Censorship and blackmail accusations rock Albania’s top TV channel
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A stranger on the Facebook page of Top Channel’s Top Story show sent shockwaves through Albania on Thursday after claiming that TV station bosses had canceled the airing of a major documentary titled “The oligarchs of the urban renaissance”.
“This #investigation shines a light on abuse and corruption in downtown reconstructions over the past eight years,” the anonymous statement read.
“The Top Story staff have been under pressure from the directors, from the way themes were handled to the show’s director being fired,” he adds.
Shortly after, Top Channel released a statement naming former director Endrit Habilaj as the author of the Facebook post and accusing him of blackmail. The channel called the statement defamatory and said Habilaj was fired for breach of ethics.
“Our legal team is preparing the documents and will forward them to the authorities to determine the legal responsibilities and the damage that the individuals have caused to the company by using the profession and the show as a tool for extortion and threats, also abusing the foreign donations,” said the statement read.
He claimed the doc was fired for breach of ethics.
“When the council analyzed the documents and observed serious ethical and professional shortcomings, it decided not to broadcast this extortion, made on behalf of two people who formerly worked for Top Channel but not in the interest of truth,” adds the press release.
Habilaj, who anchored the show for four years, responded by accusing Top Channel CEO and owner Vjollca Hoxha of a list of extortion campaigns against other businessmen and state officials. .
He denied being the author of the statement on the show’s Facebook page and dismissed claims that the canceled show was an act of blackmail.
“‘Oligars of the Urban Resonance’ was not produced by me but by Esmeralda Keta, winner of two European awards [on Investigative Journalism]said Habilaj.
“This show was produced as part of an EU-funded project,” he added, listing several acts of alleged blackmail by the owner of the Hoxha channel.
Habilaj is also an entrepreneur who owns two companies whose reported activities are media production, marketing and media buying.
A number of businessmen in Albania have been dubbed “oligarchs” in reference to their alleged influence over Prime Minister Edi Rama’s government.
Rama claimed that these “oligarchs” did not exist and accused the media of using their own influence on public opinion to extort money from corporations.