Albania is one of the countries that has not taken measures “to protect journalists and whistleblowers, including doctors, who at the time criticized the government’s response to COVID-19”.
This is the conclusion of Amnesty International’s report on the impact of the COVID pandemic on restrictions on freedom of expression and human rights in 2020.
According to AI, in addition to Albania, other countries that have failed in their obligations include Kosovo, Bosnia, Armenia, Belarus, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
The report noted that in March, Prime Minister Edi Rama threatened media organizations with closure due to the spread of false news about COVID-19. In August, the authorities seized the assets of Ora News TV as a result of an investigation into the owner.
Another point in the report was the extradition of Turkish citizen Haruk Celik. It noted that the ombudsman found serious human rights violations in the process leading up to, and the act of his extradition back to Turkey. Another individual, Haruk Çelik, has applied for asylum in Albania.
In terms of domestic violence which was already at a higher rate than most of Europe prior to the pandemic, AI said that the situation worsened during the lockdown.
“A women’s rights NGO reported a three-fold increase in calls to the Counselling Line for Women and Girls between March and May.”
On the topic of discrimination, it highlighted protests from the Roma community who said that the government’s emergency aid packages didn’t help those that were working in the informal sector. Lockdowns meant that many were unable to engage in work such as litter picking and collection that many use to sustain themselves.
Authorities were criticized for the “disproportionate use of force” against protestors during the National Theatre demonstrations. The report noted that two journalists were verbally assaulted and hit by police offers and one was temporarily detained. It also mentioned the protests following the murder of 25-year-old Klodian Rasha by a policeman in December.
” Two journalists covering the protests were detained and assaulted. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights called on authorities to reverse blanket bans on freedom of assembly.”
For persons of the LGBT community, AI noted positive steps as the Order of Psychologists banned conversion therapy. It also noted the ban from the Ministry of Health on medical interventions on newborn intersex children.