The Albanian Press After Communism

The Albanian Press After Communism


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, D.C.>>Grant Harris: Good afternoon. And I am Grant Harris. I am Chief of the European division
here at the Library of Congress. We are happy that you’re
joining us today. This is a really good
crowd we’ve got. Can you hear me all
right through the room?>>Very good.>>Yes, good.>>Grant Harris: All right. Very good. I want to thank all of
you for coming out here. Before we introduce our
guest speaker, Flora Nikolla, who will talk about the Albanian
press, I do want to thank a number of people here, especially from the
Washington, D.C. chapter of Vatra, the Pan Albanian Federation
of America. Thank you for being here and
for helping organize this event. And I appreciate having
an interpreter for this occasion from Vatra. So Ms. Nora Bucaj will help us
with the interpretation up here. I’d like to recognize Ms. Mamica
Toska from the Republic of Albania, the Embassy here in town. Thank you for being here. And also the Minister
Counsellor at the Embassy, Mr. Visser Jerte [assumed spelling]. Thank you for being
here, and any other’s who may be here from the Embassy. Very briefly, let me say that
the Library of Congress is proud of our Albanian Collections. We have about 17,000
volumes at this point. We believe we have the
largest collection, certainly in the Americas. I would say it’s actually
doubtful that there is a library that has a larger collection than
the Library of Congress other than libraries inside
Albania itself. We currently receive about
350 monographs each year from or about Albania. Most of those are in
the Albanian language. The collections are particularly
strong in history, language, and literature, but also the
humanities, the social sciences. So we have really a lot of
great materials; not only books and periodicals — maps,
recorded sound, sheet music, just really incredible
collections here, so I am proud to be the
specialist for Albania. I cover several languages. Albania is certainly not my first
language, but I’m very happy to cover that country,
and Kosova as well. And I’ve been to both
a couple of times each. So now for the inevitable
announcement for your cell phones. Just take a look at those if
you haven’t don’t that already. We want this to be a nice recording. This is being recorded by
the Library of Congress. We hope to make a webcast out of it. It’s not a live production here, but it takes us a few
months to make it that way. So now, finally, getting to the main
point, I’m very pleased to be able to introduce the journalist
and editor, Flora Nikolla. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the
Albanian Telegraphic Agency, or ATA. It’s been that agency for a long
time, Albania’s main press agency. Her career with Ata has covered
most of the years since 1993, working as an editor, a
journalist, and a script writer for ATA’s magazines and on other
projects such as Spanish radio, she speaks Spanish, and
the Albanian Film Festival. Ms. Nikolla will discuss today the
Albanian press after Communism. If there is time, she
may delve into speaking about the Albanian diaspora. She knows a lot about the
diasporas in many countries and its relationship to Albania. But her main topic today is really
the press and a history of that. So please help me welcome her. And I should say also that
our interpreter today — I may have mentioned
her name — Nora Bucaj. We’re very happy to have Nora here. I’m not sure where
she’s sitting right now, but she’ll — there — outstanding. Okay, all right. So you two will have to
share these microphones, so. All right, please come up. Thank you and help me welcome — [ Applause ]>>Flora Nikolla: Thank you.>>Grant Harris: Thank you. Let me just point out
these two buttons. To go forward and backward
and on these.>>Flora Nikolla: Okay.>>Grant Harris: All right?>>Flora Nikolla: Okay. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Nora Bucaj: Distinguished
ladies and gentlemen, distinguished representatives
of the Library in Congress, Mr. Grant Harris and
Mr. Jason [inaudible], distinguished representatives
of the Diplomatic Corps, distinguished compatriots, it
is a great honor and privilege to be here today, in a temple of
knowledge, in the greatest library of the world, an elite institution
that is a dream for book admirers, book readers, and book writers, to
speak on Post-Communist Journalism, this dear and difficult profession,
but one that adds significant value in the development of
society as it should. Thank you for giving me
the opportunity to speak from this podium of honor on a time
that Albanian journalism experienced and thanks, and thanks
to its efforts, managed to become the
lifeblood of a denied freedom. And thank you for the opportunity
to represent Albanian press behind which stand thousands
of professionals who, irrespective of their
political leanings, want to know the news
and know how to tell it. Thank you. And as a result of the
opportunity you have given me, I shall be, for today, their voice. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] Thank you for your time. Thank you for being here
in this place of knowledge and human civilization to talk to
you about post-Communist journalism. But also the outstanding
