Albanian Media Remains Politically Constrained
Former PM Intimidates Investigative Journalism
The fact that media in Albania is not free or partly-free, is confirmed in almost all international surveys; it surely ranks very low in the world index.
With the establishment of political pluralism at the beginning of the 90s, for the first time in 50 years of communist dictatorship, the free press flourished and it seemed Albanian media was doing quite well. There were a couple of newspapers that put themselves in the avant-garde, addressing critical and true-to-life issues, mostly reflecting the democratic spirit and core problems.
Everyone recalls nostalgically “Koha Jone” newspaper, the first one to oppose the policy of the DP government in power during its second mandate of 1996, proceeding the popular riots of 1997. Being very critical against the President of that time and his government, the newspaper paid a dear price; its building was burned during the riots. Most alleged that it was political punishment. Some courageous journalists were even put to prison. Later the same thing happened to “Tema” newspaper, not to mention the heavy penalties that Top Channel had to pay, due to their criticism against Berisha’s government.
With the passing of years, under strong political pressure, the Albanian media has regressed and is divided in two main fronts, left or right, shifting from one side to the other, respective to who governs the country. It is very difficult today to decide what to read or who to refer to as absolute truth. The print media serves mostly the position or opposition. Luckily, with the widespread reach of the internet, there are a few online Albanian media outlets that still remain neutral.
Regarding the current political situation in Albania and how it is reflected in our media, there is no lack of verbal clashes among various journalists and the actual prime minister, Rama, who, if attacked, insults and intimidates without hesitation.
Consider yesterday’s talk show, “Open Studio” in News24 TV.
The well-known investigative journalist, Artan Hoxha, for whom I dedicated an article “How Mafia is going to kill me”, a month ago, was part of the panel in the program, to discuss the new Sea Agreement with Greece. At one point, the former Albanian President and Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, whose viewpoint on the issue is different and considered by many as to the country’s detriment, intervened telephonically during the talk show. Now it is clear that the new Sea Agreement stigmatizes his political history, hence his brutal interference. Soon after that, the discussion degenerated completely. Berisha’s language always aims at intimidating everyone who opposes him. Yesterday he reached the limit, throwing accusations towards the journalist, as a “murderer” and “connected to crime”. Artan Hoxha has always been very critical with him, investigating him and his family’s corrupt affairs. The program’s moderator, a well-known female journalist, was not capable to handle the talks and keep to the topic, which turned into reciprocal accusations, leaving a bitter taste regarding the current way of conducting journalism in Albania. She tried to negotiate between them, behaving as both accusations were relative, instead of interrupting the phone hysteria of the former Democratic leader.
In fact, this is not the first time it has happened; no one has ever interrupted the vulgar aggressive language of the former PM on TV.
According to analysts, in many cases where Berisha is part of talk shows, his counterparts are not invited, so his opinions are not contradicted. He goes only on those TV political programs where he remains untouchable. He has such an absolute power over most media in Albania, that he makes most journalists look inferior towards him and is severe with their colleagues, like occurred yesterday with Artan Hoxha.
Some analysts consider the former MP as the one who has set the standards of attacking, offending and eliminating his opponents without accountability. They maintain he misinforms the public and his opinions should be classified as forbidden. He is stated to be the man of all chances for Albania, but also of the most misfortunes.
During yesterday’s talk show, the investigative journalist, Artan Hoxha, reminded Berisha of all facts that Hoxha has accused him publicly, regarding major events in Albania, like corruption, theft, murders, etc., stating the files will reopen with the progress of vetting reform and he will end up in prison at an elderly age, like Augusto Pinochet.
Artan Hoxha is one of those very few Albanian journalists, not lured by fame or money, who is brave enough to face the evil directly. More to follow? It is hard to tell…