‘Babale case’ protagonist arrested and released in Kosovo

‘Babale case’ protagonist arrested and released in Kosovo

TIRANA, Oct. 13 – Albert Veliu – the man who the Albanian prosecution is accusing of having staged the audio-surveillance alleging the brother of the country’s interior minister was involved in cannabis trafficking was arrested in Kosovo on Friday and

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Rama turns down Vucic offer on Telekom Albania buy as ‘non-preferable’

Rama turns down Vucic offer on Telekom Albania buy as ‘non-preferable’

TIRANA, Oct. 10 – The Albanian government has made official its stance that it does not favor a possible takeover of the country’s second largest mobile company by Telekom Serbia where the Serbian government holds a majority stake. Prime Minister

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The return of the ‘Babale case’

The return of the ‘Babale case’

Court approves arrest warrants for two people involved in Xhafaj audio-surveillance case The court in Albania accepted on Sunday the request by the Serious Crimes Prosecution to issue arrest warrants for two individuals involved in the audio-surveillance record made public

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Prime Minister collides with President Meta on Greece sea border deal

Prime Minister collides with President Meta on Greece sea border deal

TIRANA, Oct. 8 – Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Thursday evening that when negotiations with Greece on a new maritime border between the countries lead to an agreement, it will pass to parliament without waiting for the Constitutional

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TNT explodes outside Xhisiela Maloku’s house, she blames opposition

TNT explodes outside Xhisiela Maloku’s house, she blames opposition

TIRANA, Oct. 8 – In Albania, a TNT amount exploded at midnight in Fushë Krujë, in the courtyard of Xhisiela Maloku’s house, the 25-year-old former girlfriend of Rexhep Rraja, the son of Socialist MP Rrahman Rraja, who was arrested last

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Lack of contracts, a key barrier for journalists and media freedom in Albania

Lack of contracts, a key barrier for journalists and media freedom in Albania

TIRANA, Oct. 8 – Working in the media sector in Albania means little legal and social protection due to journalists and other media staff often working without contracts or under fictitious contracts, stripping them of current or future benefits such

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Albania signs deal with FRONTEX to curb migration waves

Albania signs deal with FRONTEX to curb migration waves

TIRANA, Oct. 8 – Albania signed an agreement with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency FRONTEX for border management in context of the growing immigration. The agreement was signed by Albanian Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj, European Commissioner for Migration

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Armed clash with one dead in Bllok area highlights capital’s underground criminal activity

Armed clash with one dead in Bllok area highlights capital’s underground criminal activity

TIRANA, Oct. 8 – One person was killed and two more were injured on Thursday night in Tirana, at the main bars and restaurants crowded area known as Blloku, for reasons still unclear. Erivs Martinaj – a well-known figure for

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No Albania-Greece deal without a functioning Constitutional Court, President says

No Albania-Greece deal without a functioning Constitutional Court, President says

TIRANA, Oct. 4 – There should be no parliament ratified deal for the bilateral issues between Albania and Greece until the Constitutional Court in Albania starts to function at full capacity once again. This statement was made by Albanian President

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AIIS seminar on Czechoslovakia discusses the division of states

AIIS seminar on Czechoslovakia discusses the division of states

TIRANA, Oct. 3 – On Wednesday, the Albanian Institute for International Studies commemorated through a seminar the 25-year anniversary of the 1993 ‘velvet divorce’ – the division into two states of Czechoslovakia. In cooperation with the embassies of the Czech

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 13 - Albert Veliu - the man who the Albanian prosecution is accusing of having staged the audio-surveillance alleging the brother of the country’s interior minister was involved in cannabis trafficking was arrested in Kosovo on Friday and then released by the court the following day.

In Prishtina, where Veliu is waiting after being arrested in Kosovo for illegally crossing the border, the court decided his protection pretense is valid and that he will remain at the asylum-seekers centre until an official extradition request arrives from Tirana.

Last week, the court in Albania accepted the Serious Crimes Prosecution’s request to issue arrest warrants for Veliu and Fredi Alizoti - who is accused of being the one who impersonated Agron Xhafaj, the minister of interior’s brother, and who is currently behind bars.

Alizoti has admitted he impersonated Agron, in return, according to him, of an amount of 200 thousand euros, that Veliu had told him Democratic Party MP Ervin Salianji would give them.

It has been also reported Alizoti stated during the first hearing, on June 1, and finally on September 27, in the presence of his lawyer, that Veliu had asked him to stage a conversation where he pretended to be Agron, the minister’s brother.

