Gunmen fired shots at the entrance of the private Top Channel television station in Albania in the early hours of March 27, resulting in the death of a security guard, according to a police statement.
It remains unclear what motivated the attackers to target the television station, but representatives of Top Channel said it was an attack on media freedom in the country.
Top Channel TV’s office in the capital Tirana was targeted by the perpetrators who fired multiple rounds at the building's entrance.
A 60-year-old security guard was fatally wounded during the attack. Police identified the guard only by his initials, P. K., but Top Channel named him as Pal Kola, employed by the security company Oktapus.
After the incident, police reportedly a burned-out vehicle and two Kalashnikov automatic rifles around 50 kilometres from the scene of the shooting, according to local media reports. The car had reportedly been stolen in the northern city of Shkoder.
Police said an investigative team has been set up and “intensive work continues” to clarify the circumstances of the event and to identify and arrest the perpetrators.
Top Channel’s statement called the shooting an “unprecedented” act against a national media outlet in Albania.
“Terrorist attacks of this type clearly show how important free speech is and how disturbing it is to undermine democracy,” the statement said.
“Top Channel requests and expects a full clarification of the incident from the law enforcement bodies. Clearing up this act should be a priority for law enforcement bodies, because an employee of Top Channel was killed, but it is also an assassination attempt against the television that has served in transparency and support of the law by contributing information and awareness and strengthening of law institutions for Albanian society.”
Albanian politicians, rights watchdogs and international diplomats also denounced the attack, calling on law enforcers to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“The criminal aggression against TCH [Top Channel], resulting in the loss of life of security personnel, requires a clear response from law enforcement agencies! Condolences to the family of the deceased and the entire TCH community, which deserves everyone's solidarity in this very disturbing moment!” Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Twitter.
Interior Minister Bledi Cuci also condemned the attack, writing on Facebook: “ The incident underscores the ongoing challenges facing media workers in Albania, where journalists have previously been the target of violence and intimidation.”
“Such a blatant attack against media is a blatant attack against democracy. The OSCE Presence joins the calls of the highest state officials for a rapid and full investigation of the incident and expects the perpetrators and the full background to this attack to be identified and brought to justice,” said the OSCE mission in Tirana.
“The EU Delegation to Albania condemns the firearm attack on the premises of Top Channel and expresses its deep condolences to the family and colleagues of Pal Kola, the security guard that was killed in the attack,” said a statement from the delegation posted on Twitter.
“We call on Albanian authorities to conduct a swift and thorough investigation and bring those responsible to justice. Rule of law and media freedom are two fundamental values of democratic societies that must be upheld.”