Yet another case of Albanian police violence against journalists has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders following an assault at a protest in Tirana on Wednesday 19 January.
Fax News journalist Ledio Guni was filming the eviction and demolition of citizens homes in the 5 Maji neighbourhood of the city. Scores of police were on site to force people out of their properties and make way for their razing to the ground.
Guni was forcibly grabbed, dragged, and removed from the vicinity while he was carrying out his work. RSF condemned the restriction on press freedom and said it cannot be tolerated.
The list of assaults of media workers perpetrated by Albanian police continues to grow longer while the silence from institutions persists.
#Albania: Despite being identified as a cameraman, Ledio Guni was violently & arbitrarily forced by 3 policemen to leave the protest he was covering for Fax news in #Tirana today. @RSF_inter condemns this restriction to #pressfreedom which cannot be tolerated. #policeviolence pic.twitter.com/YIQzCr26Zf
— RSF in English (@RSF_en) January 19, 2022
RSF and the Committee to Protect Journalists both condemned police action at a protest on 8 January where clearly identifiable media workers were targeted with tear gas and water cannons. Several were treated by medical professionals and others suffered damaged equipment.
Albanian authorities have been repeatedly called out over the indiscriminate use of these methods during protests, to the detriment of media workers, whose job it is to be there.
In 2019, at opposition-led anti-government protests, countless journalists were targeted with tear gas and water cannons over the course of several weeks of demonstrations. Some were hospitalised, and other reports of police assaulting them with batons. The authorities refused to cooperate with journalists who demanded to know what chemicals were being used against them due to fears of prolonged exposure. No charges were brought.
Then in 2020, during the demolition of the National Theatre, police assaulted and detained multiple journalists while they were covering the protests. Officers had no name badges or numbers, a move the at-the-time Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj defended, meaning they could not be identified or have complaints filed against them.
Later that year, following the murder of an unarmed young man, Klodian Rasha, by an on-duty police officer, large protests erupted around the country and in the capital of Tirana. As well as allegedly assaulting and detaining minors, there were multiple reports of assault and detention of journalists, including getting them to sign false confessions to be released.
Just two days before the protest, special forces in Shkodra assaulted a journalist. While on a walk with his children, Simon Shkreli came across the local police force and RENEA operatives doing a sweep of the area. He put on his journalist badge and proceeded to record the scene. A police officer in civilian clothing approached him and asked him to stop recording before Shkreli identified himself as a journalist.
According to Shkreli, he was recognized by the head of the Shkodra Police who took him aside and asked him again to stop recording. When Shkreli refused, a RENEA operative approached him, grabbed him and removed the journalist badge while using denigrated language towards Shkreli, in the presence of his children.
The seriousness of the issue is further compounded by the fact that the police consistently fail to prosecute crimes against journalists. Death threats, assaults, obstructions, verbal abuse, and other offences are routinely dismissed or just investigated while never proceeding to court. There have been no convictions of crimes against media workers in recent years in Albania.