From: Exit Staff
Municipality High Official Encourages Harassment of National Stadium Critics

A high official of the Municipality of Tirana has called for the public harassment and shaming of anyone that criticizes the new National Stadium.

Genci Kojdheli, the General Director for Strategic Investment and Economic Development posted on Facebook a call to action to send private messages to anyone who has spoken out against the new project and has attended the Sunday match between Albania and France, and then to publicly post their responses on social media.

Under the hashtag #NewStadiumChallenge he wrote on the day of the match “Find someone who has spoken out against the new stadium: take a photo at the stadium, send it to them in private with the definition “hypocrite”; if they disagree, post it on social networks!”

This call to harass, bully, and then publicly shame dissenters by an employee of the Municipality is a shameful example of an attempt to intimidate those who do not agree with the actions of the government and Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj.

The new National Stadium has been a topic of controversy as the former Qemal Stafa stadium- a cultural monument protected by law, was illegally destroyed. Then, private company and government favorite AlbStar struck a deal with the government to divide the real estate and create a commercial center bolted onto the stadium. They have also constructed a 24-story tower that comprises of luxury accommodation and office space.

Construction work started on the site, even before the building permit was approved.

The bid to name the stadium was won by Air Albania, despite not filling the criteria for purchase which was having a turnover of at least  €10 million in revenue during the last 12 months. Air Albania was formed on 13 August 2018 and is partly owned by state-owned AlbControl, Turkish Airlines, and MDN Investment which is alleged to be also Turkish owned. It is not known how Air Albania could meet this requirement, considering that in its balance sheet for the period of 2018, it actually registered a loss of €100,000.

Cyberbullying tactics are widely employed by oppressive regimes, and more supposedly liberal ones. In Malta, the ruling Labor Party were found to be involved in secret Facebook groups where photos of activists, journalists, and those who opposed the government were posted with calls to harass them and send them abusive messages. Assassinated journalist Daphne Caurana Galizia had been targeted frequently in these groups, prior to her death in 2017.

Exit recently discovered that the Albanian government was forcing state employees to share propaganda or risk losing their job. Countless fake pages were also found that were set up just before the 30 June vote, and commented support for the Socialist Party or negative comments against anyone who criticized them.