The European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned Prime Minister Edi Rama for threatening journalist Peter Tiede with legal action.
Tiede published a series of articles in German newspaper Bild which included numerous wiretaps featuring Rama, members of the socialist party, politicians, and police colluding to buy votes and threaten voters in the 2017 elections. The articles also accused Rama of buying votes in the election and using mafia money to do so.
The international media freedom watchdogs stated that the “Albanian Prime Minister must respect media freedom”.
Their statement continues that BILD proved their allegations with telephone recordings that “document the government’s involvement with the mafia”.
Shortly after their publication, Rama announced that he would sue Tiede in Germany where ‘the dignity of the people and of the state was respected” and where “the judiciary do not play games”- suggesting that this is the case in his own country.
Rama also announced that he had engaged the services of top defamation lawyer Matthias Prinz who charges a minimum of EUR 750 an hour for his time. It is unclear how Rama, who earns EUR 1400 a month after tax, is paying for his legal representation.
It is also unknown what grounds Rama will be suing Tiede on, having previously admitted his voice is on the tapes and that he would have the same conversation again.
CEO of RSF, Christian Mihr criticised Rama saying he “has a strange understanding of democracy and human rights”.
He added that it is the job of the media to hold power to account and that in the case of Bild, they had adequately covered themselves with research and verifiable sources. These, he stated are the foundations of a free press and a foundation of the values of the European Union.
“A country that would like to become a part of this community (the EU) must respect these values”, Mihr concluded.
Flutura Kusari, legal counsel at the ECPMF who also met with Rama last week in Tirana, added “instead of initiating proceedings against journalists Prime Minister Rama should work to improve press freedom in the country and not call journalists “trashcans”.
Just last week a delegation of the world’s most respected media freedom organisations visited Tirana to meet with journalists, members of civil society, politicians and Rama himself. They observed that “the situation of press freedom in Albania has deteriorated” and that journalists were attacked without consequence. They also highlighted the fact that politicians insult and defame the media regularly and that Rama and the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj are “non-transparent and refuse access to critical media”.
During their visit Rama committed that he would not initiate criminal proceedings against journalists but that he would file civil suits in “extreme circumstances”.
The statement from the NGOs also mentioned the ongoing political crisis and the fact that “thousands of people in Albania have been taking to the streets for weeks to protest against the corrupt government”. The protests, it states, were fueled by the published wiretaps that were recorded by the prosecution in 2016 and 2017.