From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Media Blasted for Allowing Incitement to Violence against LGBTIQ

Albanian investigative TV show “STOP” has come under fire following calls to violence by its host and other content deemed offensive to the country’s LGBTIQ community.

The show aired on one of the country’s most popular and widely watched stations, TV KLAN. In this particular episode, the journalist wearing a camera and microphone tried to entrap a member of the LGBTIQ community who was allegedly looking for sexual encounters by the lake.

Certain parts of the lake park in Tirana have been notorious for decades for “cruising”.

The journalist published the video with the persons face visible as well as their voice. The entrapped individual can be heard on the recording about having relations with younger boys, although not below the legal age of consent. No evidence of any crime being committed was provided by STOP.

Furthermore, journalist Gentian Zenela made comments that have been considered as inciting violence. He said;

“I’m asking very civilly, […] those boys that once in a while kill and beat up each other. Can’t you all, in under one week, clean up Tirana [from LGBTIQ people]? Like athletes, take up your bikes or skates around these parts, go out and deal with them, and then return to your normal life. It’s hard to ride a bike with a gun in your belt.”

Journalist Saimir Kodra continued;

“I know it’s your choice, but you disgust me to no end; call me homophobic if you want; I don’t care.”

Local LGBTIQ organisations have condemned the so-called “journalism” and the journalist for targeting a vulnerable member of an oppressed community. They have also called for police action over the language, noting that inciting violence is punishable by a fine of up to three years in prison.

Furthermore, endangering public peace by calling for hatred against sections of the population or demanding the use of violence against them is punishable by between two and eight years in prison.

The Alliance Against Hate Speech, comprising the Albanian Media Council, the Audiovisual Media Authority, and the Commissioner Against Discrimination, have spoken out over the incident.

In a statement, they condemned the use of discriminator language and incitement to violence on publicly available media.

“The Alliance publicly calls on the national television Klan and the leaders of investigative programme STOP, to avoid misunderstandings on the connection of negative phenomena with the sexual orientation of those involved.”

Certain Albanian media have been criticised for allowing homophobic content and hate speech to be broadcast on their shows. Earlier this year, journalist Blerta Tafani used homophobic slurs on television.

Norwegian Helsinki Committee Speaks as Anti-LGBTIQ Sentiment Simmers in Albania

She was accompanied by Marsela Lekli, who called herself a psychologist but is not, who made several discriminatory claims.

Exit was able to verify with the Order of Albanian Psychologists that Lekli is not a psychologist by profession, does not hold a warrant or license, and is not legally allowed to practice as one in Albania.

“The psychologist Mrs Lekli is not a member of our order. According to the law, each psychologist who practices the profession must be a member and have a licence. If they don’t have it, [they] must not work as a psychologist. Every institution that hires such psychologists should take all the responsibilities and take all measures to prevent these psychologists from working, because if not, then they are breaking the law,” they said.

Under Albanian law, it is illegal to engage in hate speech, and also television stations that do not take action on their platforms being used to spread hate speech can be subject to penalties. This is a concern raised many times by local and international human rights organisations, who argue that allowing hate speech on television normalises it in the rest of society.

LGBTIQ individuals in Albania suffer significant marginalisation and discrimination. A study conducted by Streha found that 80% of LGBT Albanians had considered leaving the country due to issues they faced because of their status. In 2019, at least 17 LGBT filed for asylum abroad.

50% of Albanian LGBTI persons have experienced psychological violence and bullying, and one in five have been sexually harassed.

Additionally, there was an increase in the number of violent attacks and instances of discrimination fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. They reported 16 cases of rape and 33 cases of physical violence during 2020. Furthermore, 25 people reported being blackmailed over their LGBT status, and 16 said they were fired from their jobs for this reason. Only 7% took legal action.

According to most journalistic codes, including one from the Council of Europe, journalists should not use “unsuitable language,” nor should they incite tension or engage in discrimination against minorities. They have a moral obligation to “defend democratic values,” have “respect for human dignity”, and to “oppose violence and the language of hatred and confrontation and to reject all discrimination based on culture, sex, or religion.”