SafeJournalists Network has been informed about the personal data breach of Edmond Hoxhaj, a journalist at the BIRN Network Albania and Reporter.al and his wife. At midnight on April 23, 2022, Edmond and his wife accidentally discovered in their accounts on the e-Albania portal (e-services portal) that a notary named Agron Bajri had generated their family certificate on April 14 and a few minutes later had generated a receipt for the payment of his wife’s contributions. Edmond and his wife do not personally know this notary and have not authorized him to generate personal documents. So, Mr. Bajri has performed these actions without the consent and without the knowledge of BIRN journalist and his wife. Edmond stated for SafeJournalists Network that “We have not had any previous contact or acquaintance with this person, neither me nor my wife, nor have we asked him to do so”.
Edmond Hoxhaj has covered the public hearing sessions of the vetting process of Mrs Elizabeta Imeraj, Head of Tirana Prosecution Office from March 30 to April 12 and has heard of Agron Bajri during these sessions being the former husband of Mrs Imeraj. After conducting a verification with internet search tools, Edmond found that Imeraj’s ex-husband was a notary and his name was Agron Bajri.
Asked by SafeJournalists Network in Albania, Edmond stated that he thinks that Mr Bajri has generated his and his wife personal data due to the work Edmond is doing in reporting on the high level case of the vetting process of Mrs Imeraj. He also said that “Despite this situation, I am continuing, and I know I continue my work practicing the profession of journalist”.
SafeJournalists representative in Albania Blerjana Bino said that condemnation of this case must be very vocal by journalists and that relevant institutions must take necessary measures. “Digital safety of journalists and particularly of investigative journalists is very precarious in Albania. The case of Mr Edmond Hoxhaj must be seen as a wake up call for all stakeholders to work more on ensuring safety of journalists in Albania particularly considering the rapid digitalization of public services and centralization of personal data on the e-albania platform”.
Edmond has reported this situation to the Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection, to whom he addressed a complaint for violation of personal data. He also referred the case to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Tirana Judicial District to assess whether or not Mr. Bajri’s actions constitute a criminal offense.
Safe Journalists is concerned about the breach of personal data of a journalist and the breach of safety to him and his wife. We require the Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection to investigate the case and make full transparency about the case properly and swiftly. We also expect the Prosecutor’s Office of the Tirana Judicial District to do an investigation and ensure that this does not become a precedent that public notary or anyone can breach personal data and use them as intimidation or pressure tools.
Each attack on journalists is an attack on public interest, democracy and rights of all citizens.
Pristina – Skopje – Sarajevo – Zagreb – Belgrade – Podgorica – Tirana, April 30, 2022
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