From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Government Must Not Criminalise Reporting on Hacks, Journalists Must be Ethical

According to a coalition of media freedom organisations, the Albanian government must not prosecute journalists and media for publishing information on documents leaked by Iranian hackers earlier this week.

Following a series of cyberattacks perpetrated by Iran on government infrastructure, including the border police and e-Albania, many documents were leaked to the public, providing sensitive information on investigations and the movement of officials. The Tirana Prosecution reacted by stating that any media or journalists publishing such data risk criminal prosecution, although no action is believed to have been taken so far.

An open letter signed by IPI, the ECPMF, ARTICLE 19, EFJ and others states that “no journalist or media outlet should face criminal sanctions for publishing information in the public interest.”

“While our organisations recognise the sensitive nature of these leaks and urge all media in Albania to handle the material in a strictly ethical and responsible manner, Albanian authorities must proceed with caution and full consideration for journalistic freedoms protected under both domestic and international law,” it continues.

They highlighted that the media have a professional responsibility to handle sensitive data with care and, if publishing it, do so ethically with full consideration of citizens’ right to privacy and national security concerns. However, they stated that regardless of the source of the material or the intent of those behind the attacks, journalists have a responsibility to assess the veracity and public interest nature of the leaked information, as well as the right of citizens to be informed about newsworthy matters.

It continues that the response by the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office to limit all reporting without proper consideration to the public interest raises “raises serious concerns about unjustified infringements on the freedom of the press, which is already under the spotlight in Albania.”

Furthermore, threats of criminal investigations and website blocking for media or journalists that violate the banning order will meanwhile have a censorious effect on reporting and could open the door to the criminalisation of legitimate journalistic activity, they said.

“No journalist, editor or publisher in Albania should face prosecution for publishing accurate information on a matter of public interest.”

They call on the government to avoid taking any steps to undermine the exercise of responsible journalism or endanger the liberty of journalists publishing public interest material.

” We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the coming days and respond to further developments.”