Jetmir Olldashi, the journalist who publicly admitted of having conducted the surveillance in context of his investigation of ties between drugs and politics in Vlora and having reached Veliu as a middle-man, has also been issued ‘obligation to appear in front of the court.’

All three are being accused of ‘false denunciation in cooperation.”

In a video-recording published on Tuesday night by DP MP Ervin Salianji in local media TV show, Alizoti is seen telling another, unidentified, person that he was accompanied by the Head of the State Police Ardi Veliu himself at the Serious Crimes Prosecution.

Alizoti said, in the video-recording, that Officer Veliu had tried to provoke him during the ride at the prosecution and that he’d asked him about his political affiliations.

So far, through a statement, the police has denied the involvement of its chief in any conversation with Alizoti. 

Investigations into the case are ongoing, while Prime Minister Edi Rama has said in interviews he’s put together a work team to find everyone who was involved even in the slightest in what he’s called “an attempt for coup d’etat.” 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 10 – The Albanian government has made official its stance that it does not favor a possible takeover of the country’s second largest mobile company by Telekom Serbia where the Serbian government holds a majority stake.

Prime Minister Edi Rama says Serbian companies are welcome to invest in Albania, but not in a strategic sector such as telecommunications where some experts have voiced concern the country’s national security could be put at risk by non-EU and non-NATO service providers.

His comments came this week following unconfirmed reports that the Albanian government has turned down a possible takeover of Telekom Albania, part of German giant Deutsche Telekom, following an offer by Telekom Serbia despite the state-run Serbian operator reported to have submitted the highest bid of around €61 million in a tender held last September.

“The Albanian government is not part of the transaction that a private company such as Deutsche Telekom wants to carry out as part of its withdrawal strategy from small markets... not only from Albania.  But this is a strategic sector and of course the Albanian government is asked for an opinion from the parties interested,” said Prime Minister Rama.

“The Albanian government's stance is quite simple and clear, Serbian businesses are welcome in the Republic of Albania, but in this strategic sector, it is not our preference," he added.

His comments followed statements by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that opposition to Telekom Serbia’s bid for Telekom Albania sent a wrong message that Serbian investors were not welcome in Albania and that he was going to talk to Rama hoping to resolve the situation.

“I heard from representatives of Telekom Serbia that we gave the best offer, but that the Albanian telecommunications minister said that Serbia cannot buy Telekom Albania,” Vucic said this week at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg in Belgrade, as quoted by Serbian media.

Telekom Serbia representatives say they “have a goal to position themselves as a regional leader in telecommunications” while Serbian government officials have described Telekom Serbia plans “a very logical and justified move,” according to local Serbian media.

Rama-Vucic meetings have been quite common in the past four years as relations between the two countries temporarily entered a Cold War era status quo in October 2014 following a drone incident with Albanian nationalistic and patriotic symbols flying over the Partizan stadium in Belgrade in the midst of a Serbia-Albania Euro 2016 qualifier.

In late 2014, Prime Minister Rama paid a historic visit to Serbia, the first by an Albanian Prime Minister in 68 years, in a tense climate following the drone incident, but paving the way to the normalization of relations between the two countries which are considered key players for the region’s security, economic development and the Western Balkan’s European integration.

The entry to Albania of Telekom Serbia, which also operates in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, would mark the first major Serbian investment in Albania, where Serbian investment is quite modest at around €20 million, amid tense political relations over Kosovo, the ethnic-Albanian country which declared its independence from Serbia a decade ago.

The majority 58 percent stake in Telekom Serbia is held by the Serbian government.

Unnamed government sources had warned the involvement of Telekom Serbia in the Albanian mobile telephony market could spark reactions that would have a negative impact even for the company itself due to concerns over national security in a sensitive sector such as telecommunications and amid fears of the public not welcoming the operator’s arrival over non-positive feelings and perceptions related to tense historical political relations between the two countries.

Concerns over security are a result of both Albanians and Serbians perceiving themselves among top threats and enemies despite political relations having significantly improved in the past few years and the civil society in both countries contributing to the normalization of relations between two countries that are considered key to the region’s stability and peace.

Former AMC Albania was initially launched as a state-run operator in late 1995 as the country’s first mobile operator before it was acquired in 2000 by Greece’s OTE Group and rebranded Telekom Albania in mid-2015.

Telekom Albania is currently the second largest mobile operator in the country with a 36 percent market share, but posted significant losses in 2017 along with leading mobile operator Vodafone Albania as the mobile phone market suffered a double-digit decline in revenue, in an ongoing downward trend since almost a decade, triggered by tougher competition and smartphone apps replacing traditional phone calls and text messages, according to the electronic communications watchdog.

