The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and the Safe Journalists Network today condemn the shocking physical attack on Albanian journalist Elvis Hila and his wife in Lezhë and urge state law enforcement authorities to swiftly detain the suspected perpetrators and ensure that all those responsible face justice.
The violent attack took place at around 4.40pm on Wednesday, 25 January, one day after Hila had reported for shqiptarja.com and Report TV about a local court case in Lezhë in which a defendant had been sentenced to a year in prison for forgery of a court document.
Soon after publication, Hila said he received a phone call from an individual connected to the defendant, who insulted and threatened him about the report. An hour later, another individual then called Hila and demanded that he meet him outside a bar in the city.
When the journalist arrived in the car with his wife, two men approached and insisted he get out of the vehicle to explain the article. During the incident that followed, the men allegedly punched and kicked Hila and punched his wife in the neck. Both required medical treatment following the assaults.
Speaking to media after being released from hospital, Hila publicly identified his alleged attackers and said the violence would not silence his reporting. Specialists for the Investigation of Crimes in Lezhë opened a criminal investigation and are currently searching for two male suspects.
Our organisations welcome the swift action by police and urge them to now conduct a thorough investigation to confirm the motive and quickly detain the alleged perpetrators. All those responsible for ordering, orchestrating and carrying out this serious attack must face justice.
We also welcome the swift condemnation of the attack by the country’s President, Bajram Begaj, and stress that vocal denunciation by political leaders in cases involving violence against the press should be the standard response in all such incidents, now and in the future.
This attack is a worrying indication of the continued threats that journalists in Albania reporting on the actions of organised crime groups continue to face. Hila was attacked simply for carrying out his public interest mission of covering the verdict of a court case.
As many of our organisations noted following a recent media freedom mission to Albania, while serious physical assaults such as this thankfully remain rare, cases of violence against journalists underscore the dangers and climate of distrust that journalists face due to their work.
Swift prosecution of those behind this attack by judicial authorities is vital for discouraging potential acts of violence against the media in the future and ensuring justice for the victims. Moving forward, our organisations will continue to closely monitor this case and hope to see positive developments in the coming days and weeks.
ARTICLE 19 Europe
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
International Press Institute (IPI)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
Safe Journalist Network