A businessman with close ties with Prime Minister Sali Berisha viciously assaulted publisher and journalist Mero Baze on Monday evening in Tirana, following a series of reports accusing the businessman of tax evasion.
According to witnesses present in the Capriccio Bar in the center of Tirana's upscale Bllok neighborhood, Rezart Taci and his bodyguards attacked the journalist, kicking and beating him for roughly four minutes, leaving him unconscious.
Present during the assault were also two other journalist; political commentator Andi Bushati and the editor-in-chief of Vizion Plus TV Arban Hasani, who later testified on the assault on the journalist.
Baze recovered in Tirana's military hospital on Monday evening and was released on the early hours of Tuesday. He had ran a series of critical reports on his TV Show, Faktor Plus, on Vizion Plus TV accusing Rezart Taci and his company, the ARMO oil refinery of massive tax evasion.
Apart from the TV show, Baze also publishes the Tirana daily TEMA, a publication very critical of the
Rezart Taci is known as one of the Tirana businessman in Prime Minister Berisha's inner circle. His other company, Taci Oil International has spent millions of euros organising charity football matches, with the proceeds donated to a children's charity ran by the wife of Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
In a statement on Tuesday Albanian police announced that they had arrested two of the businessman's bodyguards and Rezart Taci himself was wanted for questioning. Taci had earlier denied that he had participated in the attack.
Albania's Union of Journalist strongly condemned the assault against Baze and called on authorities to bring the culprits to justice.
“This acts proves that the Albanian journalist is threatened in every moment by brutality and criminal violence,” said the union in a statement. “The fact that similars attacks are repeated, especially toward this colleague, speaks of the growth in aggression by people with economic power,” the union added.
Monday's assault is not the first against the journalist. Just last February, a local daily close to Prime Minister Sali Berisha, called for his murder.
In graphic detail, the article called for the assassination of Baze, whose own newspaper is attacking or being attacked by Berisha on a daily basis.
“In order to open his head, Mero should be put with his shoulders against the wall. A thick knife should be snapped on his throat, without any anesthesia, so he does not fall asleep and can see everything for himself,” read the article published in Koha Jone.
“The crushing of the skull can be done in several ways, bashing against the wall, with a hammer, blowing it up or sawing through it.”
Baze's Tema newspaper has focused on investigative reporting, many of its stories attacking officials for alleged graft and corruption. On 8 January, police evicted the newspaper from its offices in a government building, despite a court order blocking the eviction.
The publisher's luxury BMW went also up in flames on last New Year’s Eve in what Baze said was an attack, but which police described as self-combustion due to a short circuit.
Note: If you are Albanian you know that violence is our main key. =]