Several of Albania’s online media outlets have reported cyberattacks in the final week of January. They claim the attacks were ordered by Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj after they published a recording of Veliaj’s expletive-laden tirade against the Albanian Football Federation (FShF).
Veliaj has repeatedly called for the FShF’s head, Armand Duka, to be investigated, accusing him of corruption, money laundering and other offences. In the audio recording, released by the FShF on January 23, Veliaj vowed to “control football” and “piss on” the FShF. Amid an escalation of the public row between Veliaj and Duka last week, an explosion was reported at the gates of Duka’s home in the port city of Durres on the evening of January 24.
Media outlets including dosja.al, faktor.al, Lapsi.al, SportExpress and syri.net reported cyberattacks, which they argued had been ordered by Veliaj after published the recording, according to a statement from SafeJournalists Networked, which represents 8,200 media professionals in the Western Balkans.
Veliaj has confirmed the authenticity of the recording, but has not commented on the accusations concerning the cyberattacks.
On January 27, SafeJournalists Networked said it had sought to find out from prosecutors and police if the cyberattacks are being investigated but said they had not received an answer.
“We urge competent authorities to initiate swift and comprehensive investigation about all attacks which took place in the previous few days. It is very important to investigate who is behind these attacks and possibly remove the suspicion that the media is currently directing at Mayor Erion Veliaj,” the statement from SafeJournalists said.
“The digital safety of online media portals and their staff is crucial. It is important for media outlets to report these attacks to the authorities, who on the other hand must ensure proper investigation and transparency. It is also important to develop media outlets’ capacities and infrastructure in terms of digital safety,” said Blerjana Bino, SafeJournalists researcher in Albania.