The International Press Institute has called on the Albanian government “break silence” following allegations of police brutality against journalists.
In a statement published today, they said the authorities must open an investigation into a recent string of unjustified detentions of journalists and immediately respond to allegations of reporters being assaulted by police whilst in custody.
They noted the “heightned tensions” in Albania during the last week, due to the murder of Klodian Rashaby a policeman.
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said:
“We strongly condemn these clear and flagrant attacks on media freedom. Journalists have a right to document the actions of the police as a matter of public interest, and these detentions are a violation of the public’s right to know. Authorities must also immediately investigate reports of journalists being assaulted by police, including while in custody.”
Griffen noted that Tirana County Police Director Rebani Jaupaj and General Director of State Police, Ardi Veliu must immediately respond to these allegations and identify and sanction those officers responsible. Prime Minister Edi Rama should publicly condemn the arrests.
“Continued silence will only increase suspicion authorities have something to hide,” he added.
IPI reported that Ora News journalist Xhoi Malesia told them he was live on air via his mobile and was filming the detention of protestors. He said police approached him, demanded he stop filming and then arrested him when he refused. When in the police station, he reports being slapped in the face and insulted, being refused legal support or a telephone call, and being made to sign a statement he didn’t write.
The statement also reported on the allegations made by Qamil Xhani, Shefqet Duka, and Aldo Mustafa.
IPI said that these detentions come during a “challenging time for media freedom in Albania”. This is due to a number of incidents including a bomb outside the house of jouranlist Elidon Ndreka, SLAPP suits against BIRN, Artan Rama, and government plans to tighten penalties for criminal defamation.