State of Emergency in Albania Means Clampdown on Media

Tuesday, March 4, 1997

State of Emergency in Albania Means Clampdown on the Media

(Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, 4 March 1997) - Faced with escalating anti-government protests growing out of anger at the collapse of high-risk pyramid investment schemes in which Albanians lost millions of dollars, the Albanian government declared a state of emergency on 2 March, quickly putting in place measures to clamp down on the media and impose blanket censorship. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, this crackdown follows weeks of beatings, short-term detentions and harassment of journalists who have been covering the collapse of the pyramid schemes and the mass public protests.

Under the emergency measures, both national and foreign media must submit copy for approval prior to publication. ARTICLE 19 today reported that independent newspapers have chosen not to publish rather than submit to prior censorship.

CCPJ fears for the safety of journalists amid increasing attacks on the press in recent days:

According to ARTICLE 19, members of the Albanian government, including the President, have alleged that the media and "red terrorists supported by foreign intelligence services" are responsible for inciting the violence in Albania. In particular, the government has targeted certain foreign media, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Reuters and Voice of America's Albania Service, and has blocked several radio broadcasts.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported on 3 March that, according to the Albanian Daily News on-line edition, police ransacked the office of Koha Jone, Tirana's largest daily, around midnight on 2 March. "No editorial staff were present and despite a security guard on duty, police broke down the door. Early on the morning of 3 March, arsonists set the premises ablaze. Apparently there were no injuries. The Associated Press (AP) reported that the first-floor offices were damaged," said CPJ.

CCPJ and other freedom of expression organizations around the world fear the government is targeting the media in part to prevent reporting about the protests and their suppression.

Appeals can be sent to the Albanian President:

* protesting the measures being used to suppress the media in this time of crisis
* calling on his government to respect freedom of expression and information, and to ensure that international standards are respected during this emergency period

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

Sources: ARTICLE 19, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters sans frontières, other