AIIS: Focus on media in Albania-Serbia relations

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 20, 2017 11:55

AIIS: Focus on media in Albania-Serbia relations

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  • Research comparing Albania-Serbia relations in the printed media pinpoint to negative connotation particularly in regards to Kosovo issue, and a silver lining for future cooperation and development in economic and cultural trade.

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Photo: AIIS

Photo: AIIS

TIRANA, Oct. 18 – During a conference on the role of the media in informing and shaping opinion concerning the Albania-Serbia relations, a lot was said about the influence the media has in popular perception, the distinction between qualitative and sensational journalism, and even possible cooperation techniques in the context of further regional development.

The agenda – “Serbia and the bilateral Albania-Serbia relations in the eyes of Albanian print media” – did not only focus on one side of the coin, as research was presented comparing the printed media in both Albania and Serbia. While most of the research showed that at least quality newspapers use neutral tones in describing relations, when the Kosovo issue is mentioned, things tend to lean on the negative side.

The conference was organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), as one of the many events of the institute in the context of foreign relations. Held in the Tirana Times Book House, the opening remarks were spoken by Chairman of AIIS, Dr. Albert Rakipi, and Director of the FES Office in Tirana, Prof. Dr. Wulf Lapins.

“We experience two realities. One is the normal reality of things that happen, of relations, cooperation, exchange of goods and services, of history; an everyday reality found in the volume of relations between two states, economies, cultures and societies. This first reality is not a virtual reality. Meanwhile, another reality exists created by the media and the bigger the distance between these two realities, the more the way society functions is affected. The perceptions created by the media sometimes are, as popular international relations theory goes, more important than the facts themselves,” Rakipi said, highlighting the tremendous effect what we read and hear has in our everyday realities.

Prof. Dr. Lapins, who only recently took over the Director post in Tirana, spoke in a broader global and European context, of the problems and shortcomings we are all facing and the importance of mature and democratic relations between the countries in the region for European integration.

“Compared to other regions in the world, Europe could be seen as an island of happiness,” Lapins addressed the participants. “For some time now, European politics are talking of the fact the world is falling apart. This is essentially due to the fact the principles of this new world order have not yet been redefined. Globalization covers all areas of life. What are the negative effects of this globalization? Globalization affects the cohesion of citizens, societies on which democratic discourse flourishes. But even Europe – this seeming island of the lucky ones – finds itself with many problems.”

This atmosphere of change and instability, Lapins explained, has also made the Western Balkans countries “which are sitting in Europe’s waiting room” impatient.

“The Berlin process is a kind of reassurance, in other words, to make the time in the waiting room more comfortable. In all probability, the Berlin Process will end in 2018. But what comes next? Regarding the behavior of Poland and Hungary, the EU is concerned that the new member states would use their veto rights politically, as well. It would be a great contribution to the coherence of the EU if the future member countries would renounce their future veto rights under international law and the readiness for good negotiation with the European Union. Second, the naming ‘Western Balkan countries’ has a negative connotation; therefore these countries should now call themselves the countries of the East Adriatic. Third, the countries of the East Adriatic should not wait for the EU, but rather they should be implementing reforms in their national legislations. The EU is primarily a peace project, a supporter of the ability to compromise. Compromise is an indicator of the maturity of a political culture and state wisdom. Albanian-Serbian relations should be a good example of state compromise in the face of other interests.”

The research presented by Dr. Ledion Krisafi focused on Albanian printed media over the course of the year’s first six months. The four printed media used for comparison purposes were three daily newspapers – Mapo, Panorama and Shqiptarja.com – and one weekly one – Tirana Times. The connotations selected to describe the articles were positive, neutral, negative and almost negative. Out of 131 articles analyzed in the study, it was noticed that relations were positively mentioned in regards to cultural and economic cooperation, while the issue of Serbia’s ex-province Kosovo, which is now an independent country, turns comments bitter and negative.

It was also said that Albania-Serbia relations articles don’t have a permanent subject, but are rather related to different current happenings and developments. In addition, Krisafi mentioned that Serbian media cover more of Albanian tourism during the summer, whereas this is not noticed in Albanian media.

For Serbia, the newspapers researched by former exchange fellow at AIIS, Aleksander Pavlovic, and presented by current fellow Monika Maric, were Danas, Blic, Politika and Informer. Regarding Serbian media outlets, the overall number of articles mentioning Albania during the six month timeframe was 855, of which 385 belonged to Politika alone.

Serbian researcher Aleksandar Pavlovic emphasized that while around 70 per cent of the articles had a neutral tone, 184 of them had a derogatory tone and in 152 of those cases, the articles focused on Kosovo.

In Serbia’s case too, articles were more event-oriented, rather than theme oriented, with focus on events such as Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj’s arrest in France, or former Albanian president Bujar Nishani’s visit in Kosovo. A distinction could be noticed between commercially oriented and quality content newspapers in Serbia in regards of the language they use in describing Albania-Serbia relations and supporting political and social stereotypes.

Upon the comments made in conclusion to the presentations were that Kosovo stands in the middle of Albanian and Serbian relations, that Albanian media does not report enough on the region, but rather considers as news only what comes from Washington or Berlin, and that more often than not, economy and trade surpass politics and that is where the key for development and integration lies. As Dr. Rakipi mentioned in his closing remarks, Kosovo’s tension with Serbia should not be unified with Albanian-Serbian relations, but rather take separate roads politically and in the way they are represented in the media.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 20, 2017 11:55