Prime Minister slanders independent media in inflammatory comments
On 25th October 2017, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama verbally attacked journalists over their coverage of a scandal involving his former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri. The former minister was exposed for his alleged role in abetting a drug trafficking ring while in office. The Albanian Parliament later blocked Tahiri's prosecution. After the parliamentary session granting Tahiri immunity took place, Rama criticised the journalists who had revealed the scandal, saying that:
"Firstly, is a shame for all of you and for all those like you that you have not understood what the process was, with these kinds of questions without any sense...It is your misfortune that you don't read and do not even understand what you read, and don't want to listen what it is all about."
Just one month later, the Prime Minister again lashed out at Albania's media. In November 2017, Rama denounced independent media outlets as unreliable and propagators of "fake news" in his remarks at the EU-Western Balkans Media Day Conference. In response to these incidents, regional and international media freedom watchdogs - European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders - warned of a deterioration in the respect for plurality of opinion in Albania.
#Tirana: Edi Rama opens the Western Balkan Media Days by @EU_Commission. Talking about #fakenews and #corruption pic.twitter.com/0Sw9FNfClA— OBC Transeuropa (@BalkansCaucasus) November 9, 2017
With regards to access to information, in late November 2017 President Ilir Meta denied a request made by MPs from the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration to publish classified documents from a National Security Council meeting on cannabis and organised crime. Saimir Tahiri allegedly attended the meeting in which officials discussed the complicity of public servants in drug smuggling rings.
Albanian Activists Hold Two-Day Protest Against the Building of Hydropower Plants in Valbona National Park https://t.co/NqCNTT8Nj2 @alidea29 pic.twitter.com/mKuSCmO7HP— Global Voices (@globalvoices) November 13, 2017
While a number of protests took place at the end of 2017, there were no reports of any protest being interfered with or disrupted. Below are some examples of protests that took place recently:
- Himara residents protested over a new urban development plan;
- Tropoja activists protested against the ongoing construction of hydro-power plants in the Valbonë Valley National Park. However, some residents boycotted the protest for fear of losing their government welfare payments;
- Hundreds of youth, local residents and parents of schoolchildren in Kurbin protested against poverty and discrimination in their municipality; and
- Citizens protested in front of the National Territorial Defence Inspectorate as it had failed to stop the construction of a hydro-power plant on the Valbona River.
Civic Space Developments