The newspaper published an article online on 5 June 2019 which accuses the head of government of using mafia money to buy votes during the 2017 election. BILD supports this accusation with telephone wiretap tapes that document the government’s entanglement with the mafia.
According to BILD the authenticity of the tapes is proved. Mr Rama immediately announced that he would go to the German courts and sue BILD reporter Peter Tiede. He justified this by saying that in Germany the judiciary does not play silly games and the dignity of the people and of the state is respected.
On Tuesday June 25, in a Twitter post, Mr. Rama added that he had engaged the German media lawyer Matthias Prinz. The tweet continues roughly speaking: “The German court must decide who is right and who is wrong. I am doing this because people in Albania deserve to know the truth, spoken through a court in a land that is beyond reproach.“ Tiede replied with a question: “What am I supposed to be guilty of – publishing a genuine audio tape?"
“The Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has a peculiar understanding of democracy and human rights“ said Reporters Without Borders Germany Managing Director Christian Mihr.“It’s the duty of the media, amongst other things, to hold the powerful to account. That is exactly what the BILD newspaper has done and it has also amply supported its research with sources. These are the cornerstones of a free press, which we have anchored in the values of our community in the European Union. A nation that so badly wants to become a part of that community must respect these values“, Mihr goes on.
"Instead of filing lawsuits against journalists, PM Edi Rama should engage in improving press freedom in the country and stop calling journalists 'rubbish bins'," said Flutura Kusari, the ECPMF’s Legal Advisor.
Albania just like Northern Macedonia is trying to become a member of the EU. But Brussels has postponed the entry negotiations. For weeks, thousands of people in Albania have been out on the streets protesting against their allegedly corrupt government. The protests were sparked off by the publication of the wiretap tapes. The recordings were made in 2016 and 2017 as part of an anti-mafia investigation and the transcripts came from the files of the state prosecutor. The prosecutor kept them secret at first and only reacted after the BILD newspaper published the recordings. However, there has so far been no official complaint of election manipulation, according to the Albanian Prosecutor-General in answer to an enquiry from Deutsche Welle.
The Opposition is demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister whose socialist party is under further pressure at the upcoming local elections on 30 June. Only last week representatives of Reporters Without Borders, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute and the South East Europe Media Association returned from a four day mission to Albania. There they had met media workers, civil society representatives and high ranking members of the government – including Prime Minister Edi Rama himself.
It became clear that the situation of press freedom in Albania has deteriorated: impunity for recent attacks on journalists, leading politicians insulting and defaming media workers, authorities including the Prime Minister’s office and that of the Mayor of Tirana acting with a lack of transparency and refusing access to critical reporters.
Rama told the delegation he "would not use criminal law against journalists but would continue to bring civil defamation cases against journalists in “extreme” cases."
Only recently, the government proposed new laws for governance of the media, which would enable draconian punishments for Albanian, and foreign media.
Albania is ranked at number 82 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.