Berlin, January 18, 2022 — Albanian authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate police attacks on journalists covering a recent demonstration, hold those responsible to account, and ensure that reporters can cover events of public interest without fear of injury, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On January 8, in Tirana, the capital, hundreds of protesters stormed the headquarters of Albania’s main opposition party amid an internal battle over the party’s leadership, and riot police fired tear gas and water cannons that hit at least nine journalists, according to news reports and a journalist at the scene who spoke with CPJ.
“Journalists in Albania must be able to cover protests without fear that they will be attacked by police,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Albanian authorities must investigate the recent police use of tear gas and water cannons on journalists covering a demonstration in Tirana, and ensure that the officers responsible are held to account.”
Seven employees of the privately owned broadcaster Ora News—camera operators Ermal Noka, Esmerald Jahelezi, and Alban Xhokaxhi, and reporters Everest Dedaj, Fjorela Beleshi, Sonila Musaj, and Edison Vatnika—sustained burns to their eyes and had breathing problems after police fired a “disproportionate amount” of tear gas at them, according to Ora News and news reports.
Police also fired a water cannon at a reporting team for the local broadcaster Fax News, according to a report by the outlet and camera operator Majklen Sinka, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Sinka told CPJ that he and other journalists at the scene were identifiable as members of the press, and that he was wearing clothing with Fax News’s logo, but police “clearly targeted [us] with water cannons and tear gas.” He added that his equipment was also damaged in the attack.
Freelance photojournalist Felix Bilani told private TV channel NOA that he had to receive medical treatment after police fired tear gas at him during the protest.
CPJ emailed the Albanian Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the police, for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.