From: Exit Staff
Attacks on Journalists in Albania 2021

2021 was a year that saw Albania’s score on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index continue to decline.

After falling for several years down to 84th place in 2019 with a score of 30.59 out of a possible 100 (with 100 being the worst and 0 being the best), in 2020 it continued its downward trend once again.

It was beaten by Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Maldives, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. It performed better than neighbouring North Macedonia, Serbia, and EU Member State Hungary.

While it’s ranking improved, this was likely due to other countries getting worse. Therefore, the real story is told in the declining score.

Like every year before, 2021 saw its fair share of attacks on journalists. But one thing that really stood out amongst them, is the lack of action by authorities. Not a single crime against a journalist was prosecuted, let alone convicted in 2021. Here is a list of the known attacks and violations, filed under the name of the perpetrator.

Aristotel Petro

In February, a video emerged of the director of ALPO RTV, Aristotel Petro, groping a young journalist behind while at work. The video appears to have been shot through a window without the knowledge of either individual.

Petro responded to the accusations of sexual assault by admitting it was him in the video but denying he was sexually harassing the young girl. He said the video was a “trap” on behalf of the man who filmed it. He said he knew the presence of the girl was a trap and was just playing the game.

He then said his hand slipped, and it wasn’t intentional.

Unknown/ Albanian State Police

An Albanian journalist was physically attacked in Tirana on 11 October while reporting a dispute between teachers and students next to the school “Cajupi”.

Ledio Guni, a reporter with Fax News, was sent to report from the event, but one man physically attacked him by throwing a chair while filming. Guni declared he was a journalist, but the attacks continued.

Despite the presence of police at the scene, they did not intervene to prevent the assault.

Nertila Spiri, Director of Information at Fax News Media, said they were concerned the police didn’t react and protect Guni. The incident was not even included in the official statement issued by the police about the parent-teacher conflict.

Albanian State Police

In July, News24 journalist Ergys Gjencaj was violently apprehended, thrown to the ground, had his phone confiscated, and was detained for more than one hour by police. He had been near the scene of an anti-drugs bust and was attempting to film what was happening.

The Albanian Media Council condemned the attack, stating it demonstrates “a pattern of recurring behaviour from the police and cannot be considered isolated.”

They also said this did not reflect well on Albania’s European Union membership aspirations and reminded the police that the journalists were just doing their job.

Tirana’s Prosecutor announced they were investigating the incident, but no charges have been filed to date.

Albanian State Police

A journalist for Top Channel, Anila Hoxha and her cameraman were on location in November 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 apologising 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.

Two Members of the Public

In December, Albanian journalist Besarta Demushi was physically assaulted by two men while attempting to conduct her work in Tirana.

Video footage shows the journalist being obstructed, kicked, and hit by two men while reporting on a story. Demushi explained she was responding to a tip from a woman who owned a shop on Hoxha Tahsim Street. The citizen Fatbardha Marina said she turned to Fax News after receiving no support from the police or protection regarding a property matter.

She claimed the builders had developed her home but refused to abide by their part of the deal, leaving her out of pocket.

When Demushi arrived on the scene, the developer and his brother in law arrived and started to be abusive. They temporarily blocked the journalist inside the building and then grabbed her, hit her, and kicked her.

According to reports, the police have arrested the two men for the violence inflicted on the journalist and her crew.

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj

In April, a journalist for Ora News, Isa Myzyrai, was restrained with force by the bodyguard for Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj.

The incident was caught on camera as Myzyrai attempted to ask him questions about construction and ongoing development in the city following a political event in a Tirana cafe. One bodyguard can be seen grabbing the journalist from behind and pulling him away from Veliaj.

He identifies himself as a journalist multiple times and asks him not to touch him. Yet, the bodyguard continues to grab him and drag him away.

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj

Journalist Ronaldo Sharka, his cameraman, and driver were assaulted in April while trying to cover an electoral activity of Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj.

The incident took place in Kavaje. Sharak attempted to ask questions to Veliaj but was quickly surrounded by a group of around 40 political supporters.

Ora News, the station where the journalists work, broadcast a video of the incident. At one point, you can see the group descending upon them and trying to prevent them from doing their job, pushing them away from Veliaj.

“My colleagues and I found ourselves in the middle of a crowd, mostly men, who insulted, threatened, and assaulted us,” Sharka said.

He said he had a badge, microphone and the logo of the station was visible. Sharka said Veliaj had failed to condemn the attack, and he called on the authorities to identify those involved.

