Mayor tells journalists they will get fired for asking the wrong questions

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 17, 2015 11:05

Story Highlights

  • Incumbent Socialist mayor of Elbasan tells journalists it is in their personal interests to follow the media owners' interests and not ask hard questions.

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Elbasan Mayor Qazim Sejdini is seeking his third term in office.

Elbasan Mayor Qazim Sejdini is seeking his third term in office. (Photo: Elbasan Municipality/Handout)

TIRANA, June 17 – An incumbent Albanian mayor who is seeking reelection has told reporters they risk getting fired for asking hard questions, which he said are not in the interest of media owners and their ties to those in power.

Qazim Sejdini, the Socialist mayor of Elbasan, Albania’s fourth largest city, was caught on camera explaining to journalists how he and many others believe the media system works in Albania.

“You forget that you are employed, and you with your words and camera hurt your [media] owner’s interest. The owner is tied irrevocably to those in power and has nowhere else to go,” Sejdini said at a time he believed the cameras were off.

He then told journalists if the owners’ interests were touched, the first to pay would be the journalists themselves.

“Whether you like or not the person you have in front of you, you are forced to follow the interests of the owner,” Sejdini said, adding otherwise those in power can “close the television station. Not me, but whoever is here as mayor.”

He then said one journalist had already been fired for the same reasons.

“The other lady who was here before, I had warned her, don’t do it like this, don’t, don’t, don’t, and she is gone, and she is unemployed.”

The video was made public by Albania’s ABC News television, a station that strongly supports the opposition Democratic Party, but it is the first time that a public official articulates what many independent observers believe to be a major obstacle to free media in Albania – the marriage of business and political interests.

Following the release of the video, Sejdini issued a statement saying he was taken out of context and that the video had been taken a year ago, before the electoral campaign had started, and it is being used now as a political attack against him

“I am sorry that the media are taking this sound byte and using it for political purposes in the last days of the campaign,” Sejdini said, adding his administration had a record of positive relations with the media.

Albanians vote to select their 61 mayors and local councils on Sunday.

The U.S. Embassy also commented on the matter and media freedoms in general.

“When the press is free, democracy is stronger. Free society has no place for threats or intimidation of any sort against journalists,” the embassy said on its Twitter account on Wednesday.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 17, 2015 11:05