From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Interior Minister Fires Policeman Who Assaulted Journalist

Following an assault on two journalists by a police officer on Saturday, November 6, Minister of the Interior Bledi Cuci announced he had been fired from his job.

A journalist for Top Channel, Anila Hoxha and her cameraman were on location when a policeman pushed them to prevent them from filming. The incident, which was caught on camera, showed that both Hoxha and the cameraman almost fell down the side of the mountain.

Following widespread outrage, Cuci posted that the officer concerned was no longer working with the police. He added that he would face charges.

“I guarantee there will be zero tolerance for ugly shows like what happened today. I call on State Police officers not to fall to this level, which automatically excludes them from police ranks,” he wrote, also apologizing for the incident.

In a lengthy statement on her own Facebook page, Hoxha said she is “undesirable” as a journalist due to the scandals she has unearthed over 23 years. She also claimed that ex-police chief Ardi Veliu took revenge on her family members after reporting assaults by police against protestors and journalists during the December 2020 Klodian Rasha protests.

She added, “On Saturday, the police showed once again that it leaves much to be desired in its relationship with the media, the public and the citizen, as it has done on other occasions, starting with press conferences when they do not allow you to ask questions.”

The move to dismiss the police officer has been welcomed but has also raised questions over multiple other incidents of police violence against journalists that remain unpunished. 

In April 2019, several journalists were assaulted, and one was rendered unconscious by the use of tear gas while reporting on anti-government opposition-led protests. Calls from international media freedom organizations for justice were ignored.

The same month, Dorjana Bezat was physically prevented from filming by police while trying to report on forced evictions of citizens from Bregu i Lumit in Tirana.

Amid protests after the demolition of the National Theatre in 2020, at least two journalists were physically accosted and arbitrarily detained by police. International media organizations condemned the violence while at-the-time Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj said it was permitted because the journalists were not on duty.

In December 2020, following the murder of an unarmed young man by a police officer, widespread protests took place over a week. Multiple journalists reported being gassed, targeted with water cannons indiscriminately, arrested, detained, deleted footage, and reportedly being made to sign ‘confessions’ to be released.

In July 2021, News24 Journalist Ergys Gjencaj was violently apprehended, thrown to the ground, had his phone confiscated, and was detained by police for more than an hour after he tried to film an attempted drugs bust.

In October 2021, Ledio Guni, a reporter with Fax News, was assaulted by a member of the public in front of police, who failed to intervene by either protecting the journalist or preventing the attack. No charges were filed, and the police did not include the incident in their public statement.

Meanwhile, there have been zero convictions for crimes against journalists in recent years. Crimes, including machine-gun fire on their homes, bomb attacks, death threats, and other assaults, remain entirely unpunished.