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<nettime> Albanian Media Monitor 15

Albanian Media Monitor
Vol. 2    No. 7
6 April 1998

Welcome to the 15th issue of the "Albanian Media Monitor," a bi-weekly
newsletter produced in Tirana by the Institute for Journalism in Transition
(IJT). The "Monitor" provides media-related news and analysis in English and

In this issue:
- Albanian politicians discuss Kosovo on television
- Preparing for the new broadcasting law
- Private news agency and radio station protest interruption of telephone

ALBANIA DEBATES KOSOVO Kosovo has remained dominant in Albanian media coverage
ever since the Drenica events (see Albanian Media Monitor 20 March 1998). The
29 March edition of the Sunday television debate, run by the journalist Blendi
Fevziu, was no exception.  The program was devoted to the events in Kosovo and
Albania's policy toward that neighboring region. The panel consisted of Foreign
Minister Paskal Milo (Social Democratic Party); the head of the parliamentary
foreign-policy commission Sabri Godo (Republican Party); Vladimir Prela
(Socialist Party), foreign-policy adviser to Prime Minister Fatos Nano; and
Besnik Mustafaj (Democratic Party), former ambassador to Paris.  At the
beginning of the discussion, Fevziu compared the current situation of the
Albanian people with that in 1913, following the Second Balkan War, when the
ambassadors' conference in London decided that Kosovo would remain outside the
borders of the newly created Albanian state. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo
rejected the comparison, stressing that today great powers lean more toward
cooperation and that they are fully aware of the scope of the Kosovo problem,
which was not the case in the aftermath of the Balkan wars.  He also stressed
that, unlike in 1913, Albania is now closely cooperating with the international
community.  Other participants suggested comparisons with the recent war in
Bosnia but concluded that the situation in Kosovo was different. Mustafaj said
that, unlike in Bosnia, where the ethnic composition of the population was more
balanced, there is a clear ethnic majority in Kosovo (Albanians make up 90
percent of the population). He also claimed that another difference is that the
Kosovo population is, generally speaking, not armed. Vladimir Prela warned that
in case of an outbreak of war in Kosovo, the conflict would not remain local as
in Bosnia but would spread to the whole Balkan region. All panelists agreed
that the first countries at risk of being drawn in would be Albania and
Macedonia. Kosovo shadow-state Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi joined the debate
by telephone, calling from Germany. He warned that any further delays in
solving the Kosovo conflict would not only threaten to involve other Balkan
countries but also create unforeseeable dangers.  Another point raised by
Fevziu concerned the Kosovo parallel elections of 22 March and the policy of
shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova. Milo said that the election results
prove that the Kosovo Albanians support Rugova and that he is the most
convincing political leader both inside and outside Kosovo. Furthermore, the
foreign minister stressed that Rugova enjoys outspoken support from the
Albanian government for his nonviolent "Gandhian" policy. Sabri Godo, however,
criticized Rugova's past policy saying that it did not represent "'Ghandianism'
but passivism." Godo pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi had brought millions of
people to the streets to protest against the British colonial policy, while
Rugova has so far hesitated to take a more active stand. He nonetheless
admitted that due to the circumstances in Kosovo this year Rugova did move on
to a more active "Gandhianism." For his part, Mustafaj stressed that Rugova is
not in a position to turn his back to the demand for state independence. The
former ambassador pointed out that such a policy change would throw Rugova out
of the political game in Kosovo and increase the risk of radicalization. He,
however, said that the current policy of the Kosovo leaders has failed,
reminding that they were not able to make their demands heard at the Dayton
conference.  When the discussion came to the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), all
sides maintained that they had no clear information about the organization.
Milo said that, given the scarce information at its disposal, the Albanian
government is in no position to pass a judgment on the UCK. The head of the
Tirana office of the "Republic of Kosovo," Ilaz Ramajli, joined the discussion
by telephone. He claimed that the Kosovo shadow-state government had no contact
with the UCK. Ramajli, however, said that UCK's impact and its further
development will mainly "depend on the behavior of the international community
and of the Serbian regime." The panel also discussed the education agreement
signed by then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Rugova on 1 September
1996. The agreement has yet to be put into effect. The Serbian and Kosovo
Albanian representatives signed a further implementation agreement following
the meeting of the Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia on 25 March 1998.
Mustafaj argued that the implementation accord was by no means different from
