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Independent editor attacked following critical reports

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, November 4, 2009 - Assailants badly beat Mero Baze, chief editor of the independent Albanian daily Tema and host of the prime-time television show "Faktor Plus," at a bar in the capital, Tirana, on Monday, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attack and calls on authorities to bring the assailants to justice.

Baze lost consciousness after the attack and was hospitalized overnight, according to press reports. He was released Tuesday morning.

Balkan Insight, the online publication of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), said the attack on Baze was witnessed by bar patrons, including two colleagues who were sitting with the editor. Citing local press reports, Balkan Insight reported that local businessman Rezart Taci and his four bodyguards beat the journalist and then left the bar. In a statement to local news outlets, Taci said he was present during the attack but was not involved.

Besar Likmeta, BIRN-Albania editor, told CPJ that Baze had produced a series of reports accusing the businessman of tax evasion and criticizing authorities for not acting against him. Baze also discussed the allegations on "Faktor Plus," which airs on the independent broadcaster Vision Plus. An e-mail sent by CPJ on Wednesday to two of the businessman's companies, Taci Oil International and ARMO Refining and Marketing, seeking comment on the tax accusations and further comment on the assault did not generate an immediate response.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Sali Berisha condemned the attack and called on police to bring the assailants to justice. Police announced that they had detained two suspects, Likmeta told CPJ.

"We welcome Prime Minister Sali Berisha's condemnation of this brazen attack on our colleague Mero Baze," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "We trust the police will heed his call to bring the attackers to justice. The authorities need to send a clear signal that violence against reporters will not be tolerated."

This is not the first time Baze has been attacked for his journalism, CPJ research shows. In January, Tirana police barred Tema staffers from entering their newsroom following a December 2008 government decision to evict the daily from its offices in a state-owned building. Tema later relocated its offices.

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