From: Exit News
Council of Europe Reports Press Freedom in Decline in Albania

The Council of Europe’s Annual Report on press freedom and the media has noted a deterioration of journalists’ working conditions in Albania.

A number of journalists being physically harmed and harassed in Albania exemplified the concern expressed by the report. In April 2019, several journalists were injured after the police fired tear gas during a Tirana demonstration, with one reporter being incapacitated by the gas, while another was hit with a metal baton. In June 2019, a journalist was reportedly violently beaten by the police as he was filming the arrest of demonstrators in Dibra.

Albanian authorities denied the existence of any police violence against members of the media during the April protests. However, the State Police confirmed the June incident, expressing regret and deeming the act as a “careless” one.

The report also cites as evidence several cases of harassment and intimidation of journalists in the country, including a smear campaign mounted against Exit News journalist Alice Taylor, who was accused of being paid by the Russian Federation.

In August 2019, television channel News 24 cancelled two of its talk shows that were critical of Prime Minister Edi Rama. Reportedly, this came as a result of the Prime Minister and the Tirana Mayor, Erion Veliaj, “threatening” the president of News 24, though the latter denies the allegations.

The government blocking online portal in November 2019 was also cited by the report as a threat to media freedom, after the Albanian Media Council accused PM Rama of using the November 26 earthquake to censor online media critical of the government.

Finally, the major press freedom issue in Albania remains the so-called “anti-defamation” laws that were passed by the parliament in December, and vetoed by President Ilir Meta. These legal amendments would authorize the state to regulate content published by online media. These “anti-defamation” laws were also cited by Reporters Without Borders for Albania dropping two places in their 2020 World Press Freedom Index.