Albania’s Special Prosecution has banned an Albanian journalist from publishing information about a major criminal case involving a number of organised crime groups.
The testimonies of two collaborators who helped prosecutors issue 32 arrest orders last month have already been leaked.
Prosecutors Doloreza Musabelliu, Altin Dumani and Behar Dibra underscored the “the importance of the statements given by those two citizens” and “the fact that we are in the preliminary intensive investigation phase, and many investigative acts are being carried out,” as the reasons for the order.
“The statements of these citizens have proven value and are extremely important for the investigation,” prosecutors continued, “Due to this importance, and the need to have these statements covered by secrecy, it is necessary to order the protection of secrecy up to the conclusion of the preliminary investigations.”
Albanian journalist and media have published dozens of news items about the statements given by the two collaborators, both concerning several criminals suspects of committing murders and other offences.
On Thursday, the Prosecution Against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) clarified that the order was issued to one Albanian journalist E.Q., after he published “some secret data, which went beyond the court decision.”
“We clarify that the Special Prosecution against Corruption and Organized Crime has addressed this order to only one journalist and for the specific reason mentioned above,” SPAK annouced in a statement.
“We understand the interest of the media in informing the public, but this interest can not and should not affect the ongoing investigation or the public or individual safety of the persons whose names were mentioned during the ongoing investigation,” it continued.
Albania’s penal code can issue sentences of up to three years in jail for the publication of secret information by third parties. This includes journalists and media. The penal code can also issue sentences of up to six years in jail when published secret information relates to protected witnesses.
In 2019, prosecutors in Albania issued similar gag orders on local media after leaks exposed electoral crime and corruption. This gag order was largely ignored by the media, and instead seen as a bid to hide failures to investigate political crimes.
Albanian authorities undertook a mass effort against organized crime on 19 May. According to investigators, however, the most notorious leaders of these crime groups were not siezed. They remain on the run.
Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA