From: Alice Taylor
Albanian PM Receives International Call to Un-Ban Journalists from Press Conferences

An open letter has been sent to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama from a coalition of international media freedom organisations asking him to reconsider his decisions to ban certain journalists from press conferences.

In the last three months, Rama has banned two journalists-  Ambrozia Meta and Klevin Muka- after they asked questions that were not well received.

To our understanding, no formal administrative sanction exists in Albania which allows journalists to be unilaterally banned from attending government press conferences by individual politicians, even those holding executive office. It is our view therefore that the measures imposed on both Klevin Muka and Ambrioza Meta were arbitrary and unjustified,” the letter, seen by Exit states.

Co-signed by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, European Federation of Journalists, Free Press Unlimited, International Press Institute, OBC Transeuropa, Reporters Without Borders and the Safe Journalists Network, the letter states that such moves prevent the journalists from carrying out their professional duties.

In a democratic society, it is not the role of elected officials to personally impose disciplinary measures on individual journalists over what they consider to be alleged breaches of ethics,” the letter states while asking that the decision be immediately reversed.

Rama said that both journalists were unprofessional in their questioning.

In fact, Muka questioned foreign minister Olta Xhacka at a press conference on the matter of her husband being given strategic investor status and benefitting from the state. He said:

On 29 April of this year, a new Ethics Code was implemented, which prohibits and foresees sanctions (including their removal) for all ministers that breach it. One of the provisions of this Ethics Code is that ministers cannot meet with business people alone and must do so only in the presence of at least two public administration employees. You, personally, have you followed this provision? Have you met with your husband – a businessman and strategic investor – in the presence of two public administration employees, or have you violated the Ethics Code?”

He essentially asked if the minister was always accompanied by state employees when meeting her own husband, a question that although does pose a challenge under the code of ethics, is not easily answerable.

In the case of Meta, she asked him if a parliamentary group was being made in prison cells due to the high number of MPs now behind bars.

The media organisations stated that professionalism and integrity is essential for journalists and various initiatives that address these are underway in Albania.

However, adherence to journalistic ethics and standards should be observed and handled from within the journalistic community itself, rather than imposed by political forces,” they wrote.

“More generally, we see these restrictions as illustrative of wider problems regarding access to information for journalists and media freedom in Albania, issues our organisations have repeatedly raised concerns about. We also note the protest organised by journalists in Tirana on 4 July 2022, which criticised the restriction as emblematic of broader efforts by political forces to dictate what questions can and cannot be asked by journalists at press conferences,” they said.

The letter was also sent to Endri Fuga, Director General of the Media and Information agency, Teresa Ribeiro the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Oliver Varhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Alex Hupin, Charge d’affaires at the EU Delegation to Albania, Dunja Mijatovic the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, and Yuri Kim, the US Ambassador to Albania.