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj

In November, the mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, insulted a journalist in Tirana as they attempted to ask him questions about ongoing expropriations while conducting tree planting.

ORA News was there to report on the public activities, but when approached by journalist Isa Myzyraj, Veliaj turned and said, “how can you not be ashamed? How do you tell your parents that you work for a drug trafficker?”

The journalist replied by identifying himself as a media worker and asking his question again. Veliaj’s bodyguards then attempted to block Myzyraj from asking any more questions. Veliaj told him again, “go work for the drug trafficker while I finish my work”.

Veliaj then proceeded to call the journalist a “brainless” (material legenash) and told him to “shut up”.

ORA News owner Ylli Ndroqi had his assets seized in summer 2020 over allegations that they were acquired with the proceeds of drug trafficking.  He has, however, been convicted in Turkey under a different name. Nevertheless, he denies it and says the case is political.

Prime Minister Edi Rama

During a press conference in September between Prime Minister Edi Rama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the former refused to take questions from Kosovo journalists.

Enis Recica, a journalist with Klan Kosovo, claimed that journalists from six different Kosovo media waited for 40 minutes to be given a chance to ask questions but were never given permission to do so. They noted that the journalists were all accredited and appeared in person. Journalists said they were not allowed to ask any questions to either Rama or Merkel.

A video published on Facebook shows the journalists sitting with their hands in the air, waiting to ask questions, but to no avail.

Prime Minister Edi Rama

Prime Minister Edi Rama stirred criticism at the OSCE South-Eastern Europe Media Forum in Tirana on 11 October by comparing online media to Nazi propaganda and paedophiles. He was also criticised for his “anti-media rhetoric” and calling for limits to freedom of expression.

“I am perhaps not the best person to be invited here today for my opinions differ from the politically correct ones when it comes to how in the name of freedom of expression, so many things that go against the notion of freedom are happening,” Rama said during his opening speech.

Rama then continued to compare the online media to Nazi’s, terrorism, and paedophilia.

“When you try to imagine what the Nazi propaganda machine did to the world with freedom of speech, it’s breathtaking. When you try to assess what the damage occurring in everyday life from sources of evil in this world, terrorism, fundamentalism, paedophilia, diseases of modern society, freedom of reach can reach and touch a lot of human beings,” he said

Prime Minister Edi Rama

In January, Prime Minister Edi Rama harshly attacked journalists as they questioned him about Ndrangheta, wiretapping and suspicions of links to the government. His insults included “mythomaniacs”, “It is fascinating how low your level of hearing is yet how high your insistence of error is,” “no one damages Albania as much as those with a microphone in front of them,” “contented pigs”. You can read a complete list of insults used by Rama against the media here.

Ergi Hasula

On 21 August, Exit journalist Alice Taylor was sent threats via Facebook that detailed how the individual would find her, assault her and then rip her skull off. She proceeded to file a complaint at Ali Demi police station. She was told that the name used by the account holder was fake, and therefore the matter would be passed to the cybercrime department.

Meanwhile, Taylor found other pictures of the individual using the same name on different social media accounts, including Instagram. One picture showed him posing in front of a car with the license plate clearly visible. She sent this information to the police but did not receive a response. To date, she has not received any information on the status of the case, despite making several requests.


In April 2021, the Special Prosecution Against Organised Crime ordered journalists Andi Bushati and Armand Shkullaku from to hand over a database containing more than 910,000 voters’ personal information Albania. They refused to comply over fears it would reveal their sources. SPAK prosecutors then interviewed them after their refusal.

The Albanian authorities were then ordered to suspend attempts to seize the mobiles, computers, and servers of Albanian lawyer Dorian Matlija submitted an urgent request on behalf of Lapsi. He asked that the order of SPAK to seize the equipment as a part of their investigation should be halted immediately.

The ECHR will only intervene in such a manner in extreme cases. Legal action is yet to be taken against anyone else found to be involved.

The Ministry of Health

In February, Fjona Çela, a journalist with Fax News was prevented from interviewing medical and public staff by the media spokesperson of the Ministry of Health Etiola Kola. Çela said she had been repeatedly denied or ignored when making official requests to the Ministry. She added that Kola had refused requests for information and stopped her from conducting interviews about the spread of COVID-19. On another occasion, as Çela pressed Deputy Minister of Health Mira Rakacolli, for answers, Kola told her she would ban her from attending press conferences in the future.

Bombs, Police Violence, Increased State Pressure: Threats Against Albanian Media Freedom in 2020

List of Attacks on Journalists and Media Freedom in Albania During 2019