On August 23rd, during a press conference led by Prime Minister Edi Rama and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Belinda Balluku, the intended focus was a significant discovery in the Shpiragu oil-bearing zone in Albania. However, the conversation swiftly moved beyond the oil discovery as journalists attempted to raise other urgent issues of public concern.
When probed about other major issues, including ongoing investigations by SPAK on incinerators and sterilization, and the escalating tensions with Greece over the impressment of the elected Mayor of Himara due to alleged voting fraud, the Prime Minister sidestepped these issues. Instead, he expressed dismay at the journalists, accusing them of a lack of ethics and comparing their questioning to a disruptive rally.
Such a rebuke of the media isn’t a first for Prime Minister Rama. His trend of criticizing journalists for posing questions he deems inappropriate and instructing them on “suitable” topics has previously ignited concerns among media freedom advocates and journalists alike.
This incident raises concerns about the transparency and accountability of leaders to the press and, by extension, to the public. Withholding answers to questions of public interest, particularly on pressing national concerns, draws a blurry line between staying on topic and possible information gatekeeping. For a thriving democracy, it is vital that press freedoms are upheld and that journalists are able to ask questions without fear of reproach, especially when those questions pertain to public interest of considerable significance.