When Albanian free press was born after half a century of dictatorship

When Albanian free press was born after half a century of dictatorship

IBNA Special Report

Tirana, January 6, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

24 years ago, almost every Albanian was anxious. They were impatiently waiting free press. They were expecting the first opposition newspaper which would tell them the truth.

Fed up of the communist propaganda which spread everywhere, people needed a media which talked differently.

Therefore, January 5, 1991, seemed delayed for many people, a month after the birth of the first opposition party.

The author of these lines has very good recollections of that day when the first copy of the first free media after almost half a century of communist dictatorship was getting ready to come out.

“Rilindja Demokratike” was born as an effort of a number of politicians and writers, because those few journalists at that time, belonged to the communist period, which manipulated the public.

Therefore, known writers who had never become part of the communist propaganda, joined the free media.

With the arrival of “RD”, the dictatorship regime soon entered its countdown: the age of freedoms and liberties came back into the country.

When the first copy came out, it was a paper of a poor quality, with 6 pages and costing 1 Lek or 3.5 times dearer than the daily newspapers published by the government. Nothing prevented the people to buy this paper. Given that 78 thousand copies managed to be published, many people passed it on to each other in order to read it.

Human Rights Watch says that the number of all newspapers printed today cannot reach the number of “Rilindja Democratike” of 1991.

But this newspaper soon lost its glow.

A year later, it turned into a newspaper whose main mission was not free speech, but political attack against the rival party, the communist one which had just changed its name into the Socialist Party and which had been reorganized.

RD soon became one of the least sold newspapers in the country, because other independent newspapers were born. Although these newspapers claimed that they were independent, they did keep sides, as it happens even today with the majority of media in Albania.

Nevertheless, the media that followed, in the majority of cases, are connected in a way or another with the first day of the freedom of speech after the communist regime, January 5 of RD.

January 5, 1991 is commemorated

Journalists, publishers, publicists, analysts, politicians and personalities of the world of TV gathered in the reception hosted by the head of the opposition, Lulzim Basha, on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of “Rilindja Demokratike”, the first opposition newspaper in the country.

The reception was associated by many jokes and nostalgia for those days when RD was being born. They mentioned several historical moments of the ‘90s that culminated on January 5, 1991 with the foundation of the first opposition party in the country.

Basha: Conformism brings doom

basha ibna

The leader of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha (photo) considers January 5, the day when “Rilindja Demokratike” came out, as the day when Albanian commemorates and honors the freedom of media.

Basha said that today, 24 years later, the independence of media is in danger from the government and organized crime and stopped on conformism by saying that it has invaded Albanian media. He said that he’s “sad to see the advancement of conformism in a part of the media and the government must be blamed for this”.

“What I want to stress is the threat of the conformism of media with the government. Conformism reduces the number of readers, viewers and navigators. Conformism turns off screens, reduces copies and the number of clicks. Conformism is denaturalization, it means rotting and it brings the doom”, says Basha.

Kasmi: Perhaps there’s a problem with the truth

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The editor in chief of RD, Bledi Kasmi has been on this job for several years. He considered January 5, 1991 as a day of reflection which must serve to the Albanian media more than ever.

But can newspapers today achieve the impact that they had 24 years ago? Kasmi is pessimistic: “Newspapers today cannot reach the level that they had 24 years ago, neither in the number of copies printed, nor in the impact that they have in the public opinion. Perhaps there’s a problem with the truth, with credibility or the misuse of free speech. Perhaps it’s all of these and this is why January 5, 1991 must serve as a day of reflection to understand that brainwashing doesn’t work in 2015”.

Cupi: Today, free speech is a difficult mission

frrok cupi ibna

Frrok Cupi is one of the most prominent columnists in Albania. He was the first editor in chief of RD. “RD’s words will never be adulatory”, wrote Frrok Cupi in the first copy of RD. For many years, Cupi stayed away from RD and DP, but recently, they have come closer to each other.

Cupi recalls the first days of RD and the impact of the first opposition newspaper as an incarnation of freedom and democracy. He stresses on the strong and unshaken notion of the triumph of free speech, a notion, like he says, which is unfortunately lacking in every Albanian media today.

Cupi says that the freedom of the media is once again in danger. “Even today, 24 years later, freedom of media is in danger. The mission that “Rilindja Demokratike” had, the mission of free speech, the truth, is impossible to be accomplished by any other media today, due to the attempts of the government to put it under control”.

Berisha: When RD was born, it was a white night

berisha rd ibna

Former democrat leader and former PM, Sali Berisha says that the evening of January 4 and the early hours of January 5, 1991 were a white night and the most unforgettable ones for him.

“It was the night of the birth, after 45 years of total monism, of the first opposition newspaper “Rilindja Demokratike”, which was a paper of free speech, free thought of the Democratic Party and the Albanian anti-communist intelligence. For me, it was a white night”, recalls the democrat MP who is once again in opposition now.

Berisha remembers RD as a “tribune of free speech, of our western values and vocation, national interest and university of free press in Albania”. /ibna/