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Albania30 June 2005

Mayor beat up television journalist

Reporters Without Borders has condemned a violent assault by a town mayor on television journalist Juliana Dhimitri who filmed his debate with an election rival for a leading station Top Channel TV on 26 June.

Robert Damo, mayor of Korca in the south-east and Democratic Party candidate for 3 July elections, reacted violently when Dhimitri went on filming at the end of the formal debate with Socialist candidate and local authority minister Ben Blushi as their exchanges turned acrimonious.

Damo threw the journalist against the wall, beat her about the face and body and threw her camera at her. He also snatched her mobile phone to prevent her calling for help.

He then dragged her into another room of the hotel where the debate was staged and continued to maltreat her. He was accompanied by two bodyguards who showered her with insults throughout the attack.

"Reporters Without Borders condemns this brutal assault, which constitutes an abuse of press freedom that is even more serious for the fact that it was directly carried out by an elected official", the organisation said.

"Robert Damo has a very good chance of getting his name on the blacklist of press freedom enemies. We urge the Interior Minister, Igli Toska, to take appropriate sanctions against the mayor of Korca so that this type of behaviour is not repeated."

Dhimitri needed hospital treatment for shock and extensive bruising. After returning home she was placed under police surveillance to make sure there were no further confrontations with the mayor.

The following day, Damo denied having struck the journalist and said he had been the victim himself.

Top Channel TV publicly condemned the attack and lodged a complaint at the Korca district court. The station said it would produce evidence that Damo had ill-treated the journalist while she was doing her job and filming in a public place. She has a complete film recording of the attack.

So far no member of the Democratic Party has reacted.

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