From: Alice Taylor
Reporters Without Borders Calls on Albanian Authorities to Respect Media Freedom Following Ora News Assets Seizure

Reporters Without Borders has said that judicial proceedings against Ora News owner Ylli Ndroqi should not threaten the editorial line and independence of journalists.

Ndroqi was stopped in his car this week by armed police who then descended upon his TV station. A total of 26 assets have been seized including businesses, property, and vehicles. SPAK claims that Ndroqi is involved in drug trafficking under an alias and that is what funded his business in Albania. Ndroqi’s lawyers have denied the allegations and claims that the seizure is politically motivated.

In a press release issued this morning, RSF Editor in Chief Pauling Ades-Mevel said that “in the run up to next spring’s parliamentary elections, it’s more essential than ever that the authorities respect media pluralism and allow all viewpoints, including the most critical, to be expressed.”

RSF noted that Ora News TV and Channel One, both owned by Ndroqi have “often criticised Prime Minister Edi Rama and Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj”. They added that “these two TV channels are known for their critical tone towards the authorities, but also because the Tirana Mayor has repeatedly tried to get the two media to stop criticizing him.” In May, RSF said that Veliaj had threatened to fire municipality employees related to Ndroqi if he didn’t stop criticising his administration.

Ora News then accused the mayor of providing City News Albania with financial support so they would publish articles smearing Ndroqi. In response to this, Ndroqi filed two cases against Veliaj, including a defamation suit.

RSF noted that questions had been raised over the “disproportionate measures taken against Ora News” in relation to not observing social distancing in its programmes. The stations were ordered to close but after widespread outrage, they were fined instead.

The press release from the international media freedom organisation notes that while Ndroqi is suspected of acquiring his assets with the proceeds of international drug trafficking, this should not impact the editorial line of the channels.