The Albanian Special Court for Corruption and Organised Crime (SPAK) has sparked outrage after it closed its doors to journalists citing COVID-19 measures.
Journalists attempting to enter the court to report on proceedings were informed they could not, due to a Government Normative Act on COVID-19 measures, enforced in March 2020. They say they are being refused access to the court, despite being fully vaccinated.
In March 2021, the Albanian government prioritized the vaccination of journalists to allow them to continue their work safely. They were vaccinated alongside medical staff, teachers and the over 70s.
Journalists protested in front of the court on Monday, claiming that the measures are unfair at a time mass events are taking place including football matches at the Air Albania stadium.
Many of the COVID-19 restrictive measures have been lifted since last year, but the Normative Act still remains in place. It includes the closure of court proceedings for the media and members of the public.
Several journalists noted that the court has been selective in which cases it allows journalists to access. They explained that they have been able to attend some cases, including the prosecution of former judicial figure Adriatik Llalla, where some 30 people were present. But for other cases, they were not allowed.
Those that attended the protest said that the closed nature of random cases leads to concerns over transparency but also impedes their right to work.