From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Young Woman Arrested for Posting Fears about Earthquake on Social Media

A 25-year-old woman, Xhulia Aliaj has been arrested by police for posting a status on Facebook asking the government to assess any damage to oil and gas deposits.

Following the deadly earthquake that claimed 50 lives, she made a number of posts referring to an article published by Italian portal The article that has now been taken down, was published on the Vatican affiliated news portal and raised the alarm about an alleged risk of collapse of the deposits at Porto Romano following the earthquake.

In one post Aliaj wrote “We urge the state and the Porto Romano oil port authorities to assess the state of oil and gas deposits. We are very afraid! We are waiting for an answer!”

She also called on citizens to leave the area due to fears it was unsafe, repeating what had been written in the initial article.

Lawyer Adriatik Lapaj wrote on Facebook that there is no legal basis for her detention as what she wrote was not meant to induce panic, but rather to promote safety. In addition to this, he added the state has a duty of inspection of such facilities and called for her release.

Her arrest has been widely condemned on Facebook by members of civil society and the public, among them Dom Gjergj Meta of the Rreshen Diocese who has called for her release.

The cleric stated that Aliaj is a “good citizen who loves her country” and that her arrest is a “hasty and disproportionate move” that would not be tolerated in a democratic country.

A member of his parish, Meta said he knows the “human and civil qualities” of  Aliaj and urged the authorities and the police to release her immediately. 

Two days after the earthquake struck, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced that he would “forcibly intervene” in media that spreads “fake news”. He cited the so-called state of emergency that he enacted, despite not taking the proper legal steps to do so, as the reason for the action.

“I warn for the last time the portals and information channels that under the conditions and legal framework of the State of Emergency I will be obligated to forcibly intervene to close them down until the end of this dramatic phase, if they continue with fake news that creates panic!

In this extraordinary situation, where every word needs to be weighed, it is intolerable that local or foreign insane charlatanisms are published or that the rational statements and explanations of experts, as always, are distorted! STOP AND STOP NOW! IMMEDIATELY!!!” Rama said in a Twitter post.

To enact a state of emergency, there needs to be a parliamentary vote which has not happened. Instead, the government has declared a “state of natural disaster”, which does not provide it with extra powers to arrest and keep in detention scared citizens posting about their fears on social media.

Earlier in the week, two journalists from JOQ Albania were prosecuted for “spreading false information” and the AKEP ordered the site be closed.