Albania

Police brutality and killing in response to COVID-19 curfew breach sparks protests

During this reporting period, there were days of protests staged by hundreds of Albanians in response to the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Klodian Rasha by a police officer for breaching a coronavirus-related curfew on 8th December 2020. The protesters gathered at various locations, but police condemned the actions, which flouted government COVID-19 guidelines on public gatherings and they used tear gas to disperse the protests. It was reported that nine police officers, a protester and a journalist were injured. According to a preliminary report by the ombudsman, 124 people have been detained, of whom 57 were minors, some under the age of 14. In addition journalists covering protests also faced assaults and detention.
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Police brutality and killing in response to COVID-19 curfew breach sparks protests

Journalist verbally attacked by the President; poor quality of information promotes fake news

An NGO that provides support for all gender identities in Albania, has said that the COVID-19 circumstances have worsened conditions of the LGBTI community. In addition, Pink Embassy, an NGO working to protect and advance the rights of the LGBTI community in Albania, called on the government to allow for all LGBTI people to be able get married and adopt children. Several protests were staged during the reporting period including by prisoners and oil workers who went on a hunger strike and by university students. Fact-checker, Faktoje has found that the poor quality of information in Albania has led to the spread of fake news, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several incidents took place againt journalists, including verbal attacks by the President. Read more

Journalist verbally attacked by the President; poor quality of information promotes fake news

Government actions spark chilling effects on freedom of expression

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the concern over breach of patient rights continues. Lists of personal data, including names, ages, addresses, occupations and whether the patients are hospitalised or not, are being shared and updated via WhatsApp daily. During 2020, there has been a rise in reported threats in Albania against the media. Three months after the Venice Commission published its opinion regarding the online media law in Albania, civil society and independent media organisations have discovered that the Albanian Government intends to send it to the Albanian Parliament for approval without reflecting the recommendations of the Venice Commission. The legislation aims to create an administrative body that will be empowered to order media to take down news reports over issues such as “infringing the dignity of individuals”, with the threat of heavy fines if they fail to do so. Critics say the law could have a chilling effect on media freedom due to its broad terms. Read more

Government actions spark chilling effects on freedom of expression

Activists detained over environmental protest; transport sector vows to continue protests

There were a number of protests that took place during the period 28th May to 23rd July 2020. The Public Transport Associations protested during June 2020 in front of the Ministry of Infrastructure to demand the fulfillment of their demands due to the impact on the sector caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. They warned that they will protest every day, and even go on a hunger strike until the demands are met and support from government is received. Nightclub performers also protested against the government's decision to close nightclubs after 8:00 p.m. as a measure to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. During a protest against Hydroelectric Power Plants (HPPs) and in defence of natural resources, the police intervened arbitrarily, initially preventing the continuation of the protest, and later using violence and escorting civil society activists and citizens to police stations.
In addition, the COVID-19 crisis has exposed the weaknesses of Albania’s public information, with many cases of monopolisation of communication about COVID-19 by the government and a lack of transparency and accountability. Read more

Activists detained over environmental protest; transport sector vows to continue protests

PM condemned for negative rhetoric against media, attempts to shut down TV station

Although the citizens and activists of Tirana called on the authorities to halt the plan to demolish a cultural heritage site of the city, their attempts were unsuccessful. Many people from different backgrounds took to the streets to protest the decision to demolish the National Theatre. They furthermore accused the authorities of starting the demolition while some of the protesters were in the building, thus endangering their lives. Police also used force to push back masses of protesters. A journalist was also detained during the protest. In a separate development, Prime Minister Edi Rama has been criticised for his negative rhetoric towards reporters and journalists in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Health Inspectorate has requested the closure of the RTV Ora Television station for violating the instructions by the Ministry of Health to allow only two people in television studios at a time. This is viewed as an attempt to silence critical journalism under the guise of the pandemic. Read more

PM condemned for negative rhetoric against media, attempts to shut down TV station

Poor resilience to misinformation sparks concern amid COVID-19

According to the Media Literacy Index 2019, Albania has one of the “lowest resilience potential to deal with misinformation and its effects as they are trailing behind with problems in media freedom”. Low level of media literacy raises concerns especially after the declaration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and misinformation surrounding the spread of the virus. Read more

Poor resilience to misinformation sparks concern amid COVID-19

A bleak winter for freedom of expression

Despite criticism from the Council of Europe, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, international media freedom organisations, the EU, local media and journalists organisations, on 13th December 2019 the ruling Socialist Party MPs in the Albanian Government, voted in favour of two controversial laws regulating online media. With the adoption of the Law on Audiovisual Media and the Law on Electronic Communications as proposed to the Parliament, the Albanian Media Authority and the Postal and Electronic Communications Authority would have had the power to instantly block websites if they were viewed to have published fake news, defamatory content, hate speech or any content that is deemed to be a threat to the national interests or security. Read more

A bleak winter for freedom of expression

Investigative journalists in Albania walking a dangerous tightrope

Prime Minister Edi Rama was criticised by representatives of the European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for threatening the journalist Peter Tiede with legal action. The threat came as a result of Tiede’s articles in the German newspaper Bild, where he exposed Rama’s involvement in a corruption scandal involving the police and the Albanian mafia to buy votes in the 2017 elections. Read more

Investigative journalists in Albania walking a dangerous tightrope

Unending protests unleash alarming violence as protesters spray buildings black

Opposition anti-government protests continued throughout the spring of 2019. Event organisers and political opposition claimed that Albanian citizens have never been more dissatisfied with the government in the nation's history. On 16th March 2019, the country saw its largest protest in Tirana where protesters symbolically surrounded the prime minister's office and then proceeded to Parliament. But as tensions rose, clashes broke out between protesters and Albanian authorities. Read more

Unending protests unleash alarming violence as protesters spray buildings black

Tirana witnesses violent protests as anger spills onto the streets

For over thirty-five days in early January 2019, despite the freezing temperatures, students protested in Tirana for better living and studying conditions. Classes were boycotted while students waited for Prime Minister Edi Rama to answer to their demands, including the full withdrawal of the 2015 Law on High Education. Read more

Tirana witnesses violent protests as anger spills onto the streets