From: Alice Taylor
ECHR Orders SPAK to Cease Seizure of Albanian Journalists Equipment

The Albanian authorities have been ordered to suspend attempts to seize the mobiles, computers, and servers of following their revelation of a huge data leak of more than 910,000 Albanian citizens’ personal data, allegedly collected and used by the Socialist Party.

An urgent request was submitted by Albanian lawyer Dorian Matlija on behalf of Lapsi. He asked that the order of SPAK to seize the equipment as a part of their investigation should be halted immediately.

The ECHR will only intervene in such a manner in extreme cases. The decision reads:

“The Court decided, in the interests of the parties and the proper conduct of the proceedings before it, to indicate to the Government of Albania, under Rule 39, that the authorities should stay the enforcement of the Specialised Anti-Corrpotiuon and Organised Crime Court of First Instance’s Interlocutory decisions no.131 of 18 April 20201 and refrain from seizing any data storage devices and computer/electronic data belonging to the applicants.”

It continues that if Albania failed to comply with the measure, they risk breaching Article 34 of the Convention.

The decision from the Albanian courts to seize the equipment raised concerns for several reasons.

Firstly, the fact that the court was essentially investigating the whistleblower and had not taken any public action or measures against the Socialist Party or any other government department. Secondly, the forcing of journalists to reveal sources is only acceptable under Albanian law in serious crime cases. Its use in a data privacy breach where Lapsi is not the one who initially leaked the data is questionable. Thirdly, it could set a concerning precedent and threaten the relationship that Albanian media portals have with sources. It also risks exposing any of Lapsi’s confidential sources, informants, or investigations.

While Lapsi did publish some data included in the files, the data itself is potentially stolen from state institutions, used by the government for electoral purposes, and then was leaked to the public. It is now circulating widely on the internet, putting the security of almost 1 million Albanians at risk.