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Government fines owner of critical TV station 12 million euros over unpaid taxes; "economic harassment", says SEEMO

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an 18 July 2007 letter by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate, to Albanian Parliament Speaker Jozefina Topalli:

H.E. Jozefina Topalli
Speaker of the Albanian Parliament
Bul. "Deshmoret E Kombit" Nr.4
Fax: +355 4 221764

Vienna, 18 July 2007

Your Excellency,

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is alarmed about the recent media freedom situation in Albania, following the escalation of government economic pressure on the media.

According to information before SEEMO, Albanian tax officials have imposed a 12 million euro fine on the holdings of Top Media, owner of Albania's most popular TV station, "Top Channel", for unpaid tax. SEEMO believes that any fine handed down to the media should be proportionate and should not be designed to punish the media, harm its commercial viability or drive it into insolvency.

Albanian media organisations and SEEMO are respectful of the rule of law and believe that the government is using the taxation authorities as an instrument to attack media independence. The fact that the fine is applied against a media organisation, which has criticized the government, leads us to believe that the government is attempting to intimidate the Albanian media.

SEEMO believes that in Albania economic pressure is one of the main ways of undermining the media. With this in mind, SEEMO calls on the government to do everything possible to invalidate the fine. SEEMO also appeals to the government to allow the media to work independently and to create a legal framework for the mass media in Albania.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Oliver Vujovic
SEEMO Secretary General


Send similar appeals to:

H.E. Jozefina Topalli
Speaker of the Albanian Parliament
Bul. "Deshmoret E Kombit" Nr.4
Tirana, Albania
Fax: +355 4 221 764

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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