 

Possible new buyers

Turkish-owned Albtelecom, which runs the country’s third largest mobile operator, Czech PPF Group, Bulgaria’s Vivacom and Telenor, as well as Giannis Vardinogiannis, a Greek billionaire shipping magnate, are potential Telekom Albania buyers following bids submitted in a September tender.

However, sources at Greece-based OTE Group, where Deutsche Telekom holds a 40 percent stake, have told Deutsche Welle in the local Albanian service that there is no final decision and that the company is still examining regional offers.

A sale deal on Telekom Albania would also have to receive the okay of Albanian state-run regulators such as the electronic communications and competition watchdogs.

The potential Telekom Albania acquisition would make Turkish-owned Albtelecom, the country’s largest operator, overtaking leading Vodafone Albania which has an almost 50 percent share in terms of subscribers and income.

However, the acquisition could reduce the number of operators to two and likely bring problems when the purchase is examined by Albania’s electronic communication and competition watchdogs due to cutting the number of operators to two compared to a previous four until late 2017 when Albanian-owned Plus Communication ceased its operations.
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                    [post_content] => Court approves arrest warrants for two people involved in Xhafaj audio-surveillance case 

The court in Albania accepted on Sunday the request by the Serious Crimes Prosecution to issue arrest warrants for two individuals involved in the audio-surveillance record made public a few months ago, according to which the brother of Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj was recently involved in drug trafficking.

According to the prosecution, the entire audio-surveillance might have been staged and involved were Albert Veliu, who said he’d spoken with the minister’s brother and is known as ‘Witness X’ and Fredi Alizoti, who is suspected of having impersonated Xhafaj’s brother, Agron.

Jetmir Olldashi, the journalist who publicly admitted of having conducted the surveillance in context of his investigation of ties between drugs and politics in Vlora and having reached Veliu as a middle-man, has also been issued ‘obligation to appear in front of the court.’

Veliu is currently located in Kosovo, where he was arrested for illegally trespassing the border and where he has sought political asylum. All three are being accused of ‘false denunciation in cooperation.”

Head of the opposition’s Democratic Party Lulzim Basha reacted to the arrest through a tweet, saying “nothing more was expected by the prosecution Rama-Xhafaj-Marku-Prela.” 

According to Basha, the only reason Agron left to Italy to undergo his sentence there is so that he wouldn’t have to face the ongoing investigation of the case here.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said he hopes these two arrests are just the beginning of this “orchestrated masquerade.”

 

 

The prosecution’s evidence 

So far, local media has reported from the file the prosecution submitted to the court, that Alizoti has admitted he impersonated Agron, in return, according to him, of an amount of 200 thousand euros, that Veliu had told him they would receive from Democratic Party MP Ervin Salianji.

It has been also reported that the latter stated during the first hearing, on June 1, and finally on September 27, in the presence of his lawyer, that Veliu had asked him to stage a conversation where he pretended to be Agron, the minister’s brother.

The conversation, according to him, took place in a cafe opposite the one Agron was staying, and lasted three minutes. He added they had practiced a couple of days before the staging and that Veliu had instructed him what to say.

Alizoti confessed that before the conversation was made public, he had gone to the Democratic Party headquarters several times, where Veliu had met Salianji.

The prosecution included among its evidence transcripts of phone calls made by Alizoti, whose name has been under surveillance since May under the court’s orders.

Alizoti appears to have admitted at least three times in these phone calls that he impersonated Agron, while he has also shown disappointment for not receiving the promised amount - for which Veliu, from Kosovo, has told him to be patient. 

As for Veliu’s claims he met Agron in a cafe to ask him for help in sending a marijuana amount to Italy to make some extra money, the prosecution says Veliu and Agron have only had two phone calls of 20 and 29 seconds each respectively, but have never met. 

 

Video-recording of Alizoti initiates new round of accusations

In a video-recording published on Tuesday night by DP MP Ervin Salianji in local media TV show, Alizoti is seen telling another, unidentified, person that he was accompanied by the Head of the State Police Ardi Veliu himself at the Serious Crimes Prosecution.

According to Alizoti, this happened on the first, without mentioning a month, after he’d told the head of the Fier Police Department that he’d impersonated Agron. Alizoti said, in the video-recording, that Officer Veliu had tried to provoke him during the ride at the prosecution and that he’d asked him about his political affiliations.

Through a statement, the state police denied Ardi Veliu was ever in any kind of contact with Alizoti.

“The accompaniment of Alizoti was done in accordance with the order of the prosecutor of the case. This procedural action was made by the Local Police Directorate of Fier,” states the police statement.

