British journalist Alice Taylor was in court today, seeking the removal of obstacles blocking the issuance of her residence permit in Albania.
In February 2019, Taylor made an application for an additional year’s permission to reside in Albania and in March she was told it was approved. She had been a matter of days late filing the paperwork as she had been in hospital due to complications with her pregnancy, a fact that had been accepted and signed off on by the Director of immigration.
Some days later, Taylor became the victim of a pro-government portal led smear campaign against her, branding her a “traitor” and “Russian spy” whilst accusing her partner of being a “wanted criminal” and “violent militant”. The attack came after she had written a number of articles on the anti-government protests, leaked wiretaps showing government involvement in election rigging, and links to organised crime. She also gave a comment to Russia Today, along with another British journalist on the facts ‘on the ground’ in Tirana.
Days later, she received a call to inform her that the approval of her permit had been revoked “by an order from above”.
A fine was imposed upon her, she was told she would have to restart the process of application, and the immigration police told her lawyer that she “might” not be able to leave Albania, or re-enter if she tried to leave.
The Albanian Ombudsman investigated the case and gave the recommendation that the fine and limitations placed on Taylor were not in line with the law and that they should be removed and her permit issued within 30 days. The police chose to ignore this recommendation so Taylor initiated proceedings in the Administrative Court.
In court today, lawyers representing Taylor presented a number of medical documents showing proof that she had been admitted to hospital a number of times and was on doctor-ordered bed rest for most of her pregnancy, including the renewal window of her permit. This, the lawyers stated is evidence that she was unable to attend the immigration department on time as she was unable to move from the bed, on the order of the doctor.
Lawyer for the immigration police Entela Selmani objected to the medical documents inclusion, on the grounds that she had not seen them and did not have a copy of them. In fact, they had been given to the police back in February, and again in April and May.
The Immigration Department previously tried to defend their position, stating that Taylor had also applied for the wrong type of permit, but the paperwork submitted in court, proved that this was not the case and Taylor had provided all documentation as requested and required by the law.
The session was adjourned and the court will convene again on 9 October. Taylor has also initiated a number of defamation lawsuits against the portals that were involved in the smear campaign, as well as one against Mero Baze.
#Albania : @RSF_inter is concerned by @albgov obstruction
of British journalist Alice Taylor's residence permit and hope the court rules in her favor tomorrow so she can work freely and leave the country without fearing not to be able to come back @The_Balkanista
— RSF in English (@RSF_en) September 30, 2019
International media freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders who have been following the case, tweeted their support for Taylor last night, wishing for a ruling in her favour so she can continue her work without any more obstructions.