16 Jul 2020 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 05 Dec 2019 n° 145/2019 Albania

Prime Minister Pressures Online Portals and Information Channels

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
The Albanian Media Council (AMC), an NGO comprised of journalists and media professionals, has accused Prime Minister Edi Rama of exploiting the emergency situation caused by the earthquake of 26 November 2019 and illegally shutting down online media by allegedly ordering the AKEP (Electronic and Postal Communications Authority) to block online news portals, including joqalbania.com. On 1 December 2019, the AMC posted a "Declaration of Concern About the Government Attitude Towards Media", stating that the authorities "cannot prohibit citizens or portals from denouncing the mismanagement of the situation (where it exists) and, furthermore, cannot block an entire portal for a single publication." According to Reporter.Al, Prime Minister Rama has "repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the media" when faced with difficult questions on the government's ability to effectively manage the aftermath of the earthquake. According to journalist Gjergj Erebara, Prime Minister Rama has used social media platforms on a number of occasions to put pressure on online portals, threatening closure. He tweeted on 28 November 2019: "This is the final warning for portals and information channels that under the conditions and within the legal framework of an Emergency Situation, I will be obliged to forcibly intervene with their closure to end this dramatic phase, if they continue with fake news that spread panic!" Another video message was shared on Facebook on 3 December 2019 where Prime Minister Rama addressed the general public, asking them to avoid watching the news on television and implored not to follow the online portals stating that the "so-called sources of information" create a "foul-smell of gloom and insecurity and confusion". While the AMC appeals to the media to show restraint in reporting unverified news, it also calls for the Government "not to copycat the notorious Erdogan case that used the post-coup situation to attack, arrest, shut down and hit critical media; to silence independent opinions; and to install the dictatorship of thought."
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