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Religious conservatives also targeted the progressive Tolo TV, which had been criticized by clerics for airing programs that "oppose Islam and national values." In May, a popular female television presenter who had worked at Tolo was murdered, possibly by family members who did not approve job, and other program hosts received threats or were forced off the air, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Although registration requirements remain in place, authorities have granted more than 250 publications licenses, and several dozen private radio stations and eight television stations are now broadcasting, with the expansion of independent print and broadcast outlets continuing in 2005.
Press freedom advocates in 2006 continued to urge the government to decriminalize defamation, which could incur a maximum sentence of two years in prison under existing statutes.
Although the parliament failed to act on draft amendments introduced in 2005, Prime Minister Sali Berisha in October of that year ordered government officials to use the right of reply rather than civil or criminal defamation suits to address perceived bias or inaccuracy in the media. The prospects for legal reform improved in June, when Albania signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union.
In a high-profile case that was criticized extensively by both local and western groups, Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of the monthly women's rights magazine Haqooq-i-Zan, was ordered arrested by the high court for publishing articles deemed to be "anti-Islamic." Despite the fact that the government-appointed Media Commission cleared him of blasphemy charges, he was sentenced by the high court to two years' imprisonment in October and also faced the threat of a court-issued fatwa that could have increased his sentence.
Nasab was released in December, but the case is considered to have had a chilling effect on press freedom, with an accompanying rise in self-censorship.
Algerian courts are subject to government pressure when adjudicating cases of libel and related offenses.
Free expression was dealt another blow in 2006 as a result of President Abdelaziz Bouteflikas plan for national reconciliation after the civil conflict of the 1990s.
Coverage by state-owned broadcasters had favored the incumbents in the run-up to July 2005 elections, and at least four cases of violence against journalists were reported that year, but the country largely avoided a repeat of such problems in 2006.
However, Berisha and Tirana Mayor Edi Rama, leader of the opposition Socialist Party, agreed in August to add two opposition appointees to the councils membership.
The plan came as part of a deal allowing municipal elections to proceed in early 2007.
Media diversity and freedom is markedly higher in Kabul, and some warlords display limited tolerance for independent media in the areas under their control.
A number of journalists were threatened or harassed by government ministers, politicians, and others in positions of power as a result of their reporting.
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