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Albania: Corruption of the best is the worst

When you see the news about the situation in Albania today you cannot help but wonder: What in blazes is happening there? The government demolished the old fascist era National Theatre and Albanians are very divided about it.

When you investigate the matter further through news portals, television, and Facebook, you might think that something extraordinarily violent is going on and the country is on the brink of a civil war.

With bombastic titles and the 24/7 news-cycle focused only on bad news, trivial oddities, and political vanity projects, the situation compares to Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” when it comes to the “tragedy” of the National Theatre building. 

I don’t want to claim that the demolition was nothing. It is a major action taken by the government in defiance of a group of artists and journalists, fighting to keep the building as a cultural site and maybe turn it into a museum. 

But, on the other side, we need to recognize that even an important event like this has to have its limits of reactions. Reactions have to remain in the bounds of law and logic, and in respect and tolerance of those that think differently.

It is such a pity to see my fellow journalists going live on TV and threatening to “kill for the theatre”, or hearing political leaders threatening “to eat the ears of the prime minister”.

Have we descended to a place where nobody listens to anything anymore? Have we lost our minds in the passion or love for our “own” things?

In Albania the economic situation is not good. One can say it is bad; some would say it is really bad, and yet some others would claim it is not so bad. 

This is a matter of discussion, but this does not mean that everything is falling apart. It does not mean that the government that was elected in the last elections cannot be allowed to decide matters under its democratically given governing powers.

A bad system is much better than no system at all. And a bad government is much better than no government at all; we saw that during our last civil war that killed so many people. 

When politicians come out and call for disobedience and the violent overthrow of the government, it can potentially be dismissd as “political speech” in Albania and as such it can be tolerated, but when journalists come out and say that the people should not abide by the law and overthrow the government, as the only way out, this is a sign that there is something really wrong in Albania.

We already know that the Albanian political system is corrupt. We know that its judicial system that crumbled in the past 2 years was the most corrupt in Europe, but we are learning now that even the media is just as much, spiritually and politically, corrupted as the rest of the country.

There is Cicero’s famous question “Cui bono?” which means “Who stands to profit?”. 

When you see news portals in Albania and their readership one cannot help but wonder how do they pay their bills? The money they get from advertisement is nearly nothing and keeping in mind that Google and other major advertisers do not advertise in Albanian because it is not one of the supported languages, where does this money come from? 

The answer is simple: the money comes from the people that are willing to pay to push their ideas to the public without noticing that they protect and push special interests.

Most, but not all news sites publish bombastic titles that have nothing to do with news reporting or journalism. The articles are published based on two things: sensationalism and bad news. Whether news is real or fake is not important, as long as you can push a political trigger throughout 200 articles, an aggravating thought, or a conspiracy theory.

Let me give you an example: George Soros is the most hated person in Albania, even more so than Edi Rama. This is not because of him doing something bad to Albania, but because the media and politicians openly display anti-Semitic views when they talk about him, always as part of a conspiracy theory.

There has not been a day during the pandemic that some news and media outlet has not shown a title like somebody in India or China has developed a vaccine, or if you eat this or that you will be safe. The most favorite conspiracy theories of the media are the now well-known 5G and Bill Gates stories.

I’m not just talking about small news portals; there are big national television channels with a history of wonderful news that are becoming politically biased and pushers of conspiracy theories. It looks very much the same as the US news industry.

I’m not against journalists being part of the political discussion of the day, but when you are a journalist you should be a journalist and report, and when you are an activist you should take your badge off, because both of them cannot co-exist for long.

The Romans used to say: “Corruptio Optimi Pessima.” Corruption of the best is the worst. 

I’m not speaking about corruption through money or power, I’m talking about the corruption of the soul and spirit. Through the justification of survival, the press has become a divider.

So, the European Union has to be careful when it listens to the news right now. Most journalists, and not just journalists, in Albania are people with interests in the political system and parties because they are paid by this system and those special interests. 

As long as we don’t have a truly free press we cannot have free journalists. The idea that if we allow everybody to have their megaphone the press will be free is not only ridiculous, it is a recipe for disaster. 

The press has to be free and qualitative, not just free to say anything its masters and sponsors want.

We have promoted a system where everybody can say what they want, but without rules and a moral compass we will end in a place where everybody is yelling and screaming to everybody else and nobody accepts anything for real.

Albania is a country like all the other countries in the Balkans, with its own problems, with a government that is not so democratic, but this doesn’t mean that we have to destroy everything that we have built till now, because some of us do not like it.

I would suggest not to read the Albanian news. It is one-sided, when it comes to politics often has no basis in reality and it is made by people that are suffering and have no other way but to serve their masters and say what they want them to say.

If you want to help, send more journalists to Albania to see for themselves what is going on – because even I do not trust myself or my colleagues with the news pieces we produce down here…

Dritan Kiçi
Dritan is a journalist, documentary filmmaker, human right's activist and President of Albanian Citizens Club, a not-for-profit organisation concerned with human rights and civil action.
https://albanicum.com

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