TOURISM KNOWS NEITHER ETHNICITY NOR POLITICS

The summer tourist season is long awaited by everyone, especially after these two challenging years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many expect to explore new places as well as to spend quiet holidays. One of the attractive tourist destinations for the summer holidays is Albania.

Tourists from different countries, including Serbia, choose to spend their holidays in Albania. The number of visitors, or vacationers, from Serbia to Albania has been increasing year by year. Various media in Albania, as well as in Serbia, reflect on this increase in visitors in their reporting, although official statistics are not yet available to the general public.

The Reporting Diversity Network 2.0 team monitored traditional and social media during July 2021 and noticed that positive narratives prevailed. These narratives include sharing the positive experiences of Serbian tourists in Albania as well as the experiences of the Albanian sector with Serbian tourists. The most recent article confirming this positive stance can be read here. On the other hand, Serbian media or travel agencies promote and encourage tourism in Albania. What is worth noting is that efforts to reduce ethnic tensions between the two countries, especially regarding free movement for tourism, are reciprocal. These positive narratives serve the peoples of both countries so that they both have the opportunity of free and safe movement, especially when it comes to tourism.

However, positive narratives are not the only ones present in the media. Negative narratives that promote language of ethnic hatred between the two peoples have found their space in the media, albeit in smaller numbers. One of these cases is the call of Serbian MP Dragan Markovic, the leader of the “United Serbia” party, to his voters “not to spend the holidays in Albania,” in the country that “incited everything that Kosovo Albanians did to Serbs.” Another similar case where, in addition to political figures, the media also follows the same logic of distorting historical events between Albanians and Serbs, is the article published by RTS, which, among other things, reminds Serbs to not forget “the Albanian Golgotha ​​where more than 70,000 Serb soldiers died.” We emphasize that such statements do not improve the situation between the two countries at all and serve as provocations and instigators of language of ethnic hatred between the two peoples, especially when they come from such influential figures or institutions.

The presence of hate speech has also been noticed on online portals in Albania, where users have used harsh language, full of insults and affronts that have an ethnic basis. While articles that address issues of Serbian tourists coming to Albania do not contain hate speech in their accompanying content themselves, readers do not refrain from using such language. We refer here in particular to the article that addresses an incident that occurred in Durrës. It is made known that, initially, it was Metro newspaper that published this incident based on the photos sent in by a reader.

We emphasize that, based on the Code of Ethics, the media should in no case publish content without verifying it simply based on speculation. The consequences of media’s irresponsibility, be it intentional or not, is first suffered by those that base their economic activity on tourism, and secondly by all others who are exposed to this negative environment. The media should appropriately use its public space for the benefit of the public, and not in favor of the narrow interests of divisive politics.

Tourism is one of those sectors in which ethnic differences should not be used as a means to achieve political goals. It is the sector through which one is allowed to know others while being oneself. The media has an important role in this regard and this role should be played with professionalism and responsibility while always reflecting reality.

Authors: Dorentina Hysa and Kristina Lani

Photo: Song_about_summer/ Shutterstock