Skënder Gjinushi, the new head of the Albanian Academy of Sciences, as well as head of the Social Democratic Party, has been criticized for his sexist comments towards a female journalist.
During a press conference after being elected into his new position, which he was the only candidate for, he offended and sexually harassed journalist Enkelejda Mema during a live television broadcast.
When Mema asked when he made the decision to run for President of the academy, he replied that he had done so before she was born.
Mema persisted in asking her question. At this point Gjinushi refused to answer, telling her “not to ask questions that have no answer.” When she asked the question again, he responded by telling her that she was “aroused” and should seek medical attention. The context of his words were meant in a highly sexual way.
The seventy-year-old was elected to the position on Friday, amidst controversy from other academics who called it a “farce”. Professor Artan Fuga described his election as a “black day for the field of science” as well as an “institutional coup”.
Fuga claimed that these elections were conducted in contravention of the regulations laid down by the academy, noting that this will add to the ongoing crisis within the institution.
Skënder Gjinushi took the lead of the reform of the Albanian Academy of Science two years ago with the backing of Prime Minister Edi Rama. Back then Rama said that, if the Academy opposed the reform, it would get zero funds from his government. Gjinushi planned the reform and was quick to organize elections before it passed the parliament vote, ironically using the ‘old’ law which he and Rama had always opposed.
Democratic Party deputy, Albana Vokshi called for his resignation and described it as “shameful, unacceptable, intimidating, and insulting behavior of a former dictatorship minister”.
MP Rudina Hajdari also condemned his words, stating that Gjinushi “began the first few minutes of his new role with the verbal sexist violation of a young journalist.”
An online petition has been started, calling for a public apology from Gjinushi.
Gjinushi was the Minister of Education during the last years of the communist regime. He has also been described as “The Dangerous Mafioso in Politics” by Koha Jone journalist Pandi Gjata in 2002. Gjinushi then sued the journalist for criminal libel in a move that was described by Human Rights watch as “seriously flawed under Albanian and international law”.
After the fall of communism Gjinushi led the Social Democratic Party. Last month, Top Channel reported that he was among several other party representatives to sign a coalition agreement with Edi Rama and his Socialist Party on the June 30 local elections in Albania.