Police escort journalists over fake earthquake news

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 23, 2019 15:25

Police escort journalists over fake earthquake news

Story Highlights

  • The stories that broke out on Sunday on the SYRI.net portal and then on some other portals, saying that “according to forecasts by a Greek seismologist, there will be a powerful earthquake at 11.30 pm,” caused great panic among citizens who abandoned their homes and took to the streets, causing traffic and overall chaos.

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TIRANA, Sept. 23 – Albanian police escorted on Monday journalists Aurel Rakipllari of SYRI.net and Daniela Grica of “Shekulli” for questioning, after the latter published stories warning a powerful earthquake at 11:30pm on Sunday.

The stories that broke out on Sunday on the SYRI.net portal and then on some other portals, saying that “according to forecasts by a Greek seismologist, there will be a powerful earthquake at 11.30 pm,” caused great panic among citizens who abandoned their homes and took to the streets, causing traffic and overall chaos. 

Police said they are setting up “a special investigative team to fully unravel the authorship of this malicious news that created fear and panic among citizens.”

The news of a powerful earthquake spread rapidly after 10pm, while another 4.4 magnitude Richetr with epicenter near Durres, 20 kilometers northwest of Tirana, had just been recorded.  

The original story published on SYRI.net had a headline calling for people to leave their homes as soon as possible. 

Some of Tirana’s main squares became overly crowded, while many left the apartments, staying in the streets. 

Within minutes the traffic was blocked, as a large part of the citizens chose to leave the capital by car.

The Ministry of Defense responded talking about fake news.  

“We urge all citizens not to fall prey to such malicious and widespread panic announcements as there is no such scientific prediction by any scientific institution.  Everything that is being attempted to spread panic among the citizens is criminal. All those who spread this news will be held criminally responsible, ”the Ministry of Defense said in a response.

Later, shortly after 11:30 pm, Defense Minister Olta Xhacka came out to a press conference with a local seismology expert, who strongly emphasizing the fact that those were fake news “to create panic and insecurity”. 

She further warned that “anyone who has spread this false news has committed a serious criminal offense which is punishable by the Criminal Code.  We will not leave a stone unturned until we find the author of this news, who will do jail time.” 

Meanwhile, on Facebook, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that “any news or word spread to sow panic about the happening of the earthquake is part of an unprecedented human wickedness that must be despised by the law and condemned by the law.”

Since the powerful Saturday afternoon earthquake, more than 350 other aftershocks have been recorded, including two more severe shocks, the first shortly after midnight on Saturday and the second last night.  According to the latest balance sheet released by the authorities, in total there are more than 900 houses and buildings that have suffered damage.  

“The vast majority of these cases are minor damages, mainly cracking of plaster or walls.  However, those buildings that are already identified with more serious damages will be prioritized by experts, who will also give a technical verification act that determines whether they are habitable or not, ”said Xhacka.

The panic and fears caused by the earthquake on Saturday forced the Ministry of Education to announce Monday as a day-off for elementary and high schools in the districts of Tirana, Durres and Elbasan,” while the same decision was taken for kindergartens. 

Xhacka announced that parents who work in public administration can also stay close to their children. 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 23, 2019 15:25