April 13. 2024. 6:28

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Albanian police put up €100,000 reward over TV station shooting

Albanian authorities have put up a €100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators of the murder of a security guard at the premises of the country’s largest television station, Top Channel, on Monday.

Pal Kola was shot and killed by a barrage of bullets from at least one AK-47 early Monday morning. The perpetrators are believed to have left the scene, set fire to the vehicle with the weapons inside, and gone on the run.

“The State Police invites citizens to provide information about the perpetrators of this serious event and offers a reward of €100,000 for any valuable information that will lead to the identification of the perpetrators”, the police notice states, adding that a dedicated tip line has been set up.

The police announced they believed there were three suspects; one driver and two gunmen.

According to CCTV from the surrounding area, the perpetrators attacked before heading towards Durres, the country’s second-largest city located on the Adriatic coast. At the scene were found 56 cartridges as well as debris from other kinds of ammunition. The vehicle, police said, a brown Range Rover, was stolen from a Kosovar citizen on holiday in the country.

Following the attack, Top Channel released a statement, calling it a “terrorist attack”.

“Top Channel expresses the clarity that this unprecedented terrorist act was carried out to damage and attack the mission of free media and the power of free speech….Terrorist attacks of this type clearly show how important free speech is and how disturbing it is to undermine democracy.”`

The statement continues, “Top Channel, its shareholders and family members, managers, journalists and authors, have not and have never been the target of any individual attack since its establishment. Everything in this terrorist act is related and has only to do with Top Channel’s mission.”

There is currently no publicly available information on the motives of the gunmen or the reason for the attack.

Following the condemnations of the murder by politicians and local and international press organisations, the EU delegation in Tirana also joined the call for justice.

“We call on Albanian authorities to conduct a swift and thorough investigation and bring those responsible to justice. The rule of law and media freedom are two fundamental values of democratic societies that must be upheld,” they tweeted while also expressing their condolences to Kola’s family.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Teresa Ribeiro, also spoke of her horror.

“I am horrified by today’s gun attack on @topchanneltv in #Albania. My heartfelt condolences go to the family & colleagues of Pal Kola, the TV’s security guard who was killed in this odious attack. I trust the authorities to quickly identify & prosecute all those responsible.”

Top Channel was founded in 2001 and consists of radio, tv, and online media, as well as having cinemas, a telecoms company, and even a coffee brand. It is broadcast around Europe and North America, serving the extensive Albanian diaspora.

While being the most-watched station in the country, Top Channel has been accused of blackmailing the government with negative coverage and censorship.

Albania has declined significantly in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index in recent years, with issues such as a lack of plurality in media ownership, poor working conditions, and political pressure consistently highlighted as problematic.

In an interview on Top Channel on Tuesday evening, Rama said that the media in Albania has never been freer.

“The freedom of the media in Albania has never been in the situation it is today in the positive aspect, never before has the media had the freedom to say whatever it wants and to express any point of view, even in one aspect to abuse its freedom as a whole,” he said.

“I tell the individuals who are part of this institution to continue their mission proudly,” he added.

(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)