From: Alice Taylor
Open Letter Sent to OSCE, CoE, and EC: Action Needed on Reported Police Violence Against Journalists

An open letter has been sent to the OSCE Mission in Albania, the Council of Europe, and the European Commission asking them to “exercise the influence of their authority” in demanding the Albanian government prevent violence against journalists and secure their safety.

“SafeJournalists Network calls on the Mission of OSCE, the European Commission and the Council of Europe to act – to exercise the influence of their authority and resolutely demand of the Albanian government not only to prevent such incidents but also to secure maximum safety of journalists who report from protests and risk own health and safety to provide citizens with objective information about protests,” the letter reads.

Written by the Safe Journalists Network which represents some 8200 media professionals in the Western Balkans, it refers to four incidents of reported violence and rights violations against journalists during the recent anti-police brutality protests that have taken place over the last week.

These include:

  • Durres Lajm editor Shefqet Duka was detained for over three hours. While he did not experience violence, he reported witnessing it against protestors.
  • TV journalist Aldo Mustafa reported being physically attacked by a police officer and prevented from filming the protests.
  • Xhoi Malesia journalist at Ora News who was arrested while reporting on the protests. He was detained for three hours and reported being beaten, verbally insulted, refused the right to make a phone call, and made to sign a statement he didn’t write as a condition for release.
  • Qamil Xhani editor-in-chief of Koha Jone was detained after he reported on witnessing police violence against protestors. He reports being handcuffed along with 50 other protestors and said he was hit on the head and back. Police reportedly seized his phone and deleted all the footage and he said he was forced to sign a statement he didn’t write, ‘admitting’ to taking part in an illegal gathering.

The letter is addressed to European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi, OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media Teresa Ribeiro, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Ambassador to Albanian Vincenzo Del Monaco, Isabel Santos EP Rapporteur for Albania, Manolis Kefalogiannis Chair of EP Delegation to EU-Albania Stabilisation Association Committee.

Safe Journalists warns of the recorded instances of police using excessive force against journalists, as well as arbitrary detentions and violations of their human rights. They express concern that police “will not hesitate to attack journalists and other media professionals.”

The letter continues:

“The right of journalists to report in the public interest without fear of being threatened, physically attacked, detained, blackmailed, their equipment seized and material deleted by the police, or members of the public, are safeguarded by different national and international legislations. Albania is also a signatory of different conventions such are the European Convention on Human Rights, Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and others.

SafeJournalists Network, therefore, asks for the law to be respected and journalists to be allowed to do their work without hindrance.”

Safe Journalists Network also reminded the institutions that each attack on journalists is an attack on public interest, democracy, and the rights of all citizens.

The reported violence has been widely publicized with the International Press Institute calling for the Albanian authorities to respond to the accusations that journalists were beaten.

German politician Doris Pack also condemned the incidents and called on European Commission diplomats and officials to do the same. Yesterday, EU spokesperson Ana Pisonero noted that zero tolerance of threats and intimidation to journalists was a part of the EU enlargement package, but she stopped short of mentioning violence or condemning the reports.

Swedish Ambassador Elsa Hastad tweeted that she is “worried to learn” of the incidents and said Sweden stands up for every journalist’s right to do their job free from violence and harassment.

The EU Delegation in Tirana tweeted that journalists in Albania must be able to do their job without any threat of violence, harassment, and intimidation to ensure citizens have access to information,