Julian Shota, a reporter for commercial TV channel Report TV, went to the town of Laç yesterday to cover an explosion that had just occurred in a bar but, on arriving at the bar, was immediately ordered to leave by its owner. After telling Shota not to film, the owner seized a pistol and threatened to shoot him.
“I owe my survival to those who prevented him from shooting and grabbed his wrist at the last moment,” a visibly shaken Shota said on the air on Report TV a few hours later.
The police are investigating the cause of the explosion in the bar, which caused no injuries. They also took the bar owner and questioned at the local police station, but released him this morning.
“Laç is reputed to be a dangerous town with very powerful crime rings that are not necessarily targeted by the local police,” RSF was told on condition of anonymity by a journalist who specializes in the region. “To do their reporting properly, journalists must deal with organized crime all the time, and yet they are paid very poorly.”
The death threat against Shota and the shooting attack four days earlier in Tirana have highlighted the climate of violence prevailing in Albania, in which journalists are among the leading targets.
It is not known who fired shots with a Kalashnikov-style automatic weapon on 30 August at the Tirana home of Klodiana Lala, an investigative journalist who specializes in covering crime but, in a Facebook post a few hours after the attack, Lala said she thought it was linked to her reporting. The police have given her protection.
“Firing at a reporter’s home with a Kalashnikov and threatening a reporter at gunpoint are unacceptable practices designed to intimidate and silence journalists who dare to investigate suspicious events or organized crime, which is prevalent in Albania,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “We call on the authorities to firmly and publicly condemn each attack and to protect journalists for as long as necessary for them to be able to do their duty to report the news.”
Albania is ranked 75th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.