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June 23, 2010 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Top Channel ordered to pay ex-minister record damages of 400,000 euros


Reporters Without Borders condemns last week’s decision by a Tirana court ordering Albania's Top Channel TV to pay 400,000 euros in damages to the former minister of culture, tourism, youth and sport, Ylli Pango, for broadcasting a video on 4 March that showed the then minister asking a young female job applicant to take her clothes off. Broadcast by the investigative programme Fiks-Tarif, the video was recorded when young women journalists were sent with hidden cameras to investigate allegations that Pango was requesting sexual favours in return for the possibility of employment (watch the Top Channel video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8B3QXABuf0&feature=related). “We are stunned by the court’s ruling and by the unprecedented damages award,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Blatant abuse of authority by a government minister is a subject of public interest and the press must be free to cover it. Top Channel’s decision to broadcast this video was totally justified and perfectly legitimate.” The press freedom organisation added: “This decision is unacceptable and constitutes a serious violation of media freedom. We hope the judicial system will demonstrate its real independence by quashing this unjustified damages award and dismissing the case.” Top Channel news editor Bledar Zaganjori told Reporters Without Borders: “We do not understand this decision. We showed that a government official was behaving in a completely unacceptable manner. Such practices should be exposed and condemned, whether in the private sector or, even more so, when senior positions are held in the public sector.” Zaganjori added: “The minister did fortunately resign but, to our knowledge, he has not been questioned by the judicial authorities about this matter although what he did is very serious. At the same time, the judicial system has not hesitated to sentence us to pay a totally disproportionate amount of damages. This is a first for Albania.”