Journalist Kill List in Albania

Wednesday, March 26, 1997

JOURNALIST DEATH LIST IN ALBANIA

(Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, 26 March 1997)

Names of Albanian journalists are appearing on death lists circulating in the country, according to freedom of expression organization "Article 19".

In a list that appeared in the capital, Tirana, on 10 March 1997, twelve pro-government and opposition journalists were threatened with death. They are being targetted for having supported the different sides in the highly-charged political debate of recent weeks in Albania.

Numerous government critics and journalists are also under investigation by government prosecuters for alleged incitements to violence. Under Article 223 of the Penal Code they could be sentenced to three years in prison. In the past the government has used this law to penalise legitimate and peaceful expression of opinion.

These latest threats against journalists have appeared under a general climate of fear and censorship which has prevailed for several weeks in Albania, after thousands of Albanians lost their life savings in failed pyramid investment schemes. What started out as loud local protests quickly turned to violence and then chaos when the government failed to satisfy demands for compensation. Hundreds were killed in the ensuing violence - the true number though is still unkown.

The president of Albania, Sali Berisha, has steadfastly rejected all calls for his resignation. And the country now looks to be divided between his supporters in the north of the country and a vocal and loosely armed opposition in the south.

In the ensuing riots, an Albanian newspaper, Koha Jone, had its offices burned down. But the paper is back in publication - this time on the Internet. International human rights organizations, including Index on Censorship and Reporters Sans Frontieres, have collaborated with journalists from Koha Jone to produce an Internet edition of the paper.

The violence against journalists continues. According to news agency AFP, Dutch journalist Vilma Gundabel was shot in the southern city of Saranda. She was evacuated to a hospital in Greece where she remains in serious condition.

RECOMMENDED ACTION

Send appeals to the authorities:

* deploring the violent tactics being used to suppress the news media at a time of crisis for the Albanian people
* urging that press freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be restored immediately, and that authorities ensure that local and foreign journalists may work freely and safely

APPEALS TO:

His Excellency Dr Sali Berisha
President of the Republic of Albania
Office of the President
Bulevardi Deshmoret E Kombit
Tirana, Albania
Fax: +355 42 337 61 or +355 42 329 71
© The Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists (ccpj@web.net)