In the video released, Alizoti also mentioned meeting a person named Taulant, who he claimed to have asked him to support the majority and offered him money. Though he does not mention his last name, it was interpreted by the media as the SP MP Taulant Balla. 

Referring to Alizot's conversation, Basha said that Rama has created a privately-owned state to fabricate and manipulate truths.

“When the state attacks its opponents, its journalists, its denunciations, its honorable policemen, its political opponents, to protect criminals and politicians related to crime, we are in the context of a mafia dictatorship,” Basha said. 

Rama, on Wednesday, said he’s raised a work-group to verify the entire issue and the ties between organized crime and state corruption.

“Albanians will get to know from start to finish, not just with institutions, but with names and surnames, who is involved in this coup d’etat conspiracy,” Rama said.

 

The Xhafaj case 

Initially, it was the DP that made the conversation that had developed between Veliu (called Conspirator X) and Agron public.

The transcript of the conversation insinuated an agreement to transport a quantity of marijuana to Italy between Agron and Veliu. 

Then Veliu himself appeared in an interview where he admitted having met Agron, talked to him, and that he was the one who helped him to transport the drugs.

Although Veliu’s statements were contradictory to begin with, more contradictory layers were added to the story when journalist Olldashi came forward and publicly accepted he was the one responsible for Veliu’s surveillance and his conversation with Agron, as he was conducting an investigation on the ties between drugs and politics in Vlora, where Agron was living.

The story was accompanied by strong controversy, opposition demands for minister Xhafaj to resign and accusations that he has been defending of a brother who had been arrested in Italy in 2002, and then convicted of participating in a criminal organization which was dealing with drug trafficking.

Agron declared that he had no ties with Veliu and that he’d been leading a calm life for a long time and left to Italy to undergo his punishment. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 8 - Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Thursday evening that when negotiations with Greece on a new maritime border between the countries lead to an agreement, it will pass to parliament without waiting for the Constitutional Court to become functional.

Rama’s comments during a Vizion Plus TV show followed President Ilir Meta’s statements a day earlier, who stressed that it is important for such an agreement to be ratified in parliament at a time when Albania has a functioning Constitutional Court.

“Otherwise, this would not serve both countries’ best interests,” Meta told the Voice of America, adding he has made the point clear to Rama as well. 

Rama, however, called Meta’s words “an opinion” and said the parliament is sovereign at this point.

“If we reach a deal, of course it will go to parliament, while the Constitutional Court might not be able to judge today, but it is open. Whoever has any pretenses can register their pretense, can deposit the case and whenever it becomes functional, it can take over the case one more time,” Rama said.

However, cases of international agreements do not depend solely on the majority’s votes. The case constitutes “an international agreement in the name of the Republic of Albania” and, according to the special law approved in 2016, such agreements “can be signed by the Republic’s President or the Prime Minister, members of the Council of Ministers or any high functionary, in any case under the authorization of the President of the Republic,” showing clearly the president’s verdict is crucial.

Albania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati, for whom Meta said he’s had disagreements concerning the maritime border deal, also commented on Meta’s statements.

Bushati said the negotiations have not been finalized yet and that, until they do, the Albanian group will remain a team, including the president. 

“Once the technical work being conducted by the experts is finalized, the dossier will be submitted to the president, where the experts will make their final evaluation on the consistency of what has been achieved with the mandate the president has released on the issue,” Bushati said.

Other political figures also spoke against Rama’s stand on this issue and his comment on TV.

Former Minister of Justice Ylli Manjani said Rama refuses to recognize and apply the country’s constitution. 

Through a Facebook status, Manjani said one doesn’t need to be a judge, but simply have eyes on their forehead and a bit of attention to read article 131, point b of the constitution and understand “in what grave condition” the prime minister is. 

“The article says, the Constitutional Court decides on: a)..., b) incompatibility of international agreements before their ratification, c).... As it can easily be understood, the parliament cannot ratify the agreement with Greece unless the Constitutional Court gives its verdict IN ADVANCE. So, we cannot deposit complaints and judgment in the Constitutional Court post-fact, as the prime minister suggests,” Manjani wrote.

At the moment, the country’s constitutional court is blocked because only three out of its nine members were re-confirmed to duty at the end of the vetting process. It is unclear when the vacant positions will be filled, as the Council of Appointments in Justice, which is responsible for selecting the candidates in advance, is also lacking members. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 8 - In Albania, a TNT amount exploded at midnight in Fushë Krujë, in the courtyard of Xhisiela Maloku’s house, the 25-year-old former girlfriend of Rexhep Rraja, the son of Socialist MP Rrahman Rraja, who was arrested last week under the charge of persecuting and violating Maloku.

