Victory for Freedom of Expression in Case against Artan Rama

The Court of Tirana has acquitted journalist, director, and activist Artan Rama in a lawsuit filed by construction company Edil Al-It for slander.

In a Facebook post following the verdict, Rama declared:

This is a victory of the facts over the language of hate and denigration. This is a victory of the truth and solidarity. This is a victory of an open justice, a support for the entire society and for interior of public right!

In the end, through threats, I understood once again that the freedom of speech is something for which we still need to fight.

Edil Al-It, a construction company of the same owners as media group Vizion Plus that is close to Prime Minister Edi Rama’s government, had filed a lawsuit against Rama over a commentary published on Facebook, demanding 15 million lekë in damages.

In his commentary, Rama had argued that a consortium of Edil Al-It and AgiKons had won the tender to renovate the Theater of Opera and the National Ensemble for 10 billion lekë through suspicious actions. Rama published documentation showing that the winning company had outstanding tax debts, meaning that it should have been legally excluded from the tender.

The representatives of the company contradicted Rama’s claims, stating that the published documents weren’t signed by the tax directorate.

Previously, Vizion Plus had unexpectedly canceled Rama’s TV program Publicus in October 2016, just before the emission of an item on the death of child laborer Ardit Gjoklaj on the landfill of Sharra and the political (if not criminal) responsibility of Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj.

The verdict of the Tirana Court is important because it covers a commentary posted on Facebook and not in any of the regular media outlets. For this very reason, the verdict is not only a victory for the freedom of the press but also for anyone expressing the personal opinion on social media platforms.