Italian public broadcaster Rai 3 has drawn the ire of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama after reporting that cannabis cultivation in Albania has grown by 1200 percent despite the Albanian government’s efforts to eradicate the illegal trade.
Referring to the news report, which the broadcaster said was based on leaked Italian police figures, Rama said: “The news last night on RAI 3 about the alleged 12-fold growth of cannabis crops in Albania is a journalistic shame, without any connection with the reality monitored and certified by the Guardia di Finanza itself. We hope that our wonderful partners will tell the truth without wasting time.”
In the ‘Frontiers of Europe’ programme, aired on January 27, the journalists said that since last year there has been an “exponential growth” of over 1200% in cannabis production. This was accompanied by aerial photos that the broadcasters said they had obtained from the unpublished police report that purportedly showed a crop of 100,000 plants “imported from Vietnam and genetically modified to have a very high percentage of the active ingredient (THC).
Since 2014, the government has launched a major crackdown on cannabis cultivation, which along with the fight against corruption, has been a key demand of Brussels in return for granting Albania EU candidate status.
By 2017, Rama declared that the industry was dying out and touting the military-style operation involving army helicopters and armoured personnel carriers to raze the notorious Lazarat plantation, known as Europe’s “marijuana mountain”.
Reports that Albania is backsliding on its efforts to reign in marijuana production – which once accounted for half of the country’s GDP – have been angrily rejected by the prime minister on Twitter.
“Here is the official truth regarding the scandalous RAI3 report!” Rama tweeted.
Thank you to Italian police authorities for helping us every day in our common victory against cannabis cultivation, as well as for helping us in this particular case to win against a huge lie by the media,” Rama wrote on Twitter on Friday, attaching screenshots of an article in Italian.
The article states that during an event in Italy focused on collaboration between the two countries, “authorities specifically pointed out that the news in the [Rai 3] report do not correspond to accurate data and cannot cast shadows neither on the real effectiveness of the fight against cannabis cultivation, nor on the important results achieved over the past few years.”
Opposition parties, however, have slammed the Socialist government over the report.
Former Democratic Party deputy Ervin Salianji said in a press release that it showed that Albania continues to be “the Colombia of Europe.”
“Edi Rama has made a lot of propaganda in order to present Albania as a country of reforms in an attempt to reach European standards and join the European family, but the truth always comes out. Propaganda cannot always buy the truth. The Rai 3 report confirmed that Albania continues to be the Colombia of Europe and the country is increasingly in the hands of drug traffickers,” Salianji said.