Albania: Seizure threatens independence of two Albanian TV channels
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Albanian authorities not to interfere in the editorial line of two TV channels, Ora News TV and Channel One, which have been seized as part of a judicial investigation into their owner, the businessman Ylli Ndroqi.
The two TV channels, which have often criticized Prime Minister Edi Rama and Tirana mayor Erion Velia, were among a total of 26 of Ndroqi’s assets whose seizure was ordered by a special court on 3 August at the request of the special prosecutor’s office for corruption and organized crime. Ndroqi is suspected of acquiring these assets with the proceeds from international drug trafficking. The interior ministry has been put in charge of administering the two TV channels and conducting an inventory of their premises in the presence of police and state officials.
These two TV channels are known for their critical tone towards the authorities, but also because the Tirana’s mayor has repeatedly tried to get the two media to stop criticizing him. In May, Ora News reported that he had threatened to fire city hall employees close to Ndroqi if the two TV channels continued to criticize his administration. Ora News also accused the mayor of providing the City News Albania website with financial support so that it would publish articles smearing Ndroqi. In response to the mayor’s repeated attacks and harassment, the businessman brought two complaints against him, including a defamation suit.
Questions have also been raised about the disproportionate measures taken against Ora News for failing to respect social distancing in its programmes, which were criticized by the TV channel’s journalists as a violation of their freedom of expression. The national health authorities slapped large fines on Ora News and ordered its closure for an unspecified period.
“Judicial proceedings against the owner of media outlets should not threaten the editorial line and independence of the journalists,” RSF editor-in-chief Pauline Adès-Mével said. “In the run-up to next spring’s parliamentary elections, it is more essential than ever that the authorities respect media pluralism and allow all viewpoints, including the most critical, to be expressed.”
Albania is ranked 84th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.