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Alleged political pressure at public broadcaster Radio Televizioni Shqiptar

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 28 April 2010 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East and Central Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is alarmed by the sudden dismissal of Diana Kalaja, deputy director-general of the public broadcaster Radio Televizioni Shqiptar - RTSH (Albanian Radio and Television).

According to information received by SEEMO, on 9 March 2010, the steering committee of RTSH organised a meeting and decided to "free" Kalaja from her position as deputy director-general without advance notice. No explanation was given for the decision and there was no prior communication with Kalaja, who had not been invited to the meeting. A new deputy director-general was appointed during the same meeting.

Over the past weeks, several groups have expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of RTSH's reporting, which they allege is pro-government.

The official notification of Kalaja's dismissal was made two days after the news was published in the printed press.

Despite Kalaja's attempts to contact the steering committee asking for a clarification of the decision, her efforts remain unanswered and ignored to date. The European Broadcasting Union added its support to Kalaja last month, calling the media executive an "efficient, intelligent and professional partner."

Commenting on the dismissal, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said, "It is remarkable that suddenly, and without advance notice, Kalaja has been dismissed from her position and that her efforts to seek clarification from the steering committee remain ignored."

Vujovic added, "In the past, SEEMO has reported on the pressures exerted on public broadcasters, and this appears to be another example of the political interference and huge financial and economic pressures on the public broadcasting sector in Albania and its executives."

"SEEMO urges the political powers in Albania to refrain from pressuring the country's public broadcasters. We further urge them to support and foster an independent and professional public broadcasting system, and to fully investigate Kalaja's case. SEEMO will continue to carefully monitor the public broadcasting situation in Albania."

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