According to Maloku herself, who spoke to local media after the incident, the TNT amount was small and did not cause any physical or material harm to Maloku’s relatives or her house. At least nine people have been taken by the police for interrogation.

Meanwhile, Maloku told authorities she was in her house at the moment of the explosion and that everyone was scared. She accused the opposition for the attack, saying "it is creating a political game" and that she does not feel threatened by the Rraja family.

She added she had rejected police protection earlier, but that she would accept it after Sunday’s attack.

Maloku reached the police to press charges against her former boyfriend in July, and withdrew them later. However, the case passed to the prosecution office. Maloku had reached the police accusing Rexhep, with whom she had had a long-lasting romantic relationship, for threats and violence against her several times.

In her previous declarations, she has accepted that she’s been forced to withdraw her charges out of fear of revenge on Rexhep’s side.

Rexhep was arrested last week in context of the hard evidence testifying he caused the signs of violence on Maloku’s body in a hotel room. 

However, in two recent interviews, after the episode gained wide public attention when former Fushe-Kruje police officer Emiljano Nuhu made a public testimony of the event through the opposition’s Democratic Party, Maloku denied that Rraja had exercised violence towards her.

According to her latest statements, she’d denounced Rexhep out of jealousy and her testimony was fake. 

However the forensic expertise on her wounds leave little place for doubt. The report showed she had signs of violence on her shoulders and cigarette burns on her thighs. It is precisely this forensic expertise that placed Rexhep behind bars, as well as an interception that took place on September 29 during the hearing between the Rexhep and Maloku in the prosecution, where Rexhep threatened her again. 

Former Fushe-Kruje officer Nuhu’s testimony unfolded an even thicker plot of the story. 

Nuhu said during the video-testimony the DP published that his was held at gunpoint by Rrahman, Rexhep’s father, while SP MP Taulant Balla and Kruja’s Mayor Artur Bushi were present. 

Balla, who is also the head of the Socialist parliamentary group, filed criminal charges in the prosecution against Basha, accusing him of abuse of office and false denunciation, following Nuhu’s testimony. 

He has denied having any links to the story, or ever being present in the Fushe-Kruje police station, where Nuhu claims the entire event took place. 

Rrahman, on the other hand, has told local media that he does not plan to resign his MP mandate because of the scandal that overtook Albanian media last week and that the entire story is a fabrication from the DP. 

“My son had issues with a girl two years ago, they broke up and he dated another. The break up has been clarified in the police department,” Rrahman told local media.

While being arrested, Rexhep, too, publicly warned Basha he’s lose on the upcoming elections, no matter what he’d do to win. 

 
                    [post_title] => TNT explodes outside Xhisiela Maloku’s house, she blames opposition 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-10-08 16:48:28
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 8 – Working in the media sector in Albania means little legal and social protection due to journalists and other media staff often working without contracts or under fictitious contracts, stripping them of current or future benefits such as access to public services and old-age retirement benefits.

A recent survey conducted by the Albanian Media Institute has shown a third of journalists and media staff in Albania don’t have a work contract and that working without a contract is a common phenomenon in the Albanian media landscape, in similar levels to other private sectors where informality is one of top concerns for Albanian and foreign investors.

“A third of [media] respondents said they do not have a work contract at the moment, while only 24 percent of the respondents said they have permanently had a work contract during their media career, meaning that the remaining 75 percent has continuously faced challenges in this regard,” shows the survey conducted by the Albanian Media Institute, an organization that has been offering training to journalists and helping the development of the Albanian media for more than two decades.

Most of the respondents who did have work contracts said they were ready-made formats, the same for all employees and job positions, which experts say can lead to suspicions on the formal nature of the existing contracts, which nonetheless remain valuable documents in cases of problems and when lawsuits are involved.

Lack of contracts has direct social consequences for journalists such as delays in receiving their payments, not being paid for extra hours, lack of holidays and not having their social security contributions paid, the Union of Albanian Journalists is quoted as saying in the Albanian Media Institute report.

Informality in labor relations is not the sole issue facing journalists in Albania.

Job insecurity, low salaries, social insurance paid only for minimum wages or not paid at all, delays in disbursement of salaries are some of the other everyday problems journalists and other media workers face in the country where the media is considered partly free.

More than half of respondents say the salary they receive is lower than the average gross salary of some 60,000 lek (€475) in the public sector and about two-thirds admit to delays in receiving the salary in a timely manner, with cases when the delay lasts for several months in a row.

Journalists also complain of unfair dismissals, fines, lack of bonuses and an increase in their workload.