Albanian diaspora which has a place in the press. I would say today that no one
is a professional by accident. And I want to say that
I don’t believe that for almost 30 years now I am in
this profession, a noble profession with dimensions in
humanity and society. I recall today that
I first connected with journalism in
my early childhood. There was an entire generation of
remarkable journalists and writers at that time that would become a
comprehensive list of personalities like [foreign words], and even
the decadent ones persecuted by the regime like [foreign
words], my dad’s friends. My dad, a journalist for 45 years,
25 of which as Editor-in-Chief ofHosteni Magazine, considered
as the only opposition magazine of a one-party Albanian Nation. They were people who were
always around during my youth. I would hear their conversations. And today I realize that
subconsciously, without knowing, I started to fall in love with
my profession, a noble profession at its core, which
can be all-consuming and leave you with only passion. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] This is how journalism
became a part of me. Without formal courses initially,
this is how I became familiar with the difficulty in being a
journalist, during the hard times of survival, known as Communism, a
desire to write and tell the truth. And its coverup with sorrow
in a murder of conscience.>>Flora Nikolla: Okay.>>Nora Bucaj: Okay. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] As a kid and later on when I was
older I heard this in experience through my dad who ran the
magazineHostenifor 25 years, a comedy magazine that satirized
the negative appearances in society within Communist norms, which
were actually great limitations. It was supposed to be the
opposition in a country where opposition was banned. This was basically impossible. This is how I came to
know my father’s pain. The faith of an idealist
that was never realized for a generation that
believed in it. I came to know his
unspoken rebellion. On another way I recognized the
suffering of his close friends and colleagues, convicted for
breaking the Communist ideal which, in fact, turned out to just
be a utopia because, actually, a political regime should be in the
service of carrying out the rule of a clear conscience, and not
for conforming to the opposite. I remember the sorrow of my
father’s gaze eyes while working in a remote area. He had seen his dear
friend, Mr. [foreign words], one of the most brilliant
journalists on economy, walking with droopy shoulders
and eyes to the ground. He was carrying out his
conviction as a political criminal in a mine under dire conditions. He called him out by name,
but he continued to walk with droopy shoulders, a frail
body, and eyes to the ground. Again he called out, and
again he continued to walk, to walk to a cold place for
overstepping the party ideals. Years later, in Albania, after 1990, when the press should have
been free, I heard my father and Mr. [foreign words] remember
that episode, many times actually. He would always answer my
father’s concern the same way. “I couldn’t speak because I
couldn’t condemn you, too.” [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] In 1993, the Albanian Telegraph
Agency, under a secluded bunker, was launched through
an institution made up of only high-level party members. I participated in a
contest organized to bring in young journalists. Albania was open. Freedom of the press, print and government law was
just the beginning. When the Democratic Party’s
newspaper,Rilindja Demokratike, started being printed, hundreds of people smashed the
storefront windows of the shops that sold newspapers while
standing in line waiting for their free-speech newspaper that
they had been missing for years. The number of newspaper copies
sold for an impoverished Albania at the time was an
astounding 60,000 a day, a figure never before seen
during the Communist era when there were only newspapers
belonging to the State Party, categorized according
to social groups, in professional union newspapers
for the youth, for women, all with the same ideology
known as Socialist Realism. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] So, in the early 1990s with
the great democratic changes in the country, Albanians
began to enjoy the freedom that was forcefully
denied for 45 years. In fact, the years 1988 to
1990 in the Albanian press, a tendency for rebellion of ideas
outside the state contours had started to emerge. At that time a new value for
knowledge had been identified by the intellectual
elite of the country. Articles in the newspapers [foreign
words] generated an identity for Albanian press which would
turn out to be the winning model for the early 1990s with newspapers
likeRilindja Demokratike— [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] — Albania, et cetera. There were actually quite a
few for a population of only about 3 million in my country. But, perhaps, we were all racing
in search for that lost freedom. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] Even at the Albanian Telegraph
Agency, when I started working there so long ago, back in 1993, it
couldn’t overlook the tendencies for freedom in concepts,
