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Albanian TV ordered to close over studio social distancing

Albanian TV ordered to close over studio social distancing

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — One of Albania's biggest TV stations said Friday it's been ordered to close indefinitely and fined by state health authorities for allegedly not respecting social distancing in its shows.

Private RTV Ora News said the State Health Inspectorate fined it 2 million Albanian leks (16,000 euros) and ordered it to stop broadcasting after two anchormen held shows with three people in the studio , instead of the maximum two people allowed by lockdown rules.

The two anchormen have been critical of Prime Minister Edi Rama and his left-wing Socialist Party.

“They are not closing the business but free speech,” said Ora News top editor Brahim Shima.

The State Health Inspectorate did not respond to phone calls requesting information on the decision. Documents sent to the TV station ordered it to cease activity without specifying when and for how long. It is not clear how such a decision might be enforced.

The media outlet has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Opposition parties condemned the decision, citing free speech concerns.

President Ilir Meta, a former leader of a small opposition party, said he was “deeply concerned.”

Health authorities have been granted enhanced powers during the pandemic after the country declared a state of natural calamity until June 23. Albania set strict rules after shutting down its borders and local businesses and amended its penal code for violators of those rules.

Albania has registered 31 deaths and 900 confirmed infections so far.

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