Albanian press plans strike over sales ban

Albanian journalists are threatening to strike if city authorities in the capital, Tirana, carry out an order from the mayor to ban the sale of newspapers on the streets, which would in effect strangle the opposition and independent press.

The ban, which is due to come into force today, would deprive Albanians of their main source of newspapers and force them to go to a state-owned kiosk or bookshop instead. Not only would that severely restrict availability, it would also give the government the option of withdrawing a newspaper if it did not like its contents.

"If this order comes into effect, my circulation will go down from 7,000 to 1,000 and I will go out of business. The same will be true of the other independent newspapers. Our only option then will be to go on strike," said Carlo Bollino, editor of the part-Albanian, part-Italian paper, Gazeta Shqiptare.

The ban is the latest stormy episode in relations between the free press and the nominally free-market government of President Sali Berisha and has heightened political tension as the country gears up for general elections early next year.

Opposition parties accuse Dr Berisha of intimidation and point out that the restrictions were announced after a decision by the ruling Democratic Party at a congress last week to concentrate on propaganda in the run- up to the election.

Sali Kelmendi, the mayor of Tirana and a Democratic Party stalwart, justified the ban as a way of bringing order to the capital's chaotic streets, where prefabricated cafes and kiosks as well as stalls have proliferated.

But journalists are in no doubt that his real aim was to crack down on the overwhelmingly anti-government press. The only titles that support Dr Berisha are three government and ruling-party papers, which between them sell just 3,000 copies. The most popular independent title, Koha Jone, sells up to 10 times that number.

"Newspapers in Albania live on the brink. We pay exorbitant taxes that do not exist anywhere else in Europe. Now the state wants to control us physically, too," Prec Zogaj, president of the Albanian Association of Professional Journalists, said.

The day that the mayor announced the ban, police began harassing street vendors and beat one of them up, even though the order was not due to come into force for another week.

Following protests from journalists, Teodor Laco, the Culture Minister, called for a compromise that would give street vendors time to obtain licences before any ban was introduced. But the mayor was on holiday and unable to sign any modification. "We don't know what will happen, but we are ready to go on strike if the ban is not dropped," Mr Zogaj said.

Press freedom was one of the first achievements of the revolution that ended 46 years of hard-line Stalinist rule in Albania. But since Dr Berisha came to power on an anti-Communist programme in 1992, the tensions have been mounting.

Journalists complain that government officials are reluctant to co- operate, and that their finances are crippled by separate taxes on paper imports, circulation and advertising revenue.

The state, meanwhile, has maintained a monopoly on television and radio, which broadcast non-stop propaganda for Dr Berisha.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

£18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

Implementation Engineer

£150 - £200 per day: Orgtel: Implementation Engineer Hampshire / London (Gre...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Pharmacuetical

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Real Staffing, one of the UK'...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform