His Excellency Sali Berisha
President of Albania
Office of the President
Republic of Albania

Vienna, 9 August 1994

Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI), is most concerned about the serious threat to press freedom in Albania posed by the introduction of new taxes on newspapers.

IPI is informed that on 2 August 1994 the Albanian independent press began a three-day strike in protest of new surtaxes on the already high cost of publishing, printing and distributing newspapers.

This taxation is the most recent attempt by your Government to aggravate the poor financial situation of the press. In late 1993 Parliament passed a press law and penal code that call for prison sentences and heavy fines for publishing articles critical of the government. Early this year the two laws were used to imprison four journalists for allegedly “revealing state secrets”, while a number of newspapers received heavy fines after they published articles criticising government policy.

The new taxes include a 15% tax on distribution, a 15% tax on advertisements, a 5% tax on imported goods (e.g. newsprint) as well as an increase in income tax. Combined with the restrictive press laws and an overall drop in the number of readers, the new taxes are a serious threat to the existence of the independent and opposition press. Although pro-Government papers face the same problem of declining readership, they benefit greatly from the government subsidies, for example, exclusive rights to governmental advertisements.

The maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development of democracy in Albania. IPI, representing publishers, editors-in-chief and leading journalists from newspapers, magazines, broadcasting organisations and news agencies in over 80 countries, urges your Government to reconsider the new taxes and to allow the country’s independent press to operate without fear of further economic or political pressure.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz