Protests against cost of living crisis, calls for PM to remove repeated bans on journalists
According to the Report “Monitoring Matrix on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development - Country Brief for Albania 2021” published by Partners Albania in June 2022, there is a lack of unified data and accurate information concerning non-profit organisations (NPOs) in Albania. Moreover, consultation with and participation of NPOs in policy and decision-making processes remains ineffective, while mechanisms for cooperation established by the government are not being used properly. Finally, law 80/2021 “For the registration of non-profit organisations”, approved in August 2021 and amended after mobilisation of several NPOs, remains widely contested due to the high level of fines for administrative violations and the lack of a procedure for deregistration of NPOs in the court system and with the authority responsible for the process.
On 22nd June 2022, a meeting of the National Council for Civil Society (NCCS) was held with representatives of four organisations present. During the meeting a government official made a presentation “On the creation of an enabling environment for civil society 2019-2023”.
However, the National Resource Centre for Civil Society in Albania reported that the monitoring process on the implementation on the Roadmap was not carried out in cooperation with the contribution and involvement of civil society organisations (CSOs) at the country level.
- On 15th June 2022, protests were held in Tirana against inflation and the increased cost of living. Similar protests took place in the previous months.
- Between June and July 2022, Albanian attorneys boycotted court proceedings in protest against the government’s new judicial map, as it would significantly reduce the number of courts in Albania.
- After collecting 5,000 signatures among students, student movement Për Universitetin (Movement for the University, LPU) sent a petition to the government asking for more financial support in order to cope with the economic crisis but did not receive any response.
- On 12th July 2022, Albanian citizens protested in front of the Parliament against the proposed administration of the Butrint National Park by a foundation including the Albanian American Development Foundation, which will see the site partially controlled by a private entity for the first time in its history.
Media pluralism, attacks on women journalists and other concerns
According to an analysis by Balkan Insight on 27th May 2022, between January 2020 and April 2022 320 concerning cases of sexual abuse, published in the Albanian media landscape, revealed personal information such as the name of the victim, of her family, her home address, etc. Likewise, during the same period, 142 articles were found to directly or indirectly justify cases of domestic violence and 364 articles revealed personal data of the victims, their photos and /or videos. The above data show a lack of regard for the 2006 Albanian Code of Ethics when reporting on cases of sexual assault.
According to the Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) Annual Press Freedom Report, published in June 2022, in 2021 Albania registered five cases of threats and attacks against female journalists, in the context of a global increase in major violations against women journalists by 16 per cent as compared to the previous year.
A report by safejournalists.net titled “Indicators of the level of media freedoms and safety of journalists in Albania 2021”, published in June 2022, documents 14 cases of attacks, threats and pressures on journalists and media outlets in Albania in the previous year. Freedom of expression and media freedom in Albania is reported to be negatively impacted, mainly due to the intertwined symbiotic relation among powerful economic and political interests in the media system including, in some cases, organised crime influences.
According to the report “Monitoring media pluralism in the digital era: application of the Media Pluralism Monitor in the European Union, Albania, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey in the year 2021. Country report: Albania”, published by the European University Institute (EUI) Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom on 30th June 2022, Albania’s media pluralism risk ranged from medium to high risk in 2021 in the four key areas assessed. Albania ranked high risk in terms of Market Plurality (87%) and Political Independence (69%), while scoring medium risk in the areas of Social Inclusiveness (64%) and Fundamental Protection (58%).
Incidents against journalists
- On 24th May 2022, police in Tirana confiscated the equipment of photojournalist Gent Shkullaku and ordered him to remove the photographs of clashes that happened before the Europa Conference League final between hooligans of the Italian club Roma and Dutch side Feyenoord, claiming that it would damage the image of the country.
- On 2nd June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the lawsuit against Albania for discrimination and violation of freedom of expression filed by Agonset, a media company owned by the Italian businessman Francesco Bechetti, was inadmissible as the company had not exhausted the domestic court process first. Bechetti, who has been accused of money laundering in the past by Albanian authorities, had sued Albania after its Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) decided to close his TV channel Agon.
- On 16th June 2022, the Prosecution Against Corruption and Organised Crime (SPAK) in Albania issued a gag order to a local journalist for publishing “secret data” concerning the testimony of two collaborators in a major operation against organised crime.
- On 1st July 2022, A2 journalist Klevin Muka was told by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama that he needed to undergo “re-education” and that he would be barred from press conferences for three months. Rama attacked Muka during a joint press conference with the Foreign Affairs minister, Olta Xhaçka, after the journalist asked whether there was a potential conflict of interest linked to the recently established Code of Ethics of the Council of Ministers in Albania. Xhaçka’s husband is a businessman, and according to the code ministers are barred from holding meetings with businesspeople without the presence of two administration employees. This case sparked angry reactions among Albanian journalists, who protested outside the Prime Minister’s office in Tirana on 4th July 2022. On 6th July 2022, the International Press Institute (IPI), together with other media outlets, sent an open letter to Rama asking him to reverse the ban on Muka and on Syri.net TV journalist Ambrioza Meta.