'Televisions critical to Albanian government are fined'

'Televisions critical to Albanian government are fined'
 Tax inspectors of the General Tax Directorate issued two heavy fines for both Albanian televisions, which had a critical attitude towards the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Ora News television was fined 50 million ALL (437 thousand euros) while Focus Media, the company owned by News 24 television, was sanctioned with 20 million ALL, (173,000 euros).

The press office of the Hysenbelliu company group, which owns Focus Media, told BIRN in a written reflection that the fine was part of a fine campaign of various government offices targeting this media, due to its stance critical of the government.

"The 20 million new fine that taxes have imposed on News24 television is just the tip of the iceberg of a 9 -month campaign that government agencies like IKMT, the Directorate of Taxes and Customs have undertaken to all Hysenbelliu Group companies, owner of News24 media , BalkanWeb and Panorama,” said the Albanian oligarch with investments in media, construction, tourism, and the food industry.

"Taxes and customs have exercised selective controls over the last 9 months at Tirana Beer and Beer Korça, where about 6 million euros have been fined in these two companies," the company added while stressing "that over 30 years in business activities, companies and companies Hysenbelliu Group has not been fined even with 0.1% of the value of these fines received in the last 9 months.

Hysenbelliu Group directly accused Prime Minister Edi Rama of being responsible and ordering fines.

"It is clear that this campaign of historical fines, with a staggering value of over 17 million euros by government agencies, has been undertaken by direct order of Prime Minister Rama, in retaliation for News24 media editorial lines, Balkanweb and Panorama," the statement concluded.

Even the Director of Information on Ora News television, Brahim Shima, was similarly critical of the taxes received from TV to television that are under a court decision and are administered by the state.

Shima stated that the fine was another attempt to close this television channel while underlining that the company was under state administration while it is supposed to have carried out tax evasion.

"This fine simply aims to close us, close a space to do our work independently," Shima said.

The Media and Information Agency (MIA) refused to answer BIRN specific questions on allegations that the government is targeting the critical media for their critical attitudes against its policies.

"The Albanian government shows the utmost respect for the media and journalists, as well as the task they perform, but at the same time we emphasize that its mission is the meticulous implementation of the law, which is equal to all and this is a universal principle," said MIA in an answer by email.
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