"Some 42 percent of respondents think that the status of employment for journalists has not changed at all compared to two years ago, while for 32 percent of them the situation has deteriorated," shows the survey.

Involving more than 200 journalists and media workers anonymously, the European Union-supported survey was conducted by Albanian Media Institute as part of a project aimed at improving labor relations and professionalism in the Albanian media.

Journalists’ failure to organize themselves and protect their rights is also one of the most difficult challenges for the Albanian media community at a time when only about a third of journalists and media workers are reported to be members of media associations.

“Even though legally nothing stands in the way of journalists to organize themselves and protect their rights, in practice this has been and still is one of the most difficult challenges of the media community,” says the report.

“The causes for this situation are complex, which is confirmed also by respondents, who have chosen several reasons to explain this problem. Lack of trust in organizations or general lack of trust in a potential change remains the main explanation, followed equally by pressure on journalists from their own media and also lack of leadership,” shows the study.

The report recommends the establishment of a media employers' organization as a body that would help in providing a solution to the issues facing media workers in the country.

"A major part of the problems of Albanian journalists, starting with the low enforcement of labor standards and the lack of collective bargaining is due to the fact that there is no employers’ organization to negotiate with. Albanian authorities are encouraged to create the conditions for social dialogue and collective bargaining at sectoral level," recommends the report.

Calling on Albanian authorities to tighten law-enforcement inspections on the respect of labor rights in the media sector, the report says "the widespread absence of working contracts and the late payment of salaries are clear violations of the law but are also a threat to media freedom because of the grave consequences on the profession, in particular due to economic pressure and self-censorship of journalists."

The findings of the survey come at a time when concerns over media freedom have been growing amid financial trouble due to a sharp decline in advertising income.

Albania has hundreds of media outlets, a high number for the current resident population of about 3 million, but their independence and standards often leave much to be desired as in much of the EU aspirant Western Balkans.

Albania’s media is classified as partly free with “the intermingling of powerful business, political, and media interests inhibiting the development of independent news outlets,” according to Freedom House. Local journalism associations report an increase in the number of journalists facing life threats because of their job and media professionals quitting their jobs because of censorship, poor income or perceived danger.

Media representatives in the country say journalists in Albania often lack the minimum social protection to successfully play their part in the society and describe a journalist's job as too stressful, with heavy workload and requiring much compromise for too little money.
                    [post_title] => Lack of contracts, a key barrier for journalists and media freedom in Albania
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                    [post_date] => 2018-10-08 16:18:23
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 8 - Albania signed an agreement with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency FRONTEX for border management in context of the growing immigration.

The agreement was signed by Albanian Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj, European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos, and Austrian Minister of Interior Herbert Kick, whose country has the rotating EU presidency.

This is the first agreement of this kind that the EU signs with third countries.

"This is cornerstone for EU's international cooperation on the issue of border management. I hope it open the way for even greater cooperation with the entire Balkan region,” Avramopoulos said. 

The agreement allows FRONTEX to coordinate operational cooperation between EU member states and Albania in border management. FRONTEX can now interfere with the external borders of one or more neighboring states with Albania, including intervention in the Albanian territory in coordination with the authorities.

The agreement aims to strengthen Albania's cooperation with EU countries in the area of ​​border management, illegal migration and cross-border crime.

In addition to the big number of asylum seekers registered from Albania, a considerable part of whom have also tried illegal border-crossing, 2018 has also marked increased efforts by third-country nationals to use Albanian territory as a way to reach EU countries. In this context, border police representatives say they have increased control measures in an effort to curb any possible wave of refugees seeking to use Albania as a transit country.

According to Albanian police data, an average of ten migrants - mainly from Syria, but also Yemen, Iraq, Algeria, Libya and Pakistan - are detained in the country every 24 hours. The largest number of migrants is registered in Shkodra, a city close to the Montenegrin border that could lead migrants to EU countries like close-by Croatia.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-10-08 15:18:43
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 8 - One person was killed and two more were injured on Thursday night in Tirana, at the main bars and restaurants crowded area known as Blloku, for reasons still unclear.

Erivs Martinaj - a well-known figure for the Albanian police and justice system - was in the premises of the bar and was shot upon. 

Martinaj was injured along with Eljon Hato, the latter in critical condition, while Fabiol Gaxha, Martinaj’s bodyguard, took a bullet on the head, which instantly killed him.

Both Martinaj and Hato were arrested by the police in context of the case’s investigation, while Ervin Mata, 31 years old, Fabjol Alushi, 42 years old, and Merviol Bilo, 41 years old, are now wanted by the police. 

