EU Celebrates Media Freedom, Blocks Exit on Twitter

By Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei,
EU Celebrates Media Freedom, Blocks Exit on Twitter

There are few things that so beautifully illustrate the hypocrisy of the European Union than its recently announced EU–Western Balkans Media Days on November 9 and 10, in which “[o]ver 250 representatives of media and media-organisations, stakeholders and policymakers from the Western Balkans and the EU will meet at the media conference in Tirana on 9 and 10 November 2017, dedicated to the important role of media in the accession process.”

From Tirana, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn already gave us a taste of what is to come tomorrow at the official opening:

Freedom of expression is a fundamental value of the EU and as such a cornerstone of the enlargement process, with a strong and independent press as a driver of the democratic transformation. It is a pillar of open and prosperous societies everywhere. […] I am confident that this conference will give a new impetus for strengthening media freedom and establishing a more vibrant, diverse and economically sound media landscape in the region, which is able to cope with the great challenges in the media sector.

Commissioner Hahn will open the EU–Western Balkans Media Days together with Prime Minister Edi Rama, known to be a staunch proponent of free and independent media.

Only recently, Rama openly insulted the media of Albania for the reporting on drug lord and former Minister Saimir Tahiri:

First of all, shame on all of you and everyone like you who still didn’t understand what this is about and continue to scream with those questions without point or meaning.

You still didn’t understand that we are today in simple  conditions, clear for anyone that makes the effort to read 5 lines before they shout.

You still didn’t understand that first of all the immunity of the deputy [Tahiri] has been withdrawn for a long time. We are not in a situation where we discuss whether to remove it or not. Did you understand? No.

Second, you still didn’t understand […] that are part of this big problem, not in this concrete example but in general, where accusations crackle and you convey them like a copper wire and don’t have the duty to think or the responsibility for what you are conveying.

A few days later, Rama advised a group of influential businessmen to refrain from reading Albanian newspapers, because it would “upset” their “digestive systems.”

Rama’s hostility toward the press had already been noticed by international organizations such as Reporters without Borders and the European Federation of Journalists.

He has been supported in this attitude by EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, who has called criticism of the EU Delegation “fake news.”

So what could be a better sign of the EU’s faith in the free and independent press in Albania, its support for independent journalism, and its true belief that criticism grounded in facts and complete transparency of those in power serve the public interest, than blocking Exit on Twitter. Of course, this is the best way to ensure that the media can continue to play an important role in the accession process!

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Note: Initially I had written this article as a satirical piece. However, this confused people thinking that Exit wasn’t really blocked on Twitter. Unfortunately, that was not a joke. I have therefore removed (most of) the sarcasm. – Vincent



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