Diana Culi on Fri, 25 Sep 1998 12:29:03 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Breaking News from Tirana - E-Interview with Edi Muka

Breaking News - Report from Tirana
E-Interview with Edi Muka
By Geert Lovink
September, 25, 1998

GL: How are you? Is everyone safe and alive? Did you go out on the streets
last week? How is Edi Rama, the artist, now minister of culture? Is he
in hiding? And the others?

EM: hi everyone. i'm ok and everyone is alive. regarding safety it's
become a matter of humor now (aparently it is the only way to handle the
situation). of course i was out in the streets last week. it's imppossible
to stay inside (exept for some hours when streets of tirana were under the
control of gangs and thiefs, that first attacked the institutions and than
turned back to loot the shops). Edi Rama is ok and safe. he went through
some time of hiding because as it is well known he is one of the main
opposers of Berisha and his tactics and also because immediately after
recapturing the tv he went on line giving an interview speaking clearly
about what happened and whom was the inspirating source. for this reason
his life was in serious danger, there were telephone calls threatening to
kill him and so on.

GL: In early june, when we had the Piramedia/Syndicate meeting in Tirana,
you told us that the Berisha gangs were operating in the South of the
country. Back then he tried to start armed revolts but they somehow
failed. Now he almost succeeded. Do you think this is due to fact that the
current government of Nano has been making a miscalculation concerning his
intensions to unleash an armed rebellion?

EM: this is due to many factors, not only because of miscalculations of
the government. of course the government was really slow and not
determinant in fighting organized crime and in having the situation
totally under control. but on the other hand there is a clear attempt to
destabilize the situation in albania, to bring back the chaos and distract
attention from the masacres in kosovo. these attempts evidently comes from
secret services interested in continuing the slaughter in kosova. this too
is a minus for the Nano government, which wasn't able to control anything
in these terms. this was very comfortable to the albanian "plague" called
Berisha, which seems to be totally out of his mind. so the next morning of
the pd deputy death he organized the coup d'etat, openly and in the middle
of the day.  what was this exactly. this was a very dangerous political
game played by nano. because he didn't want to shoot at the crowd and
because he understood that berisha was out of his mind, he decided to let
everything go and the institutions to be captured by armed gangs of dp.
after some hours of intensive danger, shooting, looting, dismantling of
the state, police finally showed up starting to take the situation under
control and recapturing the institutions. but in the mean time we had
experienced long hours without state, some hours that brought back the
situation of the last year which nobody wants to experience again.

GL: Berisha took over the television for some hours last tuesday. What
exactly happened there? What role does the television play in the current
events? And the other media, how do they respond? Would you call it a
media(ted) 'civil' war, as Western reporters say? Who is owning the power
over the guns and cameras...

EM: as i explained above it was part of the game that berisha should get
the television. this was really dangerous because it is the only media
that covers all albania. can you imagine to see in television some faces
that say that "we won - television is ours now" and than giving only false
news on the breaking of the prison, on the distruction of police, on
surrendering of the national guard etc. the fact that the situation of
tirana didn't have any resonance anywhere else showed that berisha doesn't
have support and that he cannot be succesful in either way. regarding the
other media, the independed ones, they simply transmited everything, not
live but by telephone service and afterwards with images. of course they
are important because with the national tv under control of armed gangs,
what kind of news can you imagine to get. but the fact is that most of
them do cover only tirana and don't go much further, so the rest of
albania was just watching the national tv. one more thing, very important.
there's no and there's never been a civil war in albania. last year it was
masses of people fighting against berisha and his secret police, while
this year, it was berisha attacking the institutions with guns. so the
term "civil war" is completely out of place.

GL: In the spring, the effects of the fighting in Kosovo were hardly felt
in Tirana. There were concerns, signs of solidarity, not much more. Now
there are stories about the involvement of the Belisha gangs in weapon
trading with the Kosova Liberation Army. Did you see or feel any impact of
this in Tirana?

EM: kosova has become increasingly important since last spring. of course
that the weapon trading reiforced financially and military berisha and his
gangs but it wasn't only him trading weapons. once more the albanian
governement found itself in a difficult position. this because they had to
help the refuges coming from kosova in the northern borders of albania.
and for this they had to create some kind of free zone. but this free zone
became free under every aspect, even from the governments control. the
impact of this is that many elements, above mentioned, interested in
destabilising albania, could penetrate deeply in the territory, getting in
contact with the organized crime and becoming dangerously active. now the
number of refugees is extremely high and they have settled almost
everywhere. the direct impact of this is, for example, that among the
gangs that attacked the institutions there were guys from kosova as well.
we still don't know what their involvement is, but this adds to the actual

GL: Unlike the implosion of all authority in March 1997, this time a few
Western 'Eurocops' are monitoring the crisis in Tirana. What is the (non)
impact of their presence? And how about the Italian army?

EM: first i want to emphasize that there's no foreign army in albania.
there's only some italian navy ships with a composed crew of italians and
albanians, fighting the clandestine trafic between italy and albania.
regarding the eurocops i still cannot say anything about their job. the
fact that police disapeared for some hours is a hopeless one, but if we
consider it as part of the political game, adding to this some very
succesful reactions of police stations towards armed attacks from
criminals related to berisha and to the other destabilising groups, i
cannot say that their work has been totally ineffective. on the other
hand, europe is still bringing up their strange attitudes for democratic
standards in countries in development. after strongly condemning berisha's
move as an attempt to come in power through the force of guns, now they
are preventing the albanian justice to operate towards him and many others
that inspired and organized that attempt. i wonder what would any of them
say in regards if such a thing would have happened in their country.

GL: A few months ago, you developed an ambitious plan to open the Albanian
Centre for Contemporary Arts, inside the pyramid building, the former
international Cultural Centre. Simultaneously, negotiations were under way
to open a similar Soros SCCA branch. One can suspect a serious setback
after all what happened last week...

EM: of course yes. after being seriously under the threat of death you can
imagine that you cannot immediately start where you had left. the
contemporary art center was only one of the cultural projects on
development on the other hand, even if you are a superman i don't think
that you could resist and continue as nothing has happened, if such a
chaos repeats once a year. this time i feel really tired and uncertain
about my plans. as far as there will be a monster like berisha around, i'm
afraid that all my energies will get consumed in survival terms and i
don't like this at all. that's why i don't have any answer for you
regarding the plans for the center of contemporary arts, and also i find
it a bit ridiculous to say again this time, "i hope things will get better

GL: I understand. Take care. Greetings to all!

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