Albanian police, in Tirana, on 27 July, at 12:30, manhandled Ergjys Gjencaj, a journalist of the “News 24” TV channel, and pushed his colleague Klodiana Lala after failing to detain a suspected criminal.
Several police officers, without the police uniform, stopped the car of their suspect but failed to detain him. At the same time, a “News 24” car with the TV channel’s logos on all sides arrived at the scene and journalists Gjencaj and Lala got out, but after the officers failed to arrest the suspect, officers turned on journalists. One of them is seen, on video uploaded on the internet, that is grabbing the phone of Gjencaj, who is knocked to the ground. As Lala started protesting, a person in civilian clothes who is believed to be a police officer pushed her away.
Gjencaj told BIRN that police kept him face down for several minutes and checked his pockets.
“I have worked as a journalist covering the police for the last 20 years. This is the first time that such a thing has happened to me”, Gjencaj told BIRN.
Lala, a known crime reporter, said that they both just happened to be on the scene when the attempted arrest took place.
“I cried out that they were stopping a journalist”, Lala said, emphasising that the officers could not have missed the logos of the news channel on their car.
In a press release, the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that in cooperation with the Internal Affairs and Complaints Service of the Ministry of Interior, they are conducting in-depth verifications regarding the incident.
This is not the first time that journalists are targets of attacks by Police in Albanian. In 2020, Safe Journalists reported 7 other cases of Police unjustified detention or manhandling of journalists while reporting on duty.
Blerjana Bino, SafeJournalists Network researcher in Albania, said that the “actual attacks on journalists while reporting from the scene are risking to become a new normality in Albania with Police officers showing no sensitivity towards the duty of journalists to report events and inform the public”.
“Usually, these incidents are condemned by the authorities but limited thorough investigations follow after that and there is lack of transparency regarding the progress of investigations into attacks on journalists”, she said.
SafeJournalists Network, representing more than 8,200 media professionals in the Western Balkans, stands in solidarity with Albania colleagues and condemns the attack on the TV crew. We request clear condemnation of this attack on journalists by Police officials. SafeJournalist Network also expects that authorities in Albania should lead a transparent investigation on this case.
SafeJournalists Network will inform all relevant national and international stakeholders about both cases.
Each attack on journalists is an attack on public interest, democracy and rights of all citizens.
Skopje – Belgrade – Podgorica – Pristina – Sarajevo – Zagreb, 28.07.2021.
Association of Journalists of Kosovo
Association of Journalists of Macedonia
BH Journalists Association
Croatian Journalists’ Association
Independent Journalists Association of Serbia
Trade Union of Media of Montenegro