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Newspaper's eviction seen as sign of growing political pressure exerted by government against critical voices in media

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a press release by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate:

SEEMO concerned over eviction of Albanian newspaper TemA from its premises

Vienna, 20 January 2009

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute, is deeply concerned about the recent eviction of the Albanian newspaper TemA from its premises by the Minister of Economical Affairs, Genc Ruli.

According to information received by SEEMO, the Minister of Economical Affairs cancelled unilaterally and without any further notice the newspaper's 20-year-old contract for the premises. An unexpected police siege followed and the staff of the newspaper was evicted from their offices. The police gave no official explanation, alleging only that the orders came from Prime Minister Sali Berisha. A lawsuit issued by TemA followed and the Court of Tirana decided in favour of the newspaper on 6 January. However, neither the Minister of Economical Affairs nor the Prime Minister has responded to the Court of Tirana's decision so far.

The eviction of TemA, which has frequently criticized official corruption, is regarded by many as a sign of the growing political pressure exerted by the Berisha government against critical voices in the media. This pressure by the authorities has led to increased self-censorship in Albania.

SEEMO strongly condemns such actions carried out by the authorities against critical media, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. The media is one of the key pillars of a democratic society. Journalists should therefore be able to express themselves freely and carry out their jobs without State interference. We urge the Albanian government to investigate this matter and demonstrate its commitment to the protection of press freedom in Albania.

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