Thursday, February 03, 2011

Albania: Press freedom abuses against journalists

Source: International Freedom of Expression Exchange

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the regional body of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), today expressed its concern about severe threats to press freedom and violent attacks against several journalists in Albania following last week's protest in Tirana.

"The situation in Albania makes it impossible for journalists to work freely," said EFJ President Arne K├Ânig. "A violent environment is already a challenge for media professionals, but if the police and authorities add physical violence and legal abuses, then we end up in an intolerable situation for journalists. Albanian and foreign public have the right to know what is happening in the country and it is the role of the authorities to guarantee the exercise of the profession instead of putting pressure on journalists".

On 31 January a Parliamentary Commission set up by the Albanian ruling party demanded access to the phone records of four Albanian journalists accused of being "conspirators" in the violent anti-government protest that took place in Tirana last 21 January, when several journalists were attacked.

The ad-hoc Parliamentary Commission has asked to see the phone records of Filip Cakulli, the director of the investigative programme "Fiks Fare" on Top-Channel TV; Sokol Balla, the anchor of the popular show "Top-Story" on Top Channel TV; Mero Baze, the publisher of the daily TemA; and Andi Bushati, the anchor of a show on Vizion Plust TV called "Zone e Lire".

The government's decision follows the violent street protests in Tirana of 21 January when several journalists were assaulted and even shot at by the National Guard.

Ened Janina, reporter for Dhekulli newspaper, was beaten in the middle of the street by a policeman who told him "I do not give a damn that you are a journalist". Fatos Mahmutaj of ABC News was shot at by a police officer who opened fire from the Prime Minister's office courtyard. "I saw the fire in his gun barrel, I felt the impact of the bullet in my hand," Mahmutaj said.

Two other journalists, photojournalist Feliks Bilani and reporter Elton Dono, were seriously wounded by police officers.

The EFJ calls on the Albanian authorities to respect European standards of press freedom, which include the right for journalists to operate freely, not be targeted by the police and not be forced to reveal their sources of information.