reporting, writing, and the news. Among the new press, many
times the news agency was seen as a Communist-era activism vehicle which many times hindered
its development. An image is still — it still
struggles to [inaudible] today, despite the fact that this
institution has produced many well-known journalists. Also, its tried and true formula
that the news agency has implemented in reporting and writing the news. Regardless, journalists of the first
post-Communist period were young and passionate. Journalism took up
our days and nights. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] During this renewal of
private and pluralistic press, particular qualities of newspapers
and journalists sprouted. But they were dominated
by initiatives to create media controlled
by political party ownership, specifically Socialists, Democrats,
Republicans, and Social Democrats, all the parties created after
the ’90s during the transition to a pluralistic system. The topics that were reflected
and reported by journalists in the press — outlets
began to expand. There were a variety of
topics in politics — education, culture,
and social issues. They started featuring the
lives of public figures and a new stratification in Albanian
society that was formerly lacking in one of the eastern countries where Communism had shaped
a typical one-party society. The economic and political
development of the post-Communist country was
being presented in the new press which was being created,
not without difficulty. Along with this phenomenon, the image of journalists
was being created according to the respective fields on
which they wrote and reported. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] Despite the desire and the will
to make journalism not uncommon, I thought that journalists of
this era were improvise experts, passionate pioneers of a generation
brought up in a dictatorial system, but who had overcome the
odds while in this new era. They put their personal
ambitions over everything in the journalist profession
which, at that time, was seen as a profession of added
value, and with a lot of curiosity. I recall that in this work vortex
and the passion to create the face of a new press there were
shortcomings such as the lack of criteria for recruiting
and dismissing journalists, the lack of employment contracts,
and above all, the lack of a law on press on which the media and
journalist activity was regulated. The first press law number
7756 in 1993 was created without much modification
from a German model and without consultation
with local media. Soon it was seen that there were
constraints provoking reaction from journalists, although
the law remained in effect until the 1997 elections. The old law was abolished by a new
law, the printing press, which — two sentences were formulated. The press is free. Freedom of the press is
protected by the law. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] So I guess to try and remember –>>Flora Nikolla: Okay.>>Nora Bucaj: — the
order of [inaudible]. I’m thinking that there
was a lot of — that happened during the Kosovo
War and there was a big thanks to theVoice of Americafor being
that window of direction and — in guiding the press in Albania.>>Flora Nikolla: Okay. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Nora Bucaj: With the development
of society and its norms, the global life that
Albanians began to experience, modes of communication changed. In the early 2000s televisions took
the baton of public information, giving the first light blow
to the media of the past. New television crews with
the latest technology from the media world were created by
journalists, giving another spirit to the public presentation, but
also in the concept of payment and distinguishing
itself significantly from the written media. In the time when the newspapers
had reached 80- to 90,000 copies of daily newspapers,
and [foreign words] in 1997 seems to be a distant past. Today, circulation of
daily newspapers, about 20, hardly reach 40,000
copies, while sales are low. Analysts say that while the
media previously suffered from state dictatorship and control. In the last 10 years the Albania
media suffer from business and their submission to politics. According to them, most
media outlets are connected with political decision-makers
through business, and are fully controlled by them. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] Someone joked with me a few days ago
that if a few years had passed — a few years ago it was difficult
to distinguish the parties from newspaper editorials. Now, media are more business,
and there is no distinction to where a business plan starts
and where the free press ends. It seems that the Albanian
media openly hold one side of a political conflict, even
competing to show their loyalty and interests of larger parties without hiding behind an
official impartiality. According to the Albanian
analyst [foreign words], from this difficult
situation laws can be drafted against owners’ conflicts of
interest, and journalists’ boards that determine the editorial
positions themselves of their media. But today there is also an
increase in civic journalism on social networks and investigative
writings in new online journalism, where online sites are the
