From: Alice Taylor
Media Freedom Organisations: Rama and Veliaj Must Stop Targeting Journalists in Albania

A coalition of media freedom organizations under the umbrella of Media Freedom Rapid Response has written to Prime Minister Edi Rama and Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj to call for protection for journalists, media workers and sources.

Copied into the letter, which was also published on their website was Oliver Varhelyi the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Vera Jourova Vice President for Values and Transparency at the European Commission, Dunja Mijatovic the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, Irene Khan the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, and Teresa Ribeiro the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

The letter raises the alarm over “recent action targeting media actors and journalistic sources in Albania, which represents a significant threat to the public’s right to know and the ability of journalists to protect their sources. This is not in line with European law and standards and should be addressed in a meaningful manner, across all national and local state institutions.”

They referenced the Socialist Party database containing more than 910,000 voters’ personal information and the way that SPAK demanded journalists should hand over their sources. This is wrong, according to the letter.

“Source protection is a vital underpinning of a healthy and pluralist media environment and requires proactive commitments by state entities to ensure it remains intact. Any deviation or act that target sources or threatens journalists can dissuade others from coming forward and chill the sharing of information that makes journalism possible,” the letter adds.

The letter also noted the attack on journalist Isa Myzyraj who was dragged away and pinned by Veliaj’s security when trying to conduct his work and ask a legitimate question. Just a few days later, another journalist Ronaldo Sharka and his crew were physically manhandled, threatened, and prevented from asking questions to Veliaj at an electoral event in Kavaje.

MFRR noted:

‘Neither incident has been condemned by the administration in Tirana, the Socialist Party or the national government at large. A failure to act normalizes this behavior, further undermining the safety and ability to work of journalists in Albania.”

They called on Veliaj and Rama to condemn the acts publicly and to call for a robust and independent investigation. This should include Veliaj’s security detail, who have been filmed being physical with journalists on more than this one occasion.

They concluded:

“Since 1st March 2020, Mapping Media Freedom has documented 21 media freedom violations in Albania, This demonstrates the pressing need for structural and immediate commitments and actions to defend media freedom and ensure every journalist and media worker is able to report in the public interest.”