From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Albanian President: Path to EU ‘Impossible’ Unless Media Freedom Improves

The President of Albania, Ilir Meta has voiced his concerns that Albanian media is under undue pressure from politicians, oligarchs, and businessmen with vested interests. His comments came today, marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

On 2 November each year, organisations, journalists and citizens worldwide are encouraged to talk about the unresolved crimes against journalists committed in their countries. In Albania, journalists are regularly harassed, threatened, physically obstructed from doing their jobs, and some have been victims of physical attacks. Rarely, if ever, are those that perpetrate such crimes, brought to justice.

One of the most severe cases recently was that of investigative journalist Klodiana Lala whose family home was sprayed with machine gunfire. The authorities claim it is a “family dispute”, something the Lala’s deny. A year later, the investigation has stalled and no one has faced justice. Others who are assaulted and threatened, rarely bother reporting the matter, especially if they suspect it is politically motivated or involves someone with powerful political or judicial links.

In a statement released today, Meta observed how media freedom in Albania has “worsened significantly” and that more and more journalists are either being censored or censoring themselves out of fear.

He continued, “Excessive and diverse political pressures have shut down television shows and removed prominent figures from journalism.” He also spoke of the controversial “anti-defamation” law that the Socialist Party wants to introduce, noting how it has “shocked the community of journalists and the world-wide organisations monitoring media freedom in our country.”

According to the President, journalists are “pressured and blackmailed at the expense of reporting the real news” and their concerns are ignored by “media owners who benefit from suspicious sources of funding.”

He drew attention to recent scathing reports from Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, and the OSCE/ODHIR report who all noted “the deteriorating, grave, and highly distressing situation facing journalists in Albania.”

Without better media freedom in Albania, Meta says that the path to the European Union is impossible.

He called for an end to physical and psychological violence, intimidation, blackmail and pressure on journalists and expressed his solidarity and support for them to carry on their work.

“By vigorously and severely condemning any form of violence against reporters, I emphasize that freedom of speech and media freedom are an indispensable condition of respecting rights in a democratic society,” he concluded.