main source of information. Yet another blow to newspapers. In this sense it seems that
citizens are becoming more active in online media versus a
reality that cannot be concealed. With a population of about 3
million, people currently living in the country, Albania
remains small, an unfavorable market for the media. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] And as a small market,
it creates difficulties in consolidating media
businesses as the cost of these businesses’ products is
almost the same as that produced in the media that work
for big markets, while profits are much smaller. Not so often, journalists
follow the unwritten rules of the owners and editors. That’s configuring a fifth branch
of power over the fourth known to have existed throughout time. It is this fifth power that forces
journalists from all media today to write for media owners who, in
some way, for their own interests, give impetus to self-censorship
and informality in the employment of journalists. There seems to be an
uneven media environment where some media outlets are
misused by business and politics. In nearly 26 years of
political transition, Albania has passed a media
transition with positive changes, which certainly created
stratification of journalists and publicists in Albanian society. We already have veteran journalists,
seasoned journalists who today are around the age of 50, and
journalists who are being created, but are, in fact, confronted
with a new online reality. Journalists who spin the news from
office walls and computer windows, bringing all too often false news
that shake the readers’ faith. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] Confronted and raised with a long
trajectory in both journalism and visual media, I say
that journalism today varies from the time when
I started with it, liberated in all its
spheres of time and space. I say with conviction and
advice, that beyond this freedom, the journalist should write
with a cool head, a warm heart, and clean hands, given that
truth should always be delivered, and that ultimately truth triumphs. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] [ Applause ]>>Grant Harris: I have
questions of people.>>Nora Bucaj: Yeah.>>Merita McCormack:
Merita [inaudible]. So [inaudible] I’m from the Victims
of Communism Royal Foundation. One thing that you
mentioned was that –>>Nora Bucaj: Sorry, one moment.>>Merita McCormack: Sorry. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Grant Harris: You know — and
I think — because [inaudible], why don’t you come up [inaudible]
here, so that we can just –>>Merita McCormack: Thank you. Okay. [Inaudible] in here.>>Grant Harris: Just keep the
questions on the short side.>>Merita McCormack: Sure. Will do. Okay, great. So you mentioned that
newspaper sales are falling. And I was wondering, do you think
it’s because a lot of millennials and a lot of citizens
in Albania believe that they shouldn’t even
read the news anymore because they have no power over
what’s happening in politics? Do you think that the reason why
newspaper sales are falling is not because people don’t want to read
the news, but because they feel like they have — they
cannot control what’s going to be happening in future elections? [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] — we’re not done. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Nora Bucaj: Or the last part.>>Merita McCormack: Say we have no
control over politics at this point.>>Flora Nikolla: Okay. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Nora Bucaj: Okay. So this is something that is
not unique to Albanians who — the youth are — get
their news online and through other media
like Facebook. But the Albanian youth do seem to
be withdrawn from current events.>>Flora Nikolla: Okay.>>Nora Bucaj: Okay.>>Grant Harris: Other questions?>>I can make the question
in English and translate it in
Albanian for you.>>Flora Nikolla: Okay.>>Okay, thank you. So what’s the role of Albanian
Telegraphic Agency now? Is it still state-owned and in
the variety of media that exists? What is the position of this agency?>>Flora Nikolla: Okay, thank you. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] Okay.>>I’ve got a question [inaudible]. Okay.>>Flora Nikolla: Thank you.>>No problem. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] Oh, okay. So what Flora summarized
was that basically the role of ATA has diminished, has
diminished significantly, but still it remains good because
there is no contest from those who receive the news through ATA
because it still stays faithful to the standards and
the norms that ATA has. And she used a very
nice idiom there. She said that all the online
websites that you see today — there are so many that it’s like
the mushrooms after the rain, which basically —
there is many of them, and you don’t know who to trust. But although the role
has diminished, that was the key substance
of her explanation, that although the role is
diminished, it’s still the facts that there is no one there — she
mentioned that the foreign embassies and other diplomatic corps
that are based in Albania, they’re not contesting
what ATA is broadcasting.>>It’s the most reliable.>>It’s the most reliable
news source in Albania. So — sorry.>>Flora Nikolla: Okay.>>I have a feeling it’s the most
