Government Threat to ORA News Reported by Council of Europe Media Freedom Platform

The Council of Europe has highlighted recent government action against Ora News, categorising it as “having chilling effects on media freedom”.

On its ‘Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists’ it defines the act as a threat from the state. The platform reports:

“On 14 May 2020 the National Health Inspectorate (ISHSH) fined private TV channel RTV Ora News 1,000,000 Albanian Leke (approx. €8,000) for violating social distancing rules over the allegation that anchor and journalist Artur Zheji had invited three guests to Monday evening’s primetime programme “360°” instead of one guest allowed under the rules. On 15 May 2020 RTV was notified another fine of 1,000,000 Leke on the same grounds as anchor and journalist Sonila Meco had invited two guests to the programme “Tempora”. RTV has 30 days to appeal the decisions.

In addition to the fines, the ISHSH recommended that RTV transmissions be suspended, a recommendation rejected by Albania’s Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) in a 15 May 2020 statement. Health authorities have been granted enhanced powers under emergency legislation in force until 23 June 2020.

Media freedom organisations have disapproved the measures as an attempt to restrict the work of a TV channel whose output has shown criticism of Prime Minister Edi Rama and the government.”

The ISHSH withdrew the decision to fine Ora as the broadcaster had “corrected any violations of the rules”.