On April 23, 2022, the wife of Albanian journalist Edmond Hoxhaj received a notification from the government’s official e-Albania website that a notary public named Agron Bajri had downloaded personal information about their family, according to a report by Safejournalists.net, a regional website tracking violence against journalists, and Hoxhaj, who corresponded with CPJ via email.
Bajri allegedly downloaded the family’s official certificate on April 14, which included each family member’s name, surname, father’s and mother’s names, as well as their date of birth and the personal number that appears on their national ID card, Hoxhaj told CPJ. In Albania, a notary public needs a person’s authorization to access their family certificate, but the journalist said his family had not authorized access for Bajri or any other notary.
Bajri told CPJ via email that an individual who identified himself as Edmond Hoxhaj came to his office on April 14 and requested a family certificate. However, while trying to verify the person’s identity, one of Bajri’s employees realized that he was not Hoxhaj and stopped the download, he said.
Hoxhaj writes for the Albanian independent news website Reporter and is a member of Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) Albania, part of a regional network of nongovernmental media organizations, according to those sources. BIRN and Reporter have published several stories about Bajri, including reporting in March 2021 about an asset declaration by his ex-wife Elisabeta Imeraj, as part of the vetting process for her position as head of the Tirana prosecutor’s office. According to CPJ’s review of Hoxhaj’s articles, he reported extensively in March and April 2022 on the appeal against Imeraj’s confirmation as head of the prosecutor’s office.
Hoxhaj told CPJ that in his articles about Imeraj, he also wrote about a legal case involving Bajri in Italy, without mentioning his name. Bajri was investigated and initially convicted of human trafficking, but was later acquitted by an appellate court, according to Reporter.
Hoxhaj said he thinks the breach of his family’s personal information was connected to his reporting, as Bajri allegedly accessed their data two days after the public hearing on the appeal against Imeraj’s appointment, and six days before the final conclusions were presented.
Separately, unidentified people repeatedly called Isa Myzyraj, a reporter with privately owned broadcaster Ora News, and warned him not to report on Imeraj’s vetting process, according to the journalist, who communicated with CPJ via email.
In several calls in April, people accused Myzyraj of being a “paid journalist” and said he should not cover the vetting process or else “your family would suffer the consequences,” he said.
Myzyraj told CPJ an unknown individual also called one of his family members and offered money in exchange for him to stop reporting on the vetting process, and another person texted him a photo of his family certificate, which he interpreted as an attempt at intimidation to show that they knew his family background.
Myzyraj and Hoxhaj told CPJ that they filed complaints to the Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection, and another complaint to the Tirana prosecutor’s office.
In emails to CPJ, the prosecutor’s office confirmed that it had opened an investigation into the journalists’ complaints, and Imeraj said she would support an independent investigation into their claims.
CPJ emailed the Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection for comment, but did not receive any reply.