Two defamation lawsuits have been launched on June 9 by Gjin Gjoni, a member of the High Council of Justice in Albania. They target the daily Shqiptarja.com along with its journalists Adriatic Doci and Elton Qyno, as well as the Balkan Investigative Reporting in Albania (BIRN) and reporters Besar Likmeta and Aleksandra Bogdani. The latter two journalists are both winners of the prestigious CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism.
Gjoni and his wife Elona Caushi are seeking a total of 7 million lek (€52,000) in damages, for three stories published by BIRN over the last year, related to an investigation carried out by the prosecutor’s office against Gjoni’s assets and the asset declaration process of appeals court judges. They claim in the defamation lawsuit that the reports of the two journalists on the probe and respective court rulings on their family’s wealth caused them reputational damage. BIRN Albania declared that they “stand by the article and are ready to face all the claims in the court.”
In addition, Gjoni has filed a lawsuit seeking 4 million lek (€30,000) from the daily Shqiptarja.com and two of his journalists for similar stories.
The Union of Albanian Journalists condemned the lawsuit and expressed its solidarity with the four journalists involved.
EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregard said: “The European Federation of Journalists 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.”
The case was submitted to the Council of Europe platform for the protection and safety of journalists.