RSF reacts after the Albanian Prime Minister rejects the World Press Freedom Index – Exit
Reporters Without Borders has responded to claims by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama that reports of media violations in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index were “lies” and “fantasies”, by debunking it.
Albania fell 20 places in this year’s index to a historic low of 103, news that Rama did not take well. He took to Twitter to say there was no media intimidation, no lawsuits against journalists, no anti-defamation package, no police brutality, no political attacks, and added that there was no ethical self-regulation in the media. .
Albanian Prime Minister says RSF report is a lie and a fantasy
Pavol Szalai, the head of the European Union and Balkan office released a statement on Friday in which he explained the methodology behind the ranking. He noted that the methodology had changed from 2020 to 2022 and that Albania had fallen partly because of that and partly because of the rise of other countries like Serbia and North Macedonia.
However, it was clear that “in the period measured by the index, press freedom has clearly deteriorated in Albania”.
He then refuted each of Rama’s claims, providing evidence for each.
“First, journalists do indeed experience police violence. Examples from 2021 and early 2022 are here, here, here. Later in 2022, police continued to use arbitrary force against journalists (here and here). Beyond police violence, journalists are threatened by the mafia or online, while the authorities are slow to react as the case of the journalist shows Alice Taylor,” he wrote.
Szalai went on to note that “contrary to the Prime Minister’s statement, journalists are regularly attacked politically in Albania”. He noted Rama’s recent comparison of the media to Nazis, pedophiles and terrorists at an OSCE conference.
“In addition, the Prime Minister – re-elected in 2021 – had someone close to his party to be elected to head the AMA. It is the same media regulator that should be further and disproportionately strengthened by the anti-defamation package, an outstanding legislative proposal dangerous for press freedom. Moreover, in this context, the Prime Minister has not provided guarantees in 2021 that his government’s new centralization of communication will not impede the right to information,” Szalai noted.
He added that such acts contributed to Albania’s low score in the “political context” section, second only to the “economic context” where it scored the worst due to “the negative impact of the Covid crisis. -19 on the financial health of Albanians”. media aggravated by the opaque and unfair distribution of public funds to the detriment of independent media”.
Finally, on the subject of self-regulation, which Rama says does not exist, Sazlai noted: “I would like to once again commend the efforts of the Ethical Media Alliance to create an ethical self-regulation platform, a very valuable initiative to improve media ethics which is a serious problem in Albania.
The European Commission also reacted to the announcement of Albania’s classification following questions sent by Exit. A spokesperson said the Commission had taken note of the results, adding that “Respect for these fundamental rights is at the heart of our policies and a key part of the membership criteria and is continuously assessed throughout the membership process.”
The spokesperson added that they are monitoring the progress and efforts needed to consolidate media protection in Albania and are committed to making recommendations at a high political level.
“The Commission’s annual reports on Albania also assess these issues in depth, based on input from a variety of sources, including government input, EU Member States, European Parliament reports and information various international and non-governmental organizations. It also includes the results of benchmarking and indexes produced by other stakeholders. The next annual report is expected to be released later this year,” they added.
Just a day after Rama denied any political attacks on journalists, RSF reported on an attack by him on Syri TV journalist Ambrozia Meta.
Meta asked Rama about Albania’s fall in the RSF index, and he responded by saying she needed to be “re-educated”. It came after he placed her under a two-month embargo, effectively banning her from interacting with him after she questioned him about the arrest of two members of his Socialist Party.
RSF tweeted: “Such an outrageous news embargo has no place in a country that wants to join the EU.”