European Federation of Journalists

Albania: Smear campaign against investigative journalist Ola Xama must stop


The smear campaign against Albanian investigative journalist Ola Xama, who works for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), intensified again earlier this month. The news platforms and DITA published articles that unleashed a worrisome level of violence with personal attacks, attacks on her family, “slut-shaming” and divulgation of Ola Xama’ private address. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) stands in solidarity with Ola Xama and joins the Safe Journalists Network (SJN) in calling on the media outlets to stop their damaging attacks which have been going on since July 2023.

On 13 July 2023, BIRN document-based investigation revealed that a contested project on managing public waste in Tirana through waste incinerators was initiated by Tirana mayor Veliaj.  Although Veliaj firmly denied having played an active role, he reacted to the article authored by Ola Xama with personal attacks against the journalist. She was called a “contracted killer”, an insult that has since been repeated by the media, worsening the hostile environment for the journalist.

On 1 March 2024, Prapaskena portal criticised Ola Xama for not using her family name in the civil lawsuit for defamation she filed against the news portal a few months ago, suggesting that she could be hiding “a dark past” or “illegal activities”. “Keeping my name short and taking my husband’s surname is not a crime,” declared the journalist, before adding “the situation became unbearable when the collateral damage of the attacks became members of my family.” Prapaskena revealed her name and sensitive information such as her address, endangering the journalist and her family.

The SafeJournalists Network expressed its “profound concern over the disconcerting trend of media outlets engaging in campaigns,” and deplored the attacks against Xama, which “not only jeopardise her personal safety and professional integrity, but also serve to intimidate and silence other women in journalism, further hindering gender equality in the media industry”.

EFJ President Maja Sever added: “The persistent attacks on Ola Xama for revealing the involvement of high-level politicians in the corruption of waste management in Tirana must stop. On this International Women’s Day, I stand in solidarity with Ola and all women journalists who are being targeted because they are journalists and women. The sexist insults received by journalists around the world are horrific and it harms society as a whole.”

Smear campaigns against journalists not only tarnish their reputations, but also endanger their lives and their ability to freely report information of public interest. We urge the relevant authorities to investigate and condemn the harassment of Ola Xama and provide the necessary protection to prevent it from escalating further.

This statement was produced by EFJ as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.