A coalition of organisations advocating for press freedom has raised concerns over the ‘deteriorating’ state of press freedom in Albania.
The coalition, comprising ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), visited Albania between 18 June and 21 June this year in order to gather information on issues pertaining to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, with a view to bringing any concerns to the attention of Albanian authorities. The coalition met with representatives of the press, international organisations, civil society and senior members of the Albanian government.
The coalition’s preliminary report, released last week, detailed a number of concerning events and government actions which risked limiting press freedom in Albania, ranging from physical attacks and threats of violence against journalists to a rise in what appeared to be politically motivated defamation court cases brought against journalists by politicians; as well as proposed legislation which would force online media to register with the state and submit to the oversight of a state-operated administrative body. The coalition cited international human rights standards which said: ‘states should not impose mandatory registration to online media as a precondition for their work as this can have a very negative effect on media freedom.’
The report raised further concerns over the way in which high level public officials spoke about the media, with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama quoted as habitually referring to reporters as ‘kazan’ (rubbish bins) and Lulzim Basha, the leader of the opposition, saying the media had been ‘captured and bought’. When confronted by the coalition, Rama denied any ill intent in his use of language but pledged to stop using the word ‘kazan’.
The coalition said: ‘We are concerned that Albania, a democracy, a member State of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and a candidate country for the European Union, is not living up to its obligations to guarantee and safeguard freedom of expression and press freedom as required under Albanian law and international instruments including the European Convention on Human Rights.’