British freelance journalist and blogger Alice Taylor, who writes for various international publications and for the Albania-focused news website Exit, has been targeted in a smear campaign by pro-government news outlets in Albania and had her residency permit renewal denied, the journalist told CPJ.
Taylor told CPJ that pro-government news outlets have been publishing personal attacks against her since February 24, 2019, following her comments one day earlier on anti-government protests and allegations of corruption against the government in Albania on RT, the international television network funded by the Russian government.
On February 24, an article in the Albanian daily Gazeta Tema accused Taylor of being linked to Russia because her articles appeared on the Russia-focused news website Tsarizm, and of publishing "propaganda" against Albania. The next day, the daily Tirana Post accused her of spreading rumors about Albania on Russia-backed outlets and accused her Albanian partner of working for the leader of the Democratic Party of Albania opposition party. On February 27, news website Lexo.al published similar allegations along with a photo of Taylor and her partner.
Taylor told CPJ that she was listed as a contributor on Tsarizm due to an agreement between the website and Exit for republishing content. She denied that she or her partner worked for the opposition party in any capacity.
Taylor filed a complaint to the Albanian Media Council, an independent media ethics group, on March 3 alleging defamation and harassment, she told CPJ. On March 8, the council issued a statement supporting Taylor's claims and condemning the news organizations for publishing misleading information, breaching privacy, and inciting crime or violence against the journalist.
On March 1, Taylor was informed by the Albanian immigration authorities that the renewal of her residence permit was refused, although she had previously been told that it was approved, she told CPJ.
According to a report by the U.S.-funded Voice of America's Albanian service, authorities allege that Taylor's visa renewal form was not filed properly, and its cancellation was unrelated to her work.
Albanian Minister of the Interior Sander Lleshaj told Gazeta Tema that Taylor`s visa problems are "merely a legal issue."
CPJ emailed the director of communications of the Albanian government but did not receive a response.