Prime Minister Edi Rama has announced he has engaged German lawyer Matthias Prinz to sue Bild journalist Peter Tiede who published the Electiongate wiretaps.
Over the last two weeks, Tiede published a number of leaked prosecution wiretaps where the voices of Rama, as well as senior government employees and officials can be heard colluding to threaten voters, stop Opposition voters from voting, and to buy votes.
Conversations also took place between politicians and members of criminal gangs where it is implied that votes were exchanged for favours and political power.
When Bild started publishing the wiretaps, Rama stated he would take legal action against Tiede. In addition to this, the prosecution in Tirana opened an investigation into how the wiretaps were leaked, rather than the content of the wiretaps themselves.
The prosecution have been in possession of the taps for almost three years, yet there has been no progression in the investigation and no arrests have been made. In addition to this, the Prime Minister has ordered that the local elections on 30th June go ahead, despite the President cancelling them in the wake of the scandal.
In a tweet, Rama states that he has hired Prinz to “launch the trial on Bild publications”. He claims that German courts will decide “who is right and who is guilty” adding that “Albanian’s deserve to know the truth”.
Rama had previously admitted that his voice does indeed appear on the wiretaps and he even added that he would have the conversations again. It is unclear in this respect, what the grounds for his legal action will be, as defamation and libel require false statements to be communicated with the intention of damaging their reputation. In this case, having confirmed that the taps are authentic, there are no grounds for legal action of this type.
Tiede responded by questioning what he exactly he would be accused of- “the publication of real audio tapes?”
Individuals have been sued in Germany by foreign governments in the past, notably by the Pinochet dictatorship, and the Turkish government who are known for their near constant attacks on free and independent media.
The news comes just days after Rama met with a delegation of international press freedom organisations who visited Albania to ascertain the situation regarding press and media freedom.
The delegation found that Albania was not meeting a number of requirements under local law as well as international human rights laws. They observed a deterioration in press freedom and expressed concern over the way that criminal and civil defamation laws were used to intimidate and silence critical journalists.
During their meeting, Rama committed to not calling journalists “trash cans” any more, as well as only using civil defamation cases against journalists in “extreme cases”.
The lawyer that Rama has engaged in his alleged legal action against Bild is a specialist in the field of reputation, defamation, media and entertainment law. He has represented big corporations such as Audi, T-Mobile, and Volskwagen as well as the Swedish Royal Family, The Sultan of Brunei, Prince Albert of Monaco, David Beckham, and Princess Caroline of Hanover.
His fees start at EUR 750 per hour and it is unclear how Rama, who earns EUR 1400 a month after tax, will be funding his representation.