The IPI global network condemns police violence against Albanian journalists during demonstrations in different cities this month. Police must refrain from violence against journalists and ensure the safety of media workers during demonstrations.

On March 11, 2022, the Albanian police assaulted at least two journalists during demonstrations in the capital Tirana and the coastal city of Dürres. The journalists were reporting on demonstrations over the increased costs of food, fuel, and energy that took place in multiple Albanian cities.

In Dürres, cameraman Armir Sadiku reported being hit by a man in plain clothes who he said he believed to be a police officer. During the demonstrations, plain clothes officers made multiple arrests, according to the Albanian news site Exit News. In Tirana, Nertila Zef Haxhia, a journalist in Tirana working for Joq News, was pushed and punched by two police officers, after which she ended up in the emergency department of the hospital.

Haxhia was carrying a microphone at the time of assault. “The first police officer hit me in the chest when I was reporting, while the second policeman kicked me several times”, she told IPI. “The police dispersed the crowd, but I refused to get up, because I had leg pain, and as resistance against the violence they had used against me. I was crying at that moment.” The journalist later posted a video of the incident on her Facebook page. 

“The police violence against journalists reporting on protests in Albania is a flagrant violation of press freedom”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “The Albanian authorities must respect the rights of journalists reporting on demonstrations and ensure that reporters can do their jobs safely. Authorities must make clear that police violence against the press is not acceptable: this means fully investigating such incidents and holding those responsible to account.”

Hospital bed

Haxhia later published a photo of herself Facebook lying  in a hospital bed with the comment: “As you can see in this photo, I have suffered from the attack from the police. The emergency personnel immediately took care of me and I am doing well.” 

The Albanian Media Council issued a statement expressing concern about the incidents, writing that “the work of journalists has been hindered in reporting the protests of recent days”.The council called on police to “pay maximum attention to every journalist and camera person at protests”, and noted that journalists play an essential role in reporting at protests.

In a Facebook post, Albanian President Ilir Meta reacted firmly against the police violence, which he described as “scandalous”. “I encourage the journalists to make this illegal behaviour public. A big bravo to every journalist and citizen that does not fear this illegitimate violence, but instead displays it.”

Repeated targets

Over the past year and a half, journalists have repeatedly become targets of police violence while reporting on demonstrations in Albania. On January 19, 2022, Albanian camera operator Ledio Guni from the channel Fax News was hospitalised after being assaulted by police officers as he was filming a protest by city residents. Guni suffered an injury to his shoulder during the incident which required medical attention, according to his employer. 

On April 12, 2021, Ora News journalist Isa Myzyraj, was physically restrained and obstructed by a security guard of the mayor of Tirana as he tried to ask questions to the politician. In a video of the event, the guard forcefully drags the journalist away to the side of the path and keeps him pinned in his grip until the mayor gets into a waiting car. 

On January 8, 2021, journalists and media crews covering a protest outside the headquarters of the opposition Democratic Party in the Albanian capital Tirana suffered from exposure to indiscriminate use of tear gas and were targeted by police water cannons. And in November 2020, three journalists including one editor-in-chief were detained while reporting on protests in Tirana and Durrës. The journalists allegedly were arrested shortly after they had filmed or photographed alleged rights violations or detentions of minors by police. 

According to the news website Euractiv, there have been no prosecutions of those who have committed crimes against journalists in the last few years, with issues ranging from death threats to physical assault.