Prime Minister Edi Rama has escalated his threats against the Albanian media, shortly after the court confirmed the police arrest of a woman for inducing panic as lawful.
Xhulia Aliaj, 25, was arrested by police after the November 26 earthquake, when she asked the government on Facebook to assess any damage to oil and gas deposits in Durres, and called on citizens to leave the area due to fears it was unsafe. She cited an article on an Italian news portal.
After the court decided the arrest was lawful and ordered Aliaj to appear before court twice a months until a final decision on her case, Rama went on Twitter:
“Throughout the period of the natural disaster state of emergency, Japan puts in place extreme measures on private media, which apparently even in the Japan of old wisdom are a burden atop of the great earthquake burden! Don’t make us do what even your imagination could not fathom!”
Since the earthquake struck Albania on November 26, the prime minister has announced and continuously claimed afterwards that he has enacted a “state of emergency” (gjendje e jashtezakonshme – extraordinary state). The Albanian constitution stipulates that this particular kind of state of emergency, which foresees stronger measures than the “state of natural disaster” the government has actually enacted, must be declared by parliament.
It is not clear how the Albanian Constitution compares to the Japanese legislation mentioned in prime minister’s tweet, and why that is relevant in Albania.
In his tweet, Rama then called on the media to verify all information, stop people from “yelling” in TV shows, and show empathy for earthquake victims.
The prime minister concluded by demanding the media to “contribute to channel the energy of this extraordinary pan-Albanian solidarity!”
The Albanian prime minister’s latest threat to the media comes after a previous one, in which he threatened to forcibly close news portals. It also comes amidst growing public criticism for the poor management of the earthquake aftermath and for not taking the necessary measures after a previous strong earthquake in September this year.
Several statements by Rama and (former) Durres Mayor Valbona Sako have been widely condemned by the public for not showing empathy for victims. They have both implied or stated that victims should be satisfied with the government after they were sheltered in five-star hotels which they could have never afforded otherwise.
Prime Minister Edi Rama has become popular with international organizations protecting the freedom of media after his efforts to pass several laws aiming at censoring critical media outlets in Albania.