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Defending media freedom and journalists' safety in Albania

ECPMF

19 July 2023

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The partners in the SafeJournalists Network (SJN) and the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), as organisations dedicated to the protection of media freedom and the rights of journalists, are deeply concerned by recent events in Albania, which not only highlight a deteriorating environment for press freedom, but also pose a severe threat to the safety of journalists and their ability to inform the public. We call on the Albanian authorities and the international community to condemn these attacks against press freedom and to ensure the safety of journalists in Albania.

 

The verbal assault on BIRN Albania journalist Ola Xama by Tirana’s Mayor, Erion Veliaj, in response to her investigative report on corruption is not only unacceptable but also undermines the very fabric of free speech and press freedom. A democratic society is built on the principles of transparency and accountability, and the Mayor’s behaviour sets a dangerous precedent for public discourse. It is the duty of public officials to respond to investigative reports with professionalism and respect for the role of journalism in holding power accountable, not with attacks on journalists’ credibility.

 

The threats received by Marsi Korreshi and her SYRI TV crew in Rrogozhina during their coverage of a political event further underscore the precarious situation faced by journalists in Albania. Although police responded quickly to the incident, it’s alarming that members of the media are facing intimidation and threats simply for carrying out their professional duties. 

 

Lastly, former Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s attempt to discredit BIRN Albania, a reputable and independent media organisation, presents a serious threat to media freedom in Albania. His allegations, made without evidence, not only attempts to undermine the credibility of an important news outlet but may also incite further attacks against media freedom and journalists’ safety. Moreover, his actions could foster an environment where disinformation thrives, which is detrimental to the public’s right to accurate and factual information.

 

Journalists should be able to work in an environment free from intimidation, threats and violence. We call on all public officials in Albania to act responsibly, respect the role of the media, and refrain from engaging in personal attacks and unfounded accusations against journalists.

 

The role of the media in a democratic society is paramount. The public depends on free and independent media for information, holding power accountable, and contributing to public discourse. Therefore, any attempts to undermine the media should be viewed as an attack on democracy itself. It is our collective responsibility to protect and uphold press freedom, and we stand in solidarity with journalists in Albania.

 

Signed: 

  • SafeJournalists Network
  • Association of Journalists of Kosovo
  • Association of Journalists of Macedonia
  • BH Journalists Association
  • Croatian Journalists’ Association
  • Independent Journalists Association of Serbia
  • Trade Union of Media of Montenegro
  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) 
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

This statement was coordinated by The SafeJournalists Network and Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The MFRR is organised by a consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) including ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

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