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Berlin, March 27, 2024—Albanian government officials must stop undermining press freedom by using abusive language and intimidating behavior against journalists who ask critical questions, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday. 

CPJ’s statement follows an exchange documented in video footage and media reports between journalist Ambrozia Meta and Prime Minister Edi Rama at a March 19 press conference in the capital of Tirana. Meta, a reporter for the privately owned news channel Syri TV, told CPJ that the prime minister had made her feel “bad” and “intimidated” when he touched her cheek as he left the conference. “I reacted instinctively, asking him not to touch me again,” she said.  

Meta had asked Rama about a controversial luxury tourism investment project in the environmentally protected area of the Albanian island of Sazan, which is reportedly linked to Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former U.S. President Donald Trump. The Balkans media advocacy group safejournalists.net described the incident as “part of a concerning pattern where Prime Minister Rama has exhibited contempt towards journalists, particularly women, who pose challenging inquiries.”

Meta told CPJ that during the press conference she asked several questions about the project, which Rama did not answer and instead called her “arguments ignorant” and said she was “a journalist without ethics, without politeness.” The reporter told CPJ that “Rama’s behavior with journalists is arrogant, shows a lack of respect” and that the incident weighs on her mentally, making her feel belittled. She added that she hadn’t expected the public reaction from the incident or that Rama would continue his verbal attacks against her.

Rama refused calls to apologize, saying the video recording was “misinterpreted.” He described his hand movement as “a completely innocent gesture” and only “a friendly pat on the shoulder following a normal conversation with the press where all questions were answered” in two posts on X, formerly known as Twitter. CPJ’s emailed questions to Rama’s press department received no reply.

“We are appalled by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s intimidating behavior against reporter Ambrozia Meta and condemn the action as part of a wider trend of Albanian officials’ using abusive language and intimidating behavior against journalists asking critical questions,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Albanian politicians and public officials, including Rama, must know that actions like this can undermine press freedom and legitimize further acts of aggression against the press.”

In March 2022, Rama told Meta during a press conference that she needed “re-education” and barred her from his press conferences for 60 days after she asked questions about alleged corruption involving Socialist Party politicians.

In July 2022, Rama reportedly told Klevin Muka, a reporter with private news channel A2 CNN TV, that he behaved unethically, needed to be sent for “re-education,” and banned him from attending government press conferences for three months after he asked critical questions, according to safejournalists.net.

Albanian public officials, including Rama, have been documented regularly using language that belittles critical journalists, according to a report following a 2019 joint press freedom mission with CPJ and six other international press freedom organizations.


This content originally appeared on Committee to Protect Journalists and was authored by Committee to Protect Journalists.

Citations

[1] x.com ➤ https://twitter.com/xhemajl_rexha/status/1770037270604550414?s=20[2] Rama prek në fytyrë gazetaren Ambrozia Meta! - YouTube ➤ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeiTAvqBGoc[3] Albanian PM refuses to apologize after pushing journalist who asked about Jared Kushner project – POLITICO ➤ https://www.politico.eu/article/albania-pm-hits-back-after-being-accused-of-intimidating-female-journalist/[4]https://balkaninsight.com/2024/03/19/albanian-pms-intimidation-of-woman-journalist-condemned/[5] Albanian PM refuses to apologize after pushing journalist who asked about Jared Kushner project – POLITICO ➤ https://www.politico.eu/article/albania-pm-hits-back-after-being-accused-of-intimidating-female-journalist/[6]https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/15/us/politics/jared-kushner-pursuing-development-deals-in-albania-and-serbia.html[7] SafeJournalists: Strongly Condemnation of PM Rama's Inappropriate Actions Towards Journalist Ambrozia Meta in Albania - SafeJournalists ➤ https://safejournalists.net/portfolios/safejournalists-strongly-condemnation-of-pm-ramas-inappropriate-actions-towards-journalist-ambrozia-meta-in-albania/[8] x.com ➤ https://twitter.com/ediramaal/status/1770090436767437072[9] x.com ➤ https://twitter.com/ediramaal/status/1770498877453480045[10] Other threats to journalists, Ambrozia Meta, 30/03/2022, Tirana - SafeJournalists ➤ https://safejournalists.net/reports/other-threats-to-journalists-ambrozia-meta-30-03-2022-tirana/[11]https://balkaninsight.com/2022/07/05/albanian-journalists-feel-unprotected-after-pms-angry-outbursts/[12] Other threats to journalists, Kelvin Muka, Tirana 01.07.2022 - SafeJournalists ➤ https://safejournalists.net/reports/other-threats-to-journalists-kelvin-muka-tirana-01-07-2022/[13] Albania: Preliminary findings of joint freedom of expression mission - European Centre for Press and Media Freedom ➤ https://www.ecpmf.eu/albania-preliminary-findings-of-joint-freedom-of-expression-mission/