Albanian mobile phone users have unexpectedly received a recorded message from the Prime Minister, advising them on how to protect themselves from the coronavirus - and the media.
"Wash your hands, don't move from your house for pleasure, open windows as much as you can, protect yourself from the media," the message from Edi Rama said.
Albania reported its first death from coronavirus on Wednesday, an elderly patient who was being treated for pneumonia for the last five days after returning home from Italy.
"The 73-old-patient, a confirmed case of COVID-19, passed away a few minutes ago as result of complications from cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases," the Health Ministry said in a statement.
A passenger being checked at Tirana airport amid fears of the spread of the coronavirus, on February 24 2020. Photo: LSA
Prosecutors said they suspected fearful messages were being spread mainly through WhattsApp.
The prosecutor's announcement on Monday followed an eruption of coronavirus cases in nearby Italy, a country with which Albania has multiple links.
Un-exposed, a hard-hitting TV talk show that featured Albania's four leading journalists, was also shut down after criticizing Rama. A number of other TV talk shows, newspapers, and online platforms critical of Rama are under attack from the government. With little legal recourse, these shows are in the process of shutting down.