Actual attack on journalists by the Guard of Republic/Albanian Assembly, 09/10/2023, Tirana

    Country AL
    Name and Surname a group of journalists
    Gender Group Klesiana Omeri and the filming crew
    Date 09/11/2023
    City / Location Tirana
    Type of incident Actual attacks on journalists
    By whom Security
    Type of media Radio and television print online
    Media name Group of Journalists
    Was journalist`s association informed Yes

    Journalists covering the Albanian Parliament facing increasing obstruction 

    Recent reports from journalists reporting from the ground in the Albanian Parliament have raised concerns over media freedom in Albania, as they have faced increasing obstruction. On November 9th, journalists attempting to engage with ministers and deputies for questioning were impeded by the Guard in the assembly’s yard. Journalist Klesiana Omeri was subjected to physical restraint, and filming by a camera operator was prohibited. The Safe Journalist Network (SJN) in Albania has substantiated these incidents, noting a recurring pattern in line with escalating political tensions in Parliament.

    Klesiana Omeri disclosed that guards, acting on “new directives,” have confined journalists to a specific area, thereby limiting their ability to conduct interviews. She underscored the crucial need for journalists to retain their ability to report live and directly question MPs. Echoing these concerns, journalist Esiona Konomi has criticized the Parliament for becoming increasingly inhospitable to journalistic activities, with guards executing verbal orders to prevent media access to officials. She reports a consistent pattern of the Guard receiving oral instructions to actively prevent journalists and camera crews from approaching MPs and ministers for questions, especially on Thursdays, which are traditionally reserved for more probing inquiries. The same has been confirmed by Osman Stafa as well, another journalist regularly reporting from the Parliament. 

    In reaction to this situation, journalists who report regularly from the Parliament are drafting a joint letter addressing these constraints to send it to the Assembly and international embassies.

    Parliament Media Accreditation Regulation 

    Safe Journalists Network has raised concerns in 2021 for the new media accreditation regulation of the Albanian Parliament also covered in detail in the 2022 Indicators’ report. These regulations confine journalists to a specific area for reporting, granting them access to MPs exclusively in the parliamentary yard. In contrast to the public broadcaster, which is allowed to record proceedings, other media outlets must operate from a designated room, dependent on a parliament-supplied video feed.

    Limiting the media’s ability to navigate Parliament independently and directly question MPs, with the Guard actively preventing such interactions in the past weeks is a major concern. The lack of publicly available regulations to underpin these restrictions, coupled with ambiguous references to ‘verbal orders’ or ‘new directives’, exacerbates the situation, creating an environment that undermines journalistic endeavors. The obscurity surrounding the issuance, purpose, and non-disclosure of these orders directly challenges the ideals of legislative transparency and impedes the media’s role in ensuring an informed public.

    Political Context

    In recent weeks, the Albanian Parliament has been beset by escalating confrontations, with instances of physical clashes between Members of Parliament. The tension escalated following the parliamentary rejection of proposals to establish six investigatory commissions and the subsequent suspension of six opposition MPs by the Speaker of the House. In response to the growing unrest, parliamentary sessions were moved to a virtual format on November 6th, a measure that incited further demonstrations by opposition factions. The legality of conducting online committee meetings, reserved for exceptional circumstances, has been challenged by the opposition. The upheaval reached a peak during the plenary session on November 9th, which was abruptly adjourned after just 20 minutes amid opposition protests that included the overturning of chairs and the release of smoke devices, resulting in the majority of proposals submitted by the opposition being dismissed. Prime Minister Edi Rama was again absent from the session in question.


    Updates on the case:

    Reaction of the Guard of the Republic

    `Based on the public reaction of the Community of Political Reporters, on an incident that occurred in the courtyard of the building where the parliamentary sessions are held, the Guard of the Republic requests the understanding of the media and the public as a whole, if due to the rigorous implementation of measures for security and the smooth running of the works in the Assembly, may have become an obstacle in an unwanted way for the fulfillment of their duties and mission. In the analysis of the situation created today, the Head of the Guard has drawn the attention of the Services near the Parliament, to avoid similar incidents. The media remains an important partner for guaranteeing transparency and informing the public, and in this spirit of consolidated cooperation, the Guard of the Republic guarantees that it will have all the commitment to create optimal conditions for them, for the functionality and smooth running of the works in the plenary hall or Parliamentary Committees.`

    Reaction of the Assembly of Albania

    `The Assembly of Albania declares that it continues to respect the highest standards of transparency and accountability and considers the media and journalists important partners for guaranteeing transparency and informing the public