Over the last two years, Prime Minister Edi Rama and some Socialist Party high officials have filed some 35 lawsuits against those they claim are defaming them, according to Voice of America.
The majority of those accused of libel are opposition politicians, as well as journalists and civil society activists. The opposition has called such a high number of lawsuits from the leader of Albania “unprecedented”.
Opposition lawyer Ledio Braho said that politicians should have a higher level of tolerance for claims made against them, whereas private citizens should not. He added that there have been many unfounded allegations against Democratic Party Lulzim Basha but that he has not initiated any lawsuits against members of the Socialist Party.
Rama also recently filed a defamation lawsuit against Kosovo’s outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. Legal action of this type between leaders of countries is somewhat rare, if not unprecedented, and Haradinaj called the lawsuit “shameless” and reiterated his claim that Rama supported the partition of Kosovo.
In retaliation, Rama said that the only way to defend his dignity from the allegations was to take legal action.
Ex-Prime Minister of Albania Sali Berisha and the number one recipient of Rama’s lawsuits suggested he was using this course of action to “censor”.
In December in a parliamentary sitting that passed the controversial “anti-defamation package”, Rama said he would be happy to file “even 6000” cases against those who speak out against him.
Media lawyer Dorian Matlija said that according to the European Court of Human Rights, politicians enjoy less protection that officials and ordinary citizens in cases of defamation and libel. According to the Court, when private individuals become a part of the public sphere they are open to public debate and must tolerate a higher level of criticism.
Matlija also claimed that Rama is using his power to influence the courts, judges and outcomes.
“In fact, Mr. Rama is not only a prime minister. He has some qualities. He is also the chairman of one of the largest parties in the country. And of course in these cases, when a person enjoys certain qualities, the most important quality for the court to consider is the fact that he is not just a politician, but the most influential politician in Albania,” Matlija told VoA.