From: Exit Staff
Mayor of Tirana and Albanian President Exchange Fierce Attacks over Media Freedom

Mayor of Tirana Erion Velaj has attacked Albanian President Ilir Meta on Tuesday, following the latter’s post in defense of a journalist Veliaj had allegedly smeared.

Meta wrote in solidarity with journalist Beti Njuma after messages allegedly sent by Tirana Mayor appeared on the media, attacking and smearing the journalist for being critical to the municipality work.

The president denounced the “brutal pressure” exercised against journalists in Albania as the “main characteristic of criminal regimes”. He called on blackmailed journalists to get together and ask for the president’s support to create an independent media platform to “bring down the contemptuous media regime in Albania.”

In his attack, Veliaj said Meta has enough money to finance a new media to fight the government, directly hinting at an alleged video-recording from 2011, of which the then Prime Minister Ilir Meta was accused of discussing bribes with one of his ministers.

“It’s good news that Ilir Meta has taken the initiative for a new transparent media critical with the government.

Not only does he have the money for this, but also his past history of the “7 percent” [bribes], that can keep this media alive both with money and content throughout its life! Good luck!” Veliaj tweeted.

Ora News has recently published messages that it claims are between Veliaj and the owner of Ora News Ylli Ndroqi, whose assets were seized.

In messages allegedly sent by Veliaj, he called journalist Beti Njuma “a beast / an animal”, and other journalists “idiots”. Ndroqi was asked to influence his media’s content that appeared to be critical against the municipality, particularly in relation to the now demolished National Theater.

Veliaj has neither confirmed nor denied the authorship of phone messages published by Ndroqi.

While accusations exchanged between Prime Minister Edi Rama and President Ilir Meta are not unusual, Veliaj has not attacked the Meta so fiercely during his mayorship.