Albanian government orders sudden shutdown of private TV Channel
The AEJ protests in the strongest terms against the arbitrary and discriminatory Albanian government order to shut down Ora NewsTV because of alleged violations of social distancing rules during the Covid-19 public health emergency.
On 14 May Albania’s National Health Inspectorate demanded the shutdown of the private channel Ora RTV and the government ordered the interruption of its transmissions. The reason given was that the station had violated official social distancing rules which permit only one guest at a time to be present in TV studios. Ora RTV was also ordered to pay fines amounting to about 30,000 euros. Ora RTV’s news director Brahim Shima said the shutdown was ordered for political reasons, because studio guests had spoken critically about the government’s actions. The station’s management described the abrupt closure order and heavy fines as disproportionate and an attack on media freedom by the Albanian authorities. Mr Shima stated that official health inspectors had based their assessment on watching recordings of the programmes in question and had not conducted any on-the-ground inspection. The harsh penalty is seen as discriminatory because no action has been taken against pro-government media which are believed to use similar procedures in response to the social distancing rules.
The AEJ urges European institutions including the European Union and the OSCE to make representations to the government in Tirana without delay against these arbitrary and excessive penalties targeting one of Albania’s leading independent and critical media outlets.
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