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16.06.2017

The ECPMF supports Albanian journalists charged with defamation lawsuits

ECPMF
Albanian journalists have been charged with defamation lawsuits launched by Gjin Gjoni – a member of the High Council of Justice, HJC – targeting two media outlets and four journalists. The ECPMF is supporting them financially to prepare their defense.

Journalist with camera

The Albanian Journalists' Union described the lawsuits as doomed to fail: "The Union of Albanian Journalists has been informed about this judicial assault launched by a member of the High Council of Justice, Gjin Gjoni, against several journalists and the respective media, with the legal pretense that his image has been tainted,” the Union said in a statement. “The Union considers this action triggered by a controversial name as an attempt doomed to fail from the start,” it added.

Gjoni has launched a lawsuit against the Balkan Investigative Reporting in Albania, and reporters Besar Likmeta and Aleksandra Bogdani – both winners of the prestigious CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism – seeking a total of 7 million lek (€52,000) in damages, for three stories published over the last year, all of them related to an investigation carried out by the prosecutor’s office against Gjoni’s assets and the asset declaration process of the appeal court’s judge. He and his wife Elona Caushi claim in the defamation lawsuit that the reports of the two journalists on the probe and the respective court rulings on their family’s wealth caused them moral anguish for which they seek damages.

Gjoni has also filed a lawsuit seeking 4 million lek (€30,000) from the daily Shqiptarja.com and two of his journalists for similar stories.

In its statement the Albanian Union of Journalists backed the reporters and called on the judge to resign from the High Council of Justice in order to face the accused ones on an equal footing in court: “The Union while awaiting the expected court hearings to start, in the name of the principle of undue influence because of his position and to avoid any nuance of intimidation from Mr. Gjoni, calls on him to resign from his leading position [in the judiciary], considering this a possibility to face the accused journalists as equals in the civil cases he has initiated,” the Union concluded.

The president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Mogens Blicher Bjerregård stated:

The EFJ believes that the malicious use of the law, in this case, is a mean of pressure and harassment against journalists. It seems clear that the real aim of the lawsuit is to intimidate and to silence journalists reporting on matters of public interest.”

BIRN Albania is the only independent and investigative media in Albania. The articles related to an investigation carried out by the prosecutor’s office against asset declaration process of the judge. Articles are based on official asset declarations forms and documents issued by the Prosecution Office in Tirana. After the lawsuit was filed against BIRN Albania, the following have reacted in their support: The Union of Albanian Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the US Embassy in Tirana, and the EU Delegation in Albania. The trail is expected to start next month and they are seeking financial support to prepare their defense. ECPMF proposes to support them with 1,000 euro.





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