All three are suspected of being involved in the fight that led to Gaxha’s death. Bilo, a member of the Army’s Commando Force, is suspected to be the person who gunned down Gaxha.

Bilo simultaneously turned out to be the bodyguard of a famous Albanian singer - the assault against her being considered as a lead for what caused the armed clash between the groups. However, prosecutors have reason to believe the clash was at heart linked with unfinished business in the criminal activities between the groups.  

Martinaj was among the persons involved in a murder that occurred in a cafe on the outskirts of Tirana, near the road to Dajti, in November 2015.

Although the prosecution proposed a sentence of more than 20 years of imprisonment for Martinaj and his collaborators, the Tirana court dismissed the accusation of "premeditated murder in co-operation" by punishing the murder’s author and giving light sentences to Martinaj and two other persons with the justification that it was a murder that was born of an instant conflict.

Martinaj is currently running his own betting chain in Albania, among other private enterprises, while local media have reported that Hato was supposed to be in prison, from where,in 2014, he ordered the murder of a doctor in Shkodra. 

The details of the case are still unclear and subject to change as police is investigating the case for the underlying criminal activities of the bands. 

 
                    [post_title] => Armed clash with one dead in Bllok area highlights capital’s underground criminal activity
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                    [post_date] => 2018-10-05 11:19:33
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-10-05 09:19:33
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 4 - There should be no parliament ratified deal for the bilateral issues between Albania and Greece until the Constitutional Court in Albania starts to function at full capacity once again. This statement was made by Albanian President Ilir Meta during an official visit to the United States, speaking to VoA in the local Albanian service. Meta clarified his position about the negotiations explaining that he has reached a consensus with the Prime Minister Rama despite having some initial difficulties with Foreign Affairs’ Minister Bushati.

Meta said that any other form of reaching the deal would not be a sustainable solution and would not serve the interests of both countries.  Actually the ruling SP doesn’t even need the opposition MP numbers in parliament to seal the deal.

The Constitutional Court in Albania is blocked since it now has only two members. Three judges finished their mandate while four others have been deemed unappropriated to go on in their position due to the vetting process results.

Even during the negotiations and the meetings, there have been several concerns about the transparency of the deal.

The opposition says it and the relevant parliamentary institutions have neither been consulted nor informed on the negotiations. Some politicians, like former Prime Minister Sali Berisha, have warned a new conflict between Albania and Greece could be the result if the deal is reached without transparency.

Albanian institutions, with the exception of the government, and the public at large are getting more information from Greek news media than Albanian officials involved in the talks.

President Meta initially halted the negotiations due to expressed lack of proper information about them, only to reauthorize them in early March of this year after several rounds of correspondence with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Diplomatic sources told Tirana Times that in fact the agreement was negotiated as early as last year and as late as the first two months of this year. However, according to the official record, these negotiations officially started only three months and half ago, when the government received the official permission to negotiate from the President of the Republic. Moreover, diplomatic sources confirmed that the Albanian side was given a new agreement with some partial and technical corrections from the Greek side, which were nonnegotiable, and the rest of what appears like negotiation is just for show.

Instead clarifying what Albania will get from the sea border dispute, the Albanian government has been much more open in declaring as “wins” issues included in the “package of negotiations,” such as the recognition of Albanian driving licenses and apostille stamps, as well as the removal of the Law on the State of War.

Although these are agreements that will benefit a number of Albanians living in Greece, foreign policy experts have said it is wrong to include them in the same package of negotiations as the maritime border agreement, as their benefits to citizens will only be peripheral.

The context pronounces even more the likelihood that any reached deal would need to pass through the proper constitutional check mechanism.

Albania and Greek diplomats have met twice to discuss pending unresolved issues between the two countries.

These most prominent among them is the final demarcation of the areas in the Ionian Sea. The former respective deal reached between the two countries during the Berisha administration was struck down as unconstitutional by the Court in 2009.  The negotiations however are supposed to examine a wider list of issues including the removal of the Law of Status of War with Albania that Greece still upholds in relation to the Greco-Italian war of the 40s.

 
                    [post_title] => No Albania-Greece deal without a functioning Constitutional Court, President says 
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                    [post_content] => aiis 2TIRANA, Oct. 3 - On Wednesday, the Albanian Institute for International Studies commemorated through a seminar the 25-year anniversary of the 1993 ‘velvet divorce’ - the division into two states of Czechoslovakia.

In cooperation with the embassies of the Czech and Slovak republics, Director of the Institute of History of the Slovak Academy of Sciences Slavomir Michalek and Vice Director of the Institute for Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Sciences Pavel Mucke were invited to speak of the Slovak and Czech perspectives of the separation.

