Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

They Will Save Us, or Shouldn't They? an Analysis of the Role of the International Community in the Albanian Print Media after the January 21st 2011 Demonstrations

Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

They Will Save Us, or Shouldn't They? an Analysis of the Role of the International Community in the Albanian Print Media after the January 21st 2011 Demonstrations

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Since the fall of communism Albania has been undergoing the process of political democratisation. Authors like Bideleux and Jeffries called the type of regime that has been developing and its practices in the country "a rude yet very vigorous democracy of sorts", in which, despite rough party politics and frequent allegations of electoral malpractice, since 1999 Albanian politicians and voters have not resorted to violence to achieve political success. (1) Furthermore, the country has been accepted into NATO in 2009, signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU in 2007 and the Visa Liberalisation Agreement with the Schengen counties in December 2010, all of which have been considered positive signs of the democratic consolidation process in the country.

Yet, on the 21st January 2011, according to official reports, twenty thousand people in Tirana demonstrated against the current government denouncing it for electoral fraud and corruption. As a result of confrontation with security forces, three demonstrators were killed, tens of demonstrators and police officers were injured and a fourth person died later of injuries sustained in the confrontation (2). The event gave rise to an outstanding media debate which was focused on the broader effect of the "incident", and the initial purpose of the demonstration was connected with a myriad of themes such as political violence, the state of democracy in the country and its institutions; all of these were further influenced by the perception of the international community's role in domestic politics.

Commentators were skewed towards two main positions, although at various degrees, the first one being in support of the government and the second against it, which was reflected in two conflicting interpretations and representations of the political reality in Albania. The first one is that of a primitive and violent country and people unable to build a sustainable democratic regime and therefore in need of external international intervention to guarantee the continuity of democracy and prevent any slip back to authoritarianism. The second representation is an understanding of the political situation and political behaviour as proceeding in the context of politics as normal, as long as actors involved have interests and objectives, whereas international intervention is considered as a violation of the country's sovereignty and consequently a negative influence for the democratisation process in Albania.

As a result, certain questions emerge: how are these political controversies created? How are media accounts constructed in order to create assumptions and beliefs about specific events, courses of action or political actors? What do they tell us about patterns of power and the attitudes towards these patterns? I argue that through mainstream media discourses such as opinion articles we can identify accepted patterns of power in which the international community is the authority legitimizing or judging as illegitimate the actions of the political elite. The alternative discourse, which is underrepresented in opinion articles in the mainstream media, tries to demarcate Albanians against such influences by supporting the claim that international intervention is influencing negatively in the process of democratisation of Albania.

The study of media discourses is relevant in this context because it might help us understand the formation of public opinion on a particular issue or event (3). Discourse is, as Fairclough tells us, a mode of action and representation and analyzing it helps political scientists understand positions and attitudes of those that have constructed such discourse. (4) Furthermore, through their language we can construct a picture of the influences that Albanian public opinion is exposed to, and which they employ in order to give meaning to and construct the world around them. In other words, this article will use media as a window on the power patterns in Albania. …

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