Adi Krasta and Ylli Rakipi- both well-respected journalists and vociferous critics of Prime Minister Edi Rama, the Socialist Party, and Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj- were fired and their talk shows on News24 TV were shut down, according to reports.
Krasta has found his employment terminated after the owner of News 24 Irfan Hysenbelliu was reportedly “threatened” by the Prime Minister and the Mayor.
This is not the first time that Krasta has found himself jobless as a result of political interference.
On two previous occasions during the Socialist Party’s two governing mandates, Krasta has been fired due to ultimatums given to his employers by the government. The first instance was the closure of Agon Channel following government interference. Then, Krasta’s show on Top Channel, “E Diell” was cancelled before its second season.
In July, journalist Artur Cani revealed that Rama had med with the owner of News 24 to ask for the dismissal of journalist Ylli Rakipi. He warned at the time that Adi Krasta was likely to lose his job as well.
Appearing on Fax News, Cani stated:
“It is scandalous that Edi Rama met this week with the owner of the channel where Ylli Rakipi, who is critical of the government, works and has asked for his dismissal.”
He added that the Prime Minister has “captured” the media in Albania.
Rakipi, who has also had his job terminated, is a vocal critic of the government. Shortly after he exposed corruption regarding the tender of the Outer Ring Road in Tirana in December 2018, he received threats against his life. Then in January, Rama filed a lawsuit against Rakipi for his reporting and rumours circulated that he was trying to get his show shut down.
Rakipi called Rama a “new kind of dictator, like Erdogan or Putin” and filed a counter-suit against him alleging political pressure.
He has been replaced by journalist Sokol Balla who is considered a supporter of Rama and one the journalists “close” to him.
The government has a track record of getting journalists that criticise them fired or removed from their positions.
Journalists Alida Tota and Artan Rama found themselves out of a job after investigating alleged links between Mayor Veliaj and the death of an underage boy, Ardit Gjoklaj at a landfill controlled by the Municipality.
Artan’s show on Vision Plus was cancelled on the day it was due to air the investigation and Tota was fired from A1 news just hours after she contacted Veliaj’s office for comment.
Albania’s media has come under unprecedented attack over the last 18 months. Countless journalists have been threatened, assaulted, intimidated, or had spurious lawsuits filed against them in an attempt to silence them.
A recent survey of Albanian journalists showed that the government was the biggest threat to media freedom, in particular political interference and fears over job security. Most respondents admitted to self-censoring their work out of fear and a third said they had been pressured by their editors not to write on a particular topic. Almost 40% said they had been pressured by their boss and 1 in 3 said they had their stories removed without anyone consulting them.