AEJ renews protest against heavy fines and “improper pressures” on critical Albanian TV channel
The AEJ has protested against summary fines and a government Health Ministry move to shut down RTV Ora TV channel for alleged violation of social distancing rules. The AEJ called the moves “improper pressures” and a bad precedent for the defence of media freedom.
On 14 May Albania’s State Health Inspectorate (ISHSH) announced fines totalling about 25,000 euros (3 million Albanian leks) on the private TV chancel RTV Ora News and recommended the suspension of the channel’s transmissions, after alleging that it had breached current social distancing rules for guests in its studios. After an outcry of protests the country’s Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) rejected the recommendation to close down RTV Ora television. But the AEJ regards the fines, which are mandatory, as excessive and as an attempt to silence or chill the work of a TV channel whose output has been critical of the government. The international AEJ supports this statement by AEJ Albania: –
“Penalties against “Ora News Television” are an open violation of media freedom
The Association of European Journalists Albanian section expresses deep concern about the fines and administrative measures that state institutions have applied to “RTV Ora” television.
The imposition of maximum fines and the proposal to close down the station’s output are arbitrary actions that go beyond the proper authority of the State Health Inspectorate and create a negative precedent for media freedom and for Albania’s fragile democracy.
The procedure followed by the State Health Inspectorate (ISHSH) demonstrates a bias and implementation of criteria that are not related to the prevention of the spread of pandemics.
In this time when Albania’s economy is going through an extremely difficult period, with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) predicting a decline of 9 percent in the country’s GDP this year, the Government has not only not taken any mitigating measures, but on the contrary is openly attacking violating the economic viability of the media by imposing arbitrary and excessive fines.
We recall that Albania currently holds the OSCE presidency and that such measures are very harmful for the country’s reputation and image. Meanwhile, the latest international surveys and reports have raised fresh alarms that media freedom in the country is deteriorating from year to year.
The Association of European Journalists of Albania estimates that the request for the closure of “RTV Ora” is an extreme act and an alarm for the violation of the basic principles of democracy and freedom of speech. Imposing maximum fines in the situation in which the media facing huge economic problems due to the pandemic is a very wrong practice and an open form of pressure. An appeal also goes to the majority in parliament to stop its battle with the media and free speech. We urge the Government to step back and not to oppress or seek to silence the voices of free, independent and diverse media.”
Gazetar ne Radio Televizionin SCAN
Rr. Aleksander Moisiu (Ish kinostudio), Tirane
Head of the Association of European Journalists Albania Section