Albanian PM Rama Mocks Threatened and Abused Journalists, Calling Them “Divas”

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks during a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Montenegro Dusko Markovic (not pictured), at the Vila Gorica, in Podgorica, Montenegro, 03 April 2017. Rama arrived in Podgorica for a one day official visit., Image: 327638623, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Credit line: Profimedia, TEMP EPA

Prime Minister Edi Rama mocked journalists who have been threatened, attacked, intimidated, and abused, to a recent media freedom delegation to Tirana.

According to an article authored by a member of the delegation representing the Committee to Protect Journalists, when challenged with the accounts of threats to journalists, the Prime Minister replied: “I cannot stand these fake heroic gestures, playing the diva.”

The article also claims that he defended his negative rhetoric against journalists such as calling them “trashcans”, before eventually agreeing not to use this sort of language again.

Attila Mong, the author of the article detailed a number of attacks on journalists including Alida Tota and Artan Rama who lost their jobs after reporting on the alleged links between the death of Ardit Gjoklaj, the Sharra landfill, and the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj. Also mentioned in the report were award-winning investigative journalist Klodiana Lala whose family home was attacked with machine gun fire, and Louis Sellier, a French journalist whose editor was pressured by the Albanian ambassador to France after he reported on the opposition protests.

The report also made mention to myself and the smear campaign levied against me after I reported on protests, wiretaps, and government links to organised crime.

Also referenced was the proposed “draconian law” that will effectively gag all online media, putting them at the mercy of the government and empowering them to shut down online portals at any moment.

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Etilda Gjonaj announced that a new draft of the controversial law had been approved by the Council of Ministers. The law will now proceed to parliament where it is sure it will pass, due to Rama’s socialist party enjoying a majority.

The so-called “anti-defamation package” aims to formalise and regulate all online media through enforced registration. According to the law, every online media outlet must register as a taxable entity or a taxable person and declare that they provide e-publication services.

Each media outlet will then be bound to ensure that all articles are true, non-defamatory, and objective and must not be used for criminal purposes. Albania is one of the few countries in Europe where libel and defamation are still considered as criminal, as well as civil offences. Publications are also bound to ensure that articles should not violate the dignity and human rights of those that they mention, according to Minister Gjonaj.

According to the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom Harlem Desir, he has provided at least two legal reviews on the “Law on Audiovisual Media in Albania”, according to the latest Regular Report to the Permanent Council.

In the report, Desir states that he wrote to Prime Minister Edi Rama on 28 January to present a legal analysis of the draft law and changes and amendments to the media law. The analysis recommended a number of changes to the draft law, in order to bring them in line with international standards and OSCE commitments.

In July 2018, Desir had raised his concerns about proposals to amend the law and in November 2018, he announced he would be cooperating with Rama on the new anti-defamation package and rules for online media. He stated that this was important to “ensure that provisions in future legislation are not restrictive to the freedom of expression, media freedom, and access to the internet.”

Desir states that he met with the Deputy Secretary General of the Director of Regulatory and Compliance Department, Elira Kokona, as well as Director of Communications Endri Fuga on 15 March, as well as with Kokona again on 7 May. He explained that they discussed the legal review, helping to “enhance our mutual understanding of legal issues pertaining to the regulation of online media.”

The report continues that Desir contacted Rama again on 6 June to share a second legal review on the draft law, and he states that “my office is currently analysing the latest draft law.”

The report also condemned the death threats made against journalist Ylli Rakipi following his investigative reports. Rakipi is now being sued by Rama for “defamation” claiming his reputation had been damaged.

In addition to this, Desir expressed his concern around the physical attack against journalist Enver Doci who was filming a police operation in Diber. Doci was assaulted by police and had his phone beaten out of his hand. He received hospital treatment for his injuries.

The draft law that has been seen by Exit.al has made very few changes to the initially proposed law, instead focussing on small amendments to wording. It poses a very serious threat to the last remaining independent media outlets in the country.

A full legal analysis will be published by this portal tomorrow.

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