Council of Europe Issue Media Freedom Alert after Two Albanian Journalists Are Fired for Criticising Government

The Council of Europe has issued an alert regarding the shutting down of the critical talk shows headed by Adi Kraster and Ylli Rakipi.

The international human rights, democracy, and the rule of law organisation, of which Albania is a member, classified it as a threat from the state that has a “chilling effect on media freedom”. The government has not replied at the time of writing.

Appearing on the CoE’s platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists, it details how News 24 recently announced the closure of two popular talk shows. Ylli Rakipi’s “The Unexposed Ones” and Adi Krasta’s “Krasta/ A Show” which are both critical of Prime Minister Edi Rama have both been axed following allegations the owner of the station, Irfan Hysenbelliu was “threatened” by Rama and the Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj.

It continues that in July, journalist Artur Cani had revealed that Rama had met with Hysenbelliu to ask for their dismissal and that it would be imminent.

The Council of Europe reports that Rakipi has accused Rama of shutting down his show and terminating his contract for political reasons. Hysenbelliu denied that the firing of both Krasta and Rakipi was due to government pressure and a spokesperson from Rama’s office said the allegations were “fake news”.

This is the fourth alert for Albania on the CoE platform this year alone. The first was that of Exit journalist Alice Taylor who was the victim of a pro-government media smear campaign when she was 6 months pregnant, following her reporting on the electiongate wiretaps and the anti-government protests in February. She subsequently had her residence permit approval revoked in a move that the Ombudsman disagreed with. 

She is challenging the unlawful action of the police in court, but has been told she will be “stopped at the border” if she tries to leave the country.

The second alert was for the assault of journalists and photographers by police during anti-government protests in June. Media workers suffered injuries from tear gas and photographer Arben Dajci was hit on the head by a metal baton, leaving him with a large cut on his head.

The third alert was for the proposed “anti defamation” package that Rama is attempting to push through his Socialist Party majority parliament. The new legislation will empower a state administrative body to regulate content published by online media. It is feared the bill will increase censorship by ordering the removal of content and levying fines of up to EUR 830,000 for the alleged violation of a citizens’ “dignity and privacy”.

 It has been widely condemned by human rights and media freedom organisations both locally and abroad.