the original education agreement itself and that it was a mere political
manoeuvre by the Serbian government to influence the decisions of the Contact
Group. He added that it was more of a defeat than a victory for the Albanian
side.  Prela countered that the agreement was a positive step and part of the
process of dialogue that the international community wants to initiate between
Belgrade and Pristina. Milo opined that the education agreement was a step in
the right direction, but that it didn't go far enough. He stressed that the
implementation agreement must be followed by practical steps. Godo reacted
sharply, arguing that the agreement was a challenge for the international
community. He said that "this is a mockery ... a bone that Milosevic threw into
the trade." Then, a caller from the south of Kosovo (where it is possible to
watch Albanian state-television programs), said that the agreement should not
have been signed without prior specification of Kosovo's status.  The panelists
differed on options for third-party mediators in possible negotiations over
Kosovo. The two government representatives had no clear preferences, saying
that the most important question was whether the third party could successfully
mediate between Pristina and Belgrade. The other two participants, particularly
Sabri Godo, stressed that the United States should play that role, because it
was the only player capable of exerting meaningful pressure on Milosevic. Godo
added that he feared that former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales, the
OSCE's proposed mediator, would probably fail, even if Belgrade eventually
accepted his mediating role.  The most controversial point of the discussion
was Albania's position toward the conflict. Bujar Bukoshi once again joined the
debate by telephone and said that he valued Albania's and particularly Paskal
Milo's attitude toward Kosovo. He pointed out that it was clear to the Kosovars
that Albania was in a particularly difficult position due to the unrest of
March 1997 and expressed his appreciation for what the Albanian government has
done for Kosovo despite all its domestic troubles.  But Mustafaj criticized the
government in sharp tones. He said that individual government structures had
failed to harmonize their positions toward Kosovo and stressed that Prime
Minister Fatos Nano has made a series of insensitive statements that the
Albanian Foreign Ministry had to correct later. According to Mustafaj, the
Albanian policy has lacked coherence and no Albanian really knows what solution
to the Kosovo conflict is advocated by the Albanian prime minister. He
criticized the November 1997 Crete meeting between Nano and Milosevic saying
that Nano had delivered the wrong message to Milosevic at the meeting, which
the latter interpreted as a free hand to act with brutal force in Kosovo a few
months later. Mustafaj also stressed that Albania should have come out with a
much clearer position before the Contact Group, a position closer to that of
the United States.  Prela, however, warned that "nobody should make theatre out
of the Kosovo question. We all want independence for Kosovo and those who
pretend to be better nationalists or better patriots do nothing else than try
to score political points for themselves ... Kosovo has become an organic part
of Albanian politics in recent times. Had the Albanian government gone to Bonn
[to the Contact Group meeting] and demanded extreme solutions it would have
blocked the process of dialogue." Prela concluded that the prime minister had
already demanded an almost impossible and maximalist solution when he proposed
that Kosovo be made the third republic within the Yugoslav federation.  Milo
backed Prela's view and pointed out that talking about Kosovo from the
perspective of an independent analyst or political opposition and talking from
the position of the state are two different things. He pointed out that Albania
is obliged to respect international conventions it has signed, particularly
those respecting the principle of not changing borders by violent means. But
Godo countered that the prime minister shouldn't act on his own when addressing
a question as important as Kosovo. He said that Nano should have discussed the
Kosovo question in parliament before he went to Bonn and requested the
parliament's blessing. Godo also said it was necessary that Nano accept more
advice on foreign policy, and he opposed the government representatives in the
panel by harshly criticizing the conclusions of the Contact Group meeting in
Bonn. "A four-week deadline does nothing else to Milosevic but give him more
time to use violence in Kosovo," Godo said.  Milo argued "it is not for us to
decide the fate of the region." Prela meantime stressed that the Contact
Group's conclusions marked the first time that Milosevic was given a deadline
regarding Kosovo. Both Prela and Milo also reminded that the differences within
the Contact Group had made the acceptance of the U.S. proposal for harsher
sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia impossible. Godo
interrupted, stressing that he hoped "Albania was conducting its own foreign
policy and did not only whine about its problems before the Contact Group."
Milo countered that Albania was not in a position to solve the Kosovo problem
without the support of the group.


