Albanian Authorities to Shut Down TV Channel for Alleged Violation of Social Distancing Orders

Albania’s National Health Inspectorate (IShSh) has demanded the shutdown of Ora Radio and Television’s (Ora RTV) due to their alleged violation of government instructions allowing only one guest in TV shows.

The news was made public by Ora RTV, which also published copies of two fines and shut down decision.

On May 11, the IShSh fined the broadcaster 8,500 euros for having three guests in journalist Artur Zheji’s “360 degrees” political show, instead of one allowed by the government.

On May 14, the same fine went to journalist Sonila Meço’s “Tempora” show because she had invited two guests the previous day.

On the same day, May 14, the government agency demanded the shutting down of the channel’s activity, ordering the interruption of its broadcast signal.

“The closure of the television happened because people were allowed to speak out in the studio. [The closure] was done intentionally,” said Brahim Shima, Ora RTV’s news director.

He added that no government institution had conducted any inspections in the premises of the television before imposing fines and issuing a closure order. Shima claimed IShSh has based their decisions on screenshots and videos from shows, without actually inspecting Ora RTV’s compliance with government measures on the ground. 

Shutting down a television channel is an extreme act that can only be justified in cases of criminal activity.

The disproportional nature of fines and shutdown order makes this a direct attack by the Albanian government on media freedom and freedom of expression.

The latest decision comes amidst growing government attacks on journalists and the media, and follows the dangerous precedent of shutting down Agon Television a few years ago.