Albania’s Government Must Refrain from Arresting and Harassing Journalists
Among the hundreds of arrests made during recent anti-government protest in Albania a number of independent journalists have been detained, adding to the growing deterioration of media freedoms in the country.
Two journalists were arrested in Tirana over the weekend; one while reporting on the protest, the other while recording police violence against minors, as well as a media worker in Durres. The violent arrests were condemned by the Safe Journalists Network and the Association of Albanian journalists. The ECtHR has previously ruled that such arrests of journalists during protests can consist in violation of freedom of expression.
The public outrage had been triggered by the shooting of 25-year old Klodian Rasha by police, near his home in Tirana past curfew hours. According to police, the victim ran away and the police officer, who has since been charged with murder committed in excess of the limits of necessary protection, couldn’t tell if he was holding a gun.
In the days that followed, despite the Minister of Interior resigning, protests have escalated into violence and calls have grown for the resignation of Prime Minister Edi Rama. Videos from the protest show use excessive police violence during arrests, even against minors, while violations of freedom of assembly have become the norm in Albania.
Civil Rights Defenders’ Director for Europe, Goran Miletic, said “We are closely monitoring developments in Albania and call on authorities to refrain from disproportionate violence against protesters, as well as ensure that journalists enjoy protections to freely and safely report on such important events.”
These incidents follow a worrying trend of independent journalists facing arrests and attacks in Albania in recent years. In May 2020, Albanian authorities came under the spotlight for using the cover of darkness and harsh curfew measures to demolish the National Theatre in Tirana, which was a hugely divisive and controversial issue, and led to mass arrests, including of an independent journalist.