Albania: RSF and other press freedom organizations protest Prime Minister’s decision to ban press conferences for journalists
Subject: Open letter to Prime Minister Edi Rama from international press freedom groups regarding the decision to ban journalists from press conferences
July 6, 2022
TO THE ATTENTION OF:
Edi RamaPrime Minister of Albania
Endri FugaDirector General of the Media and Information Agency
Therese Ribeiro, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
Olivier VarhelyiEuropean Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement
Alexis Hupin, Chargé d’Affaires at EU Delegation to Albania
Dunja MijatovicCouncil of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Yuri KimUnited States Ambassador to the Republic of Albania
Dear Prime Minister Rama,
The undersigned media freedom and freedom of expression organizations write to protest your recent decision to unilaterally ban journalists from attending government press conferences and demand that they undergo “re-education” after posing difficult questions on matters of public interest.
Our organizations are concerned that these arbitrary restrictions will seriously affect the ability of the press to fulfill its watchdog role and seek answers to difficult questions. They are also emblematic of deeper problems with access to information for journalists and the impediment to free and independent journalism in Albania, which ranks 103rd in RSF’s ranking. world press freedom indexlosing 20 places annually.
We note that during a joint press conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs Olta Xhaçka on July 1, 2022, you answered the questions posed to the Minister by the journalist Kevin Muka of CNN affiliate A2 telling him that he had violated the journalistic code of ethics and that he had to undergo three months of “re-education” before he is welcome at future press events.
Based on our assessment, Mr. Muka’s questions related to a legitimate matter of public interest on the recently established Cabinet of Ministers code of ethics and potential conflicts of interest involving the Minister in question, and therefore warranted a response. Instead, he now faces an arbitrary three-month ban on press conferences, which will seriously affect his ability to perform his job duties properly.
Worryingly, it should be noted that this is not the first time that a journalist has faced such a restriction. During a press conference in front of the headquarters of the Socialist Party in March 2022, you Told Syri.net TV journalist Ambrioza Meta that she needed “re-education” and that she had been barred from press conferences for 60 days, after asking questions of public interest about the arrest of a Socialist Party deputy and a case of corruption related to incinerators.
To our knowledge, no formal administrative sanction exists in Albania that allows journalists to be unilaterally banned from attending government press conferences by individual politicians, even those in executive office. We are therefore of the opinion that the measures imposed on both Klevin Muka and Ambrioza Meta were arbitrary and unjustified.
In a democratic society, it is not the role of elected officials to personally discipline individual journalists for what they consider to be alleged breaches of ethics. We therefore urge you to immediately rescind the restriction imposed on Klevin Muka and to refrain from imposing such measures on any members of the press in the future.
Our organizations strongly believe in the professionalism and integrity of the journalistic profession, for which there is important initiatives in Albania in progress. However, adherence to journalistic ethics and standards must be observed and managed within the journalistic community itself, rather than imposed by political forces.
More generally, we regard these restrictions as an illustration of wider problems As it concerns access to information for journalists and freedom of the media in Albania, issues on which our organizations have repeatedly expressed their concerns. We also note the protest organized by journalists in Tirana on July 4, 2022, which criticized the restriction as emblematic of broader efforts by political forces to dictate what questions can and cannot be asked by journalists during press conferences.
We hope to see this situation corrected as soon as possible. Going forward, our organizations will also continue to monitor the situation of media freedom in Albania and push for measures to foster a better climate for independent and watchdog media. We look forward to seeing your response and welcome any opportunity to continue the discussion.
European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Unlimited Free Press (FPU)
International Press Institute (IPI)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)