From: Alice Taylor
Albania Contributed 5% of Media Violations out of 29 Countries in 2020

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) monitored 378 violations of media freedom across 29 EU Member States and candidate countries in 2020.

The consortium, led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and including ARTICLE 19, The European Federation of Journalists, Free Press Unlimited, the International Press Institute, CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa and the Institute for Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig also provided advocacy, practical and legal support to journalists media workers and portals across the region.

MFR’s purpose is to track, monitor, report, and respond to threats and violations relating to media in Europe.

Albania made several appearances  (18) throughout the year. These included Report TV journalist Elvis Hila being obstructed and briefly detained by local police after he tried to report on the demolition of allegedly illegal buildings in Lezhe. Police chief Agron Qullhaje approached him and asked for his ID and despite identifying himself as a journalist, the officer took the phone from him and then detained him in a police vehicle for 10 minutes.

Another incident was the Chief of Cabinet of the Ministry of Defence Belioza Coku suing investigative journalist Juljana Ristani for articles she wrote on alleged manipulation of the list of students eligible to be awarded a NATO scholarship. Ristani published a series of articles alleging violations, blackmail and psychological pressure against students and their families. Ristani stands by her articles and the evidence she has provided.

In December  MFRR reported on the attack and detention of two journalists in Durres- Aldo Mustafa and Shefqet Duka. The former said he was physically attacked by a police officer and prevented from filming protests over the police murder of Klodian Rasha. The  latter was detained and questioned by the police during protests despite identifying himself as a journalist.

Also during the December protests was the arrest of Koha Jone Editor-in-Chief Qamil Xhani who was arrested, detained, allegedly assaulted by officers, and taken to the police station. There, he said his phone was seized and footage of officers assaulting a minor was deleted. MFRR also reported on the arrest and assault of Xhoi Malesia who was arrested on air during the protests. The police then denied any wrongful action and assault and Malesia said he will press legal and civil charges.

Investigative journalist Artan Rama received a SLAPP in 2020 from Albtek Energy, a company that Rama reported won a EUR 21.6 million tender to build and operate an incinerator in Elbasan. Rama stands by his reporting and said he is ready to defend it in court.

On the topic of incinerators, BIRN was then hit with a SLAPP by businessman Mirel Mertiri after they reported on his political connections and his endeavors in the incinerator sector. They also alleged connections to scandals in Ghana and Zimbabwe totaling millions.

The bomb attack on the home of Elidon Ndreka, a journalist in Lezhe, was also reported. The explosives were placed outside his home and detonated. No one was injured but the police have still not made any arrests.

It also reported on Prime Minister Edi Rama attacking the media in a pre-recorded message that was distributed to all Vodafone users during the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the message, he advised citizens on how to protect themselves against Coronavirus. This included a direct attack on the media as he warned the public that they should “protect yourself from the media.” The message was played automatically before any outgoing or incoming  call to any provider.

Also mentioned were the government’s repeated attempts to close down ORA News, the assault of Alfred Lela at the National Theatre Protests, verbal attacks from President Ilir Meta, the government’s blocking of Medium, and a debilitating cyber-attack on Exit where a hacker attempted to delete five years worth of stories.