On 4 April, the Albanian Media Institute invited numerous organizations
supporting media development; representatives of the parliamentary media
commission and its working group on legal reform; the head of the board of
directors of Albanian Radio and Television (RTSH); and foreign diplomats
stationed in Albania, to an informal working dinner to discuss the new
broadcasting legislation and the public debate that will preceed it.  According
to the current schedule, the draft law should be presented to the public around
15 April  having first being approved by the parliament's media commission. The
draft, which among other things sets the licensing standards for private
stations, is to be published in newspapers and distributed to existing private
broadcasters, non-governmental organizations, and media associations. The Soros
Foundation is sponsoring the publication and printing of the draft text. Public
discussions about the law are scheduled for late April and early May (see the
Albanian Media Monitor Vol.  2 No. 4).  A televised debate on
private-broadcasting legislation will be sponsored by the Council of Europe and
aired by a private television station.  Another public debate, to be televised
by RTSH, will focus on the legislation concerning the transformation of the
station into a public broadcaster. As in the case of the proposed
private-broadcasting legislation, organisationsd and members of the public will
be invited to propose changes prior to the draft becoming law.

Experts predict that the slow pace of preparation of individual radio and
television stations for the process of legalization and licensing, which is due
to start in May, will be the main problem in implementing the new laws. The
broadcasting law of 14 May 1997 had already given a one-year deadline to the
unregistered private radio and television stations for bringing their
operations and structures up to the standards required. The deadline however is
unlikely to be met. First, the law is currently going through a review and
several of the requirements for licensing will be softened in the new draft.
Second, according to the current plan of the parliament's media commission, the
changes in the legislation will be made public only in May. Moreover, it is
unclear at the moment whether the licensing process is supposed to last three
or six months following the adoption of the law. The parliamentary media
commission is considering both options.  The commission's head, Musa Ulqini,
told IJT that private broadcasting stations should not neglect their
responsibilities to reform their statutes and structures as stipulated by law.
Failure to do so may prevent them from obtaining a license. Ulqini also said
that the creation of the National Council of Radio and Television and the
Regulatory Board of Telecommunication will be the first steps in the licensing
process. The regulatory board will have the task of defining national and local
frequencies in order to prevent mutual interference among different broadcasts.
Then it will present the options before the National Council of Radio
Television, which will then organize a public tender for the frequencies.
Besides the licensing of private stations, the main problem in implementing the
new legislation will be the transformation of RTSH from a state into a public
broadcasting institution. Most international organizations and broadcasters
have made their assistance to RTSH contingent on administrative reforms and
improvements in professional standards. Ulqini told IJT that, after the law is
adopted, RTSH will be given six months to familiarize itself with the new
principles and reform its structure accordingly. And it is then that RTSH will
need the most assistance. The BBC, Greek public television, and some other
broadcasters are currently considering the ways to help RTSH in the
restructuring process.

The independent news agency Enter has said that the Albanian TELECOM blocked
its telephone lines for political reasons from 20 to 31 March and that in late
February secret-police officers broke into their offices and stole a number of
documents, including invoices from the Serbian independent news-agency BETA,
Enter's partner. Enter also complained that it suffered frequent and repeated
cases of power shortages throughout March.

The news agency, which is nominally independent but politically close to the
Democratic Party, says that complaints with the TELECOM have not helped getting
the telephone lines back to work. Enter's director Mero Baze said that only
after starting a campaign, in which the agency threatened to publish the
telephone numbers of several high ranking government officials, did TELECOM
give in and reconnect the lines.  Radio Kontakt has also reported that its
telephone lines have been dead since late February. The station says that the
lines were interrupted shortly after an incident in which police was about to
raid the station in late February but stepped back due to the presence of about
100 supporters of the station.  That incident came at the time when Prime
Minister Fatos Nano's office launched legal proceedings against the radio's
journalist Vjollca Vokshi for "dissemination of false information....with the
aim of creating a situation of insecurity or panic among the people," during
unrest in Shkoder on 23 February (see Albanian Media Monitor Vol. 2 No. 5).
Albanian Media Monitor Project Project Director: Fabian Schmidt Project
Officer: Andi Bejtja The "Albanian Media Monitor" is produced in Tirana by the
Institute for Journalism in Transition and funded by the Open Society
Institute's Regional Media Program. It is available by e-mail in both English
and Albanian.
Institute for Journalism in Transition Co-Executive Directors: Jan Urban &
Anthony Borden Programs Director: Alan Davis Electronic Publications Editor:
Sava Tatic The Institute for Journalism in Transition,

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) and "Transitions" monthly
(Prague) are pleased to announce their merger into the Institute for Journalism
in Transition (IJT), a new independent non-profit organization to support
regional media and democratic change. The "Albanian Media Monitor" is
available, with permission, for re-publication. IJT publishes Transitions
magazine. It also also operates projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia, the Caucasus, and The Hague. For details, please
contact our London office.  Editors welcome all correspondence.

Please send your comments to Alan Davis, programs director, at
London Office:
Lancaster House
33 Islington High Street
London N1 9LH, United Kingdom
Tel: (44 171) 713 7130 Fax: (44 171) 713 7140
Prague Office:
Seifertova 47
130 00 Praha 3, Czech Republic
Tel: (420 2) 627-9445 Fax: (420 2) 627-9444
Copyright (C) 1998 Institute for Journalism in Transition
Sava Tatic, Associate Editor
Transitions magazine
Seifertova 47, 130 00 Prague 3, Czech Republic
420 2 627-9445 (reception)
420 2 627-9444 (fax)
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