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Albania4 September 2008

TV station fined for broadcasting NGO’s spot satirising government message

Reporters Without Borders condemns a decision by the National Council for Television and Radio (NCTR) to impose a fine of 8 million lecks (7,000 euros) on News 24 TV on 2 September for broadcasting an NGO’s spot satirising a government TV message about corruption. The NCTR issued a warning to another station, Vizion+ TV, for broadcasting the same spot.

Produced by the non-governmental organisation G99, the spot makes fun of a message by Prime Minister Sali Berisha that has been broadcast on most of Albania’s TV stations in recent weeks. In his message, Berisha boasts of the success of his government’s anti-corruption campaign and invites Albanians to call him directly on his mobile phone to report cases of corruption.

“We urge the NCTR to rescind its decision, which violates News 24 TV’s editorial freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The station is free to choose to broadcast any type of programme, including those of a satirical nature.”

The NCTR said its decision was based on article 55 of the radio and TV law, which bans the broadcast media from broadcasting electoral messages when no election campaign is officially under way. However, the article concerns only political parties and government bodies.

“Article 55 is not applicable to this case, because G99 is a human rights NGO, not a political party,” Reporters Without Borders added. “It is moreover bizarre that the NCTR should sanction News 24 TV for broadcasting a ‘political’ spot outside of an election campaign when the government is doing precisely this on almost all of the national TV stations.”

Calling the fine a violation of free expression, the head of G99, Erjon Veliaj, said the NCTR lacked the necessary independence and was controlled by the government.

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