Layoffs of Albanian Journalists Anger Opposition

The sudden departure of a number of prominent journalists is causing unease about a possible loss of political balance in Albania’s mainstream media.

by Fatjona Mejdini, BIRN, Tirana

The leader of Albania’s opposition Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, has criticised the departure of the two editors and the layoffs of several other journalists, saying it was a bad news for the media.

He accused some media outlets in Albania of making an alliance with the government to gain power and money.

“This is bad news, a step forward in the usurpation of the media by a corrupted and criminal regime … their departures leave these media in the full service of the government,” he said.

After two editors supporting the opposition quit their jobs on Wednesday, many journalists also took to social networks to express concern that opposition voices in the mainstream media are disappearing.

This is seen as especially important as Albania heads towards general elections on June 18.

Armand Shkullaku, editor-in-chief of ABC news for four years, said he was not renewing his contract and was seeking other professional engagements.

“I will remain engaged with articles and opinions to say every time what I think and will be trying to stay clear in my professional beliefs,” he told Mapo newspaper.

Although he did not clarify why he did not renew his contract, journalists working for him in the television used the hashtag “last island” on social networks in reference to him, meaning the last “island” of free journalism in the media outlet.

Vincent Triest, ABC’s correspondent for Germany and The Netherlands, meanwhile announced that he was being sacked along with all the other foreign correspondents.

“As a consequence of the changes happening in ABC News, there is no place for me anymore in the television after January 31. Unfortunately, all the foreign correspondent have been sacked,” he wrote on Facebook on Wednesday evening.

Hours laters, later the director of Mapo media, Alfred Lela, also announced that he would be terminating his contract and taking up a new position as a university lecturer, as he did not agree with the new editorial line of the media outlet.

He said that he could no longer follow the editorial position of Henri Cili, the publisher of Mapo media, regarding the Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama. Some time ago, Cili wrote an article describing Rama as a great reformer who deserved a second mandate.

“Professionally and personally I could not be pushed into taking a standpoint that invalidated my public standpoint,” he argued.

The article was originally published by Balkan Insight. It is republished here with permission. 

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