The Czechoslovak Republic was born on Oct. 28, 1918, in consequence of WWI, destroyed in March 1939, in consequence of the Third Reich occupation and diplomatic pressure and re-established on May 8, 1945, in consequence of WWII.

In 1960, the transition to Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was declared, while in Jan. 5 of 1968, the Prague Spring brought a ‘new round’ in dealing with Czecho-Slovak relations, creating a formally decentralized model of state with new constitutional bodies and deciding to split the country into two republics.

Mucke noted, during his presentation, that the federation “actually became a dead shell” due to the lack of democracy, with federal and republic bodies under the actual direction of communist party politics.

The Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution happened in 1989, as a consequence of police attacks on legalized student demonstrations on Nov. 17, in Prague.

Despite the differences of perception between the Slovaks and the Czechs - both historians in the panel mentioned that were Czechs were seen as sharing more Western values, as opposed to the Slovaks - they coordinated in a revolutionary movement that led to the peaceful fall of the communist regime, formed a “government of national understanding” and respected “non-formal principles of national nomination.”

The ‘velvet’ divorce, following the ‘velvet revolution’ lasted from 1989 to 1993.

During this time, the federation had limited functions in a democratic environment, with the main problem being the different perceptions of the state between Czechs and Slovaks - with the first tending to have a strong federation and the second opting for two sovereign republics “bridged” with a more decentralised federation.

For the Slovak side, the period until 1993 - when the first sovereign and democratic Slovak Republic peacefully separated from the Czech part - was just part of a series of “efforts to become a modern nation and equal partner to other nations which culminated in the late 20th century,” as Michalek mentioned during his presentation.

Among the positives of diminishing the nationalistic agenda in domestic policies and “self-managing” of both nations in “independent state entities” and the negatives of a weakened position on international ground and the necessity to renew the network of international relations, for Czechs, the new-born Czech Republic meant “a smaller Czechoslovakia” due to “paternalistic sentiments,” while the Slovaks identified with their new state relatively quickly during the 1990s.

Nonetheless, in conclusion of both speeches it was highlighted that the case of Czechoslovakia was a contribution to the long-term debates and historical knowledge on how to and not to deal with the issues of nationalism in supranational states - still a necessary knowledge in modern history.

The seminar was attended by a number of ambassadors, Albanian politicians and officials, scholars and international and Albanian students alike.
                    [post_title] => AIIS seminar on Czechoslovakia discusses the division of states 
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            [post_date] => 2018-10-13 16:25:41
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 13 - Albert Veliu - the man who the Albanian prosecution is accusing of having staged the audio-surveillance alleging the brother of the country’s interior minister was involved in cannabis trafficking was arrested in Kosovo on Friday and then released by the court the following day.

In Prishtina, where Veliu is waiting after being arrested in Kosovo for illegally crossing the border, the court decided his protection pretense is valid and that he will remain at the asylum-seekers centre until an official extradition request arrives from Tirana.

Last week, the court in Albania accepted the Serious Crimes Prosecution’s request to issue arrest warrants for Veliu and Fredi Alizoti - who is accused of being the one who impersonated Agron Xhafaj, the minister of interior’s brother, and who is currently behind bars.

Alizoti has admitted he impersonated Agron, in return, according to him, of an amount of 200 thousand euros, that Veliu had told him Democratic Party MP Ervin Salianji would give them.

It has been also reported Alizoti stated during the first hearing, on June 1, and finally on September 27, in the presence of his lawyer, that Veliu had asked him to stage a conversation where he pretended to be Agron, the minister’s brother.

Jetmir Olldashi, the journalist who publicly admitted of having conducted the surveillance in context of his investigation of ties between drugs and politics in Vlora and having reached Veliu as a middle-man, has also been issued ‘obligation to appear in front of the court.’

All three are being accused of ‘false denunciation in cooperation.”

In a video-recording published on Tuesday night by DP MP Ervin Salianji in local media TV show, Alizoti is seen telling another, unidentified, person that he was accompanied by the Head of the State Police Ardi Veliu himself at the Serious Crimes Prosecution.

Alizoti said, in the video-recording, that Officer Veliu had tried to provoke him during the ride at the prosecution and that he’d asked him about his political affiliations.

So far, through a statement, the police has denied the involvement of its chief in any conversation with Alizoti. 

Investigations into the case are ongoing, while Prime Minister Edi Rama has said in interviews he’s put together a work team to find everyone who was involved even in the slightest in what he’s called “an attempt for coup d’etat.” 

 
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