a number of other journalists that have been violated include Nikollë Lesi who was attacked by the police and prevented from working, Erion Skendaj who was assaulted after reporting on protests on the 28th March, Dorjana Bezat who was prevented from reporting on the use of gas on civilian homeowners, Renaldo Salianji who was assaulted by the bodyguard of Arta Marku, and a journalist of the Fiks Fare investigative show who was told he should be “hanged” by the Socialist Mayor of Puka.
Reporters Without Borders tweeted just two days ago, calling on the Albanian government not to use “disproportionate force” during protests, particularly when media workers are present. The Committee to Protect Journalists also reported on the violence used against journalists during this weekend’s protests which saw a number hospitalised and requiring medical treatment.
Just yesterday, journalists were prevented from being present on the scene of forced civilian evictions in the centre of Tirana. Residents being removed by force from their homes, also reported having their mobile phones confiscated so they could not report on the events. Footage was still able to be captured, showing the Chief of Police Station No.4 Agim Hoxha hitting a woman in the face.
The 2018 RSF report noted that in 2018, “Attacks on the media from both the government and organised crime reached an unprecedented level in 2018. Journalists were subjected to insults, death threats and legal proceedings designed to intimidate and deter them from investigating corruption. Politicians, led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, branded them as trash and as fake news manufacturers.”
They also referenced the proposed introduction of a new Media Law that would bring every online media portal under the direct control of the Prime Minister, allowing him to shut down any site on a whim and without having to go through any legal or court proceedings.
We will bring you an in depth analysis of the Albania Country Report from RSF when it is released later today.