Albanian law does not conform to international norms of press freedom and the country’s courts go along with this. The local media are particularly threatened by suits for libel, which is punishable by up to two years in prison. Gaps in the law oblige journalists to practise broad self-censorship and the amount of damages is arbitrarily decided. Presumption of innocence is routinely brushed aside and it is up to journalists to prove their good faith and the accuracy of their writing. Neither do the courts recognise the right of journalists not to reveal their sources.
Despite these breaches of international and European standards, the authorities made an effort to improve the situation with parliamentary approval on 7 November 2002 of an amended broadcasting law, drawn up with the help of international bodies such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
A journalist threatened
Ylli Rakipi, publisher of the daily paper Albania and head of the Albanian journalists’ association, received a death threat on 3 February 2002 from Nard Koka, an aide of Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano. He told him over the phone that he would "kill anyone" for Nano and threatened to blow up the journalist’s apartment building. Rakipi had refused his demand to stop criticising Nano and his allies. He filed a complaint with police and supplied a tape recording of the threats.
Pressure and obstruction
Five government agencies sent inspectors in late October 2002 to check the tax situation and observance of labour laws at the Koha press group, which publishes two daily papers, including Koha Jone, and operates a TV and a radio station. The officials took away all the group’s financial records. Koha Jone was harassed by the government after publishing criticism of Nano.