Photo of Juljana Ristani

Albania: Defence Minister’s Chief of Cabinet issues legal threat against journalist

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), is concerned about legal proceedings initiated by Belioza Çoku, the Chief of Cabinet of the Minister of Defence, against journalist Juljana Ristani, who published a story on undue interference with lists of nominees for educational bursaries in the context of a public competition held by the Ministry of Defence.

Ristani had previously made public for the first time the ranking of the bursary applications. The leading candidate is expected to be awarded the scholarship. However, the leading applicant on this list was ultimately not successful, as the scholarship was awarded to another candidate. There have been no complaints from the Minister of Defence questioning the authenticity of the list published by Ristani. The article that forms the basis of the legal action includes allegations that Çoku called and threatened the family of the leading applicant on the list late at night after they complained to the authorities. Çoku demands damages from Ristani for publishing “inaccurate and misleading data”. In light of the fact that Ristani has clear evidence to prove her factual statements, we consider the public official’s legal threat against the journalists constitutes an attempt to intimidate her and hinder her work.

ECPMF calls on the pursuers to drop their abusive legal actions. The courts must not be abused to stifle critical journalism that strengthens the public’s right to know and enhances democratic accountability.

Nik Williams