TIRANA, March 7 – The Albanian government refused to renew the residence permit of UK journalist Alice Elizabeth Taylor, blogger at the Balkanista and contributor to Exit and Malta-based The Shift.
Taylor reported on her Twitter that the Immigration Office had cancelled the process to renew her residency permit.
Further on, following on her own Twitter thread, Taylor added she is now in Albania “illegally and required to leave, despite having a medical certificate saying I can’t travel due to complications that may arise from being almost six months pregnant. With an Albanian child.”
Taylor’s sudden permit withdrawal comes at a time when a campaign of government-allied media tried to paint her as a “Russian spy” after an interview in which Taylor was critical of the Albanian, Socialist-led government.
Ironically, Taylor’s past reviews praising the Albanian nature, hospitality and culture were often cited by hundreds of Albanians, including here Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Taylor has been living in Albania with her albanian partner for more than a year. After writing about the bureaucratic process it took to renew her residency permit, she was told to go and acquire her permit – however, due to her high-risk pregnancy, it was her partner who went to the migration office and was told that it was actually denied with “orders from above.”
Despite asking for a letter stating the official reasons behind this decision, the document was not issued on the same day.
Furthermore, the officers told her partner that she needed to exit Albania, enter again, and re-apply for a new permit, after preparing all the required documents once again, some of which take a long time because of her residency history in several countries, as reported by Exit.
The most possible reason behind Taylor’s permit denial – which the officers said she’ll probably not get even if she reapplies, but that she should still give it a chance – is the direct attack that the freedom of press is suffering in Tirana, and a retaliation against one of the most independent and active journalists in Tirana, who has supported national anti-govt causes such as the building of a new National Theatre and the student protests that took place last December.
Media freedom has been receiving many blows from the Socialist government, with four international organizations dealing with freedom of speech calling on Rama to drop amendment of two draft laws that foresee registration, surveillance, fining and banning internet media portals, introduced by Rama under his “anti-slander” package, back in December.
In an open letter to Rama and Minister of Justice Etilda Gjonaj, the European Federation of Journalists, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Reporters Without Borders and PEN International asked the government “to immediately drop the initiative to amend the two draft laws in question and to involve journalists, civil society organisations, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the European Union and Council of Europe in any initiative concerning the right to freedom of expression of media and journalists.”
Specifically, the organizations claimed the initiative is “against best practices and goes against the recommendations of the OSCE, which raises our deepest concern.”