reliable news source in Albania, but the point is, would
you think that maybe the — it’s on the Web, the
webcast, and if you want to go and read the ATA news —
so you have to pay for it. Maybe when it’s involved a cost,
you know, a financial cost, maybe that would be the
problem, you know, for others — [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Okay.>>Grant Harris: [Inaudible]
it a question.>>Yes.>>We want this on the website. Repeat the question.>>So — in Albanian.>>Grant Harris: In
English and — so it –>>Flora Nikolla: Now, okay.>>So anybody here
didn’t understand? [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Flora Nikolla: Okay.>>Grant Harris: I want the
webcast to hear the English also.>>The English, English version.>>Oh, the English version.>>Oh.>>Grant Harris: If you could
repeat the basic question –>>Yeah.>>You have to come and say that. If you have — it has to be here. Sorry.>>Okay. Well, the question
was, don’t you think that the Albanian Telegraph Agency,
if it makes it webcast news free, would it be possible
for the others — or other institutions to read the
news and not to have that problem that you already addressed
in the first question? Thank you.>>Flora Nikolla: Thank you. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] [ Laughter ]>>Okay, [inaudible].>>Okay. So — [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] Okay. So Flora’s answers to Ms
Tosca regarding that question was that she says if all the years — all the years, she said,
there has been a fee. There has always been a
subscription to the ATA. And she says that what you said she
agrees personally, but she believes that the people who are in charge of ATA are the people
who made that change. And as far as she understands,
these days that she’s in the United States,
there may be a change into the people who run the agency. So as soon as she returns, she will
let them know this new proposal that came out of here. And she said I will let them know. And then she went into how
it hurts her, and she thinks that [inaudible] was — [inaudible]
is a journalist here atVoiceof America, but she
used to briefly work there. And she said that [inaudible]
will sympathize with me. And then she used another
cute expression. She said that we are just like
that cow that we keep giving milk to everyone, and then
they don’t recognize where the milk came
from, like [laughter]. And then she said we are
those heathen journalists that we are somewhere and sometime
and place, but that there is — basically, she was saying
that people can take news and take paragraphs and take it from
them, but the ATA, the journalists that work there, are nowhere to
be seen or recognized, basically. And she said, but it is that
will that we have and that love that we have that keeps us going. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>We need you here, Nora.>>Grant Harris: Nora,
could you step –>>So this is good. Okay.>>Shall I translate in Albanian?>>Grant Harris: So
we’ll keep this brief.>>Yes. The Albanian press also
publishes the articles fromVoiceof America, but
they never cite us. So this is a problem
of the Albanian press. I work at VOA, yes. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ] Maybe it is time that journalists
in Albania through the law of the press should require
that they are cited, you know, the name of the author, the name of
the author is cited in the press. Yeah.>>Okay. Do you want
a translation on that? What she said in Albanian? [ Inaudible Conversations ] [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Okay. Okay, okay. So, two things. Regarding the first one,
again, there is sympathizing with what was going back and forth. And Flora said it is
a conscience thing. It’s — you know, the
journalists will do the plagiarism and don’t cite. It’s on their conscience. And she said, we are in a century that you cannot put balance
and terror upon them. It’s a [inaudible] that has
been going for a long time. And regarding the payment,
let me [inaudible]. I believe she refers to — Ms.
[foreign words] said that, yes, she says that — regarding
the payment. The state pays, but all
the money that is generated from ATA goes back
to the state budget.>>Flora Nikolla: Okay.>>I think that’s it.>>Flora Nikolla: Okay.>>Grant Harris: I think
we’re just a little over. Is there one burning question
on another aspect of this? All right, one burning
question, right. Why don’t you come up here? You come up here with your question. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Is there a code of
ethics or code of conduct for journalists as professionals? So it’s not just on their conscious.>>Grant Harris: Okay. [ Speaking in Foreign Language ]>>Yes. As I previously mentioned,
that there is a law as well, but there are things
that should be reviewed, and law should be improved on this. Okay, that’s the summary.>>Grant Harris: Okay. I’m sorry to be the time
manager and cut this off. This is actually quite interesting. And thank you all for coming. And thank — let’s all thank Nikolla
— Flora Nikolla for being here. Thank you.>>Flora Nikolla: Thank
you, thank you [applause].>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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