Journalists flee Albania; seek asylum fearing hostility

Journalists flee Albania; seek asylum fearing hostility | Photo: kremlin

The Union of Albanian Journalists (UGSh) announced on Wednesday that more than 45 journalists of different media have left Albania seeking asylum in the US and EU because of threats they received during their work.

 The number of journalists leaving Albania has grown considerably in 2017–18. UGSh director Aleksandër Çipa said that “Twelve journalists have sought asylum in the EU and US because of the risks of work, while 34 have sought citizenship in other countries. Nearly everyone has prepared their dossiers with proofs and documents concerning the threats received on duty and are preparing to leave.

Most lately, according to the source, News24 journalist Klodiana Lala was the target of a machine gun attack on her family’s house, while another journalist was threatened in Laç.

As recently as May, a journalist was beaten by the police during an anti-government protest, at which the links of Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj and drug trafficking were denounced.

According to the source, Prime Minister Rama himself has contributed considerably to the hostile climate for journalists. Last year, Prime Minister Rama claimed at an EU-sponsored press freedom event that the Albanian media “violate […] the dignity of people in Albania […] from morning to midnight,” a statement that failed to be countered by the European Commission, with Commissioner Johannes Hahn claiming that Prime Minister Rama “had the right to express [his] opinions.”

Instead, former EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin joined the claim of “fake news […] connected to political and criminal interest groups,” a claim that has also repeatedly been made by Prime Minister Rama, without providing any form of evidence.

Albania has one of the lowest levels of press freedom in Europe. In the past, the European Commission has been reluctant to call out Prime Minister Edi Rama, known for his frequent, Trumpian attacks on the “trashcan” of the media. In May, Prime Minister Rama openly attacked a journalist during a press conference.