Our newspapers and online media outlets divide the news in general into three main sections. One is the political section: what did Rama do, what did Basha say, whom did Berisha denounce, and how is Meta behaving, the next corruption affair, the next scandal, the next ambassador, etc.; the second is the “dark” section of crime: drugs, drugs, drugs that are captured, about one murder a day, in the family, with C4 or kalashnikov, with guns, with cars, on foot, at home, etc.; the third is the “pink” news and sexual teasers, filled with asses, dicks, pussies, ways of having sex, etc.
We deal with them as if they are three separate worlds, but that’s not the case. In fact, those three sections are three sides of the same reality. To make the connection (I’ll deal with the connection between the dark chronicles of crime and dark politics) I refer to the period of the communist regime. Those who have lived through it know that in those days the media didn’t feature a crime section. They didn’t talk about murder, theft, rape, or prostitution. Perhaps there wasn’t any? No, because they pretended it didn’t exist, because the dark chronicles of crime were one of the reflections of the real social, economic, cultural state of society and the dictators didn’t like that. They rather saw the reflection of the miraculous reality that they, so to say, had built.
Nowadays we “fortunately” have the crime section. What a curiosities one sees, hears, and reads day after day. Recently, I recalled reading some news according to which Albanian gangs are among the most terrifying in Great Britain, because they have no (moral) issue with abducting and torturing an ageing pensioner for only 200 pounds, and the news according to which the Habilajs are not the most powerful gang in Vlora, but that there are several others that are even more powerful.
A question arises: How is it possible that our politicians, when they are in power, are not at all worried about that which worried our dictators in the past – that the crime section was an indication of the fact that they hadn’t built the best of all worlds? How is it possible that they don’t think for a moment that the perpetrators of those cases of murder, rape, trafficking, blowing up, robberies with masks, without masks, are neither Martians nor Hollywood actors, but Albanians that have been raised and educated in the Albania governed by them?
If it were true that the Renaissance headed by the Prime Minister really tried to rebirth us, this aspect would be something to truly focus on. Because renaissance means first of all the attempt to pull us out of the dirt of crime. So they wouldn’t be able to fall asleep if they heard the dark chronicles of crime. And imagine what they would do if their minister of interior would be involved in a mafia gang. But what happened is that the dark Renaissance and the dark prime minister presented us with the thesis that we are dealing with the creations of the media of the “dumpster,” of journalists who “insult” Albania because who knows which foreign enemy is paying them.
Starting from the absurdity of these accusations, a number of journalists have suggested the idea that these are smoke bombs thrown by the prime minister to distract the public opinion from the scandal in which he himself is directly and indirectly involved. I would be much more at ease if that were the case, but unfortunately I think that we have to be much more worried about the prime minister’s actions toward the media. His actions against the media, just like his decision to protect Saimir Tahiri from being arrested in spite of damning proof, shows that the figures of the Renaissance, headed by Rama, have decided to protected their untouchability. And untouchability is protected by protecting power. The question that arises is: How far can this attempt go? The so-called distracting smoke bombs do very little in this respect.
Edi Rama’s aggression toward the media and certain journalists gives the clear sign that he is going much further. He is showing that if he had the power that the one-party system gave to dictator Enver Hoxha, he would have completely abolished the crime section and even forced the media to reflect only his reality.
But the fact that he cannot do so doesn’t mean we are immune to other risks and evils.
Before I deal with the risks, I have to repeat here that just like it is a mistake to think that the former regime was the work of a single person – Enver Hoxha –, it is a mistake to see the current regime as the work of a single person – Edi Rama. That would mean to excuse many direct and indirect culprits interested in propping up this regime. Without their support he could fall tomorrow. That’s why also the risks should be considered as risks that originate from that entire contingent of people.
According to my judgment, what is happening with Rama’s attack on the media – even those that have supported him – shows that the regime is entering a new phase. Using the now familiar terms I would say that they help in moving from a media regime to a narco-regime.
With the media regime I mean that from 1997 until the first Rama government, our political class, to reign and profit, has worked mainly through with the links with the media and the oligarchs that owned them. Until a few years ago, the media-owning oligarchs enriched themselves through the creation and use of the media, sucking up mainly the remittances of emigrants.
When Rama became prime minister we saw a “qualitative leap.” The big criminal money took the main role in sustaining the government. So for example the skyscrapers that are being planned to be built cannot be justified except through dirty money. In its 2017 report on monetary politics, the Bank of Albania speaks about a decrease in requests for credit “as a result of the usage of alternative sources outside the banking system.”
Under these conditions, the media owners, in part because this reality cannot be erased due to the daily revelations of online media and partially because their businesses depend increasingly on criminal money, they have been moved to the background as instruments of power.
Rama tried to cover up this new media reality by multiplying his own media and online outlets. Then he created his own television. As he remained unsatisfied, he is nowadays quickly moving to a next phase and is producing increasingly negative effects: the delegitimization and denigration of journalists who speak about this reality. But would he stop there? There are clear signs he won’t.
And here we arrive at the future risks that, if we don’t counter them on time, can produce a much more dramatic reality. Let’s not forget that behind Rama there are now not only oligarchs and the immoral journalists paid by them, but also the narco-traffickers and their soldiers, actual killers.
The narco-regime is the phase of laundering criminal money through cementing the connections of politics with the oligarchs and criminals, in which the latter become ever more decisive. That’s why Rama and his collaborators experience the denunciation and attack on crime, as well as its investigation, as an attack on the main pillar of the regime. That’s why at this moment we arrive at the need of the former dictators to completely erase the crime sections from the media.
But this will not happen in the geopolitical situation in which we live. So the risk is that very soon we will enter the phase experienced by other places where the mafia took over, such as Sicily during the 1980s, when Italian prime minister Andreotti declared there was no mafia in Sicily while journalists and prosecutors were killed.
Paraphrasing an infamous saying of the communists about power, I would say that Edi Rama & co. are signalling on a daily basis that they took power through crime and that they will protect it through crime. To stop these risks requires action while it’s not yet too late to destroy the narco-regime with courage, unity, and foresight.