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History

The Albanian media traces its origin back to the mid-19th century in the national revival movement of its diaspora communities and was established mainly to promote the Albanian identity and patriotism until the country’s declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. The first Albanian newspaper “L’Albanese d’Italia” [Albanians in Italy] was published from February to June 1948 in Naples by the Albanian poet Jeronim De Rada, both in Italian and in ‘arberesh’ - the Albanian dialect spoken by the diaspora that migrated to Southern Italy in the 15th century. Other publications from diaspora communities followed in the late 19th century. The first Albanian language newspapers were published in Greece; “Pellazgu” published in Lamia in 1960 by Anastas Byku and “I foni tis Alvanias – Zëri i Shqipërisë”, [Voice of Albania] founded by Anastasio Kullurioti published in Athens in 1879. Several other Albanian language publications like ‘Flamuri i Arbërit’ [The Flag of the Arber], in Italy, ‘Drita’ [Light] or later on ‘Dituria’ [Knowledge] published in Istanbul, ‘Arberi i Ri’ [The new Arber] in Palermo, ‘Shqiptari’ [The Albanian] in Bucharest, ‘Albania’ in Brussels, ‘Kombi” [Nation] and ‘Dielli’ [Sun] in the USA, ‘Drita’ [Light] in Sofia, were launched from 1883 to 1909. After the Young Turk Revolution and the beginning of the second constitutional era of the Ottoman Empire, Albanian language press was allowed also within the borders of the empire and a number of publications opened in the cities of Shkodra, Korca, Elbasan, Ioannina, Thessaloniki and others.

Following independence, during WWI and later in the period of the republic from 1921 until 1928, when President Ahmet Bej Zogu was declared by the national assembly King Zog I, a number of new publications was established and published with varying success both inside and outside Albania. Recognizing the influence of the press on public opinion, King Zog enacted the first law on print media on January 24th 1931, which imposed a series of restrictions on the publishers of newspapers. According to the law, they had to be 25 years old, have a high school diploma and make a deposit of 5,000 gold Francs. The law included over 60 articles, which restricted the freedom of the press significantly. Two decrees issued by the king in 1937 imposed further restrictions, leading to the closure of some newspapers. Albania’s first radio station ‘Radio Tirana’ started broadcasts on 28th November 1938, inaugurated by King Zog and Queen Geraldine. The invasion of Albania by Italy in 1939 forced the closure of all existing newspapers, which were replaced by ‘Fashisti,’ [The Fascist] the official publication of the Albanian Fascist Party, first published on May 25th 1939.

Following the end of WWII and the communist’s ascendance to power, under the Workers Party of Albania, the media landscape became highly controlled. During the communist regime of former dictator Enver Hoxha, 8 national newspapers were published, including ‘Zeri i Popullit,’ ‘Bashkimi’, ‘Zeri i Rinise,’ ‘Puna,’ ‘Mesuesi,’’Drita,’ ‘Luftetari,’ ‘Sporti popullor’ [Voice of the People, Unity, Voice of Youth, Work, Teacher. Light, Fighter, Popular Sports] and 27 regional newspapers appeared at the stands. The main publications were the daily newspapers ‘Zeri i Popullit,’ and ‘Bashkimi’,  published six days a week. In 1960 the first Albanian television broadcasts were transmitted, while the first newscast was aired in 1963. By 1966 the state broadcaster ‘RTSH’ would transmit daily from 18:00 until 22:30. Color broadcasting began in the 1980-es, although very few Albanians at the time owned a color TV set. By the mid-eighties Radio Tirana would broadcast internationally in 20 languages, spreading the communist propaganda abroad, while at home the daily newspaper ‘Zeri i Popullit’ had reached a circulation of 100,000 copies.

Following the collapse of the communist regime, most newspapers which were supported financially by the communist party and the unions did not survive. However, in the advent of a pluralistic multi-party transition to democracy, new newspapers appeared - some independent and others affiliated with political parties. The first newspaper to be established after the introduction of a pluralistic system of government was ‘Rilindja Demokratike,’[Democratic Revival] with its first issue hitting the stands on January 5th 1991, as the official newspaper of the then newly-created opposition Democratic Party. The first independent newspaper ‘Koha Jone’ [Our Times] was soon to follow on May 11th 1991, established by journalist Nikollë Lesi. The first private broadcaster ‘Shijak TV’ was opened in December 1995 and after it dozens of other private TV stations emerged. Just within a decade a booming media scene emerged; however, the legal framework that would guarantee the freedom of the media remained inadequate, which led to a confrontation between the media and state actors. The peak of this confrontation was an arson attack on the offices of the independent newspaper ‘Koha Jone’ in 1997, amidst the chaos and anarchy created by the bankruptcy of a series of Ponzi investment schemes, where hundreds of thousands of Albanians lost their savings. This event, although never brought to trial was widely blamed on the secret service (SHIK) and earned then the President Sali Berisha a place in the list of 10 enemies of the press of 1997, published by the Committee to Protect Journalists.  Media experts and the professional community regarded the law on the press passed by the parliament in 1993 as inadequate and oppressive and it was amended in 1997, leaving only one general article stipulating that the media is free. The first audiovisual media law was then passed in 1998 and has been amended several times during the following decade. The freedom of information law was passed in 1999, while a new improved law was approved in 2014. In the last decade the Albanian media has been repeatedly described as ‘partly free’ by Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press Reports. Although a long list of outlets compete in a small market, media display strong bias in their reporting based on the economic and political interests of media owners, while journalists often revert to self-censorship.

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