Skip to comments.George Soros, Media Connections - Bump List
Posted on 01/14/2005 6:54:26 AM PST by Calpernia
Bump List for George Soros.
>>> The Washington Post reported Turner and an investor group that includes international financier George Soros signed a $225 million deal on Tuesday to buy out Gusinsky.<<<<
April 4, 2001
Ted Turner confirms Russian television network buy
Turner Ventures International, an investment vehicle formed by CNN Founder Ted Turner, confirmed it has reached an agreement with Vladimir Guzinsky, the owner of Russia's only independent television network, to buy a share of NTV.
Pending the successful negotiation of a similar contract with Gazprom and Gazprom-Media, which took over NTV on April 2, the agreement would ensure the future of the Russian television networks NTV, TNT and NTV+ as free and independent media companies, Turner Ventures said.
"While we are disappointed with the recent disruptive developments regarding NTV, we look forward with enthusiasm to finalizing an agreement with Gazprom and Gazprom-Media that will ensure the ongoing independence of NTV," Turner said in a written statement. "In earlier negotiations with Gazprom, we both agreed that no one party should have control of NTV and we are pursuing that course. Our goal is to secure the financial underpinnings of the company and establish a mechanism for growing the business in order to strengthen NTV's prominence and scope throughout Russia."
The Washington Post reported Turner and an investor group that includes international financier George Soros signed a $225 million deal on Tuesday to buy out Gusinsky.
Jim Rogers is co founder of Quantum Funds. George Soros international investment fund.
>>>Named one of the nations top 12 philanthropists by Time magazine in 2000, James Rogers has donated in excess of $200 million to schools, universities and other non-profits in recent years. Rogers owns Sunbelt Communications, which operates NBC and Fox affiliate TV stations in nine western U.S. communities, including KVBC Channel 3 in Las Vegas and KRNV Channel 4 in Reno.<<<
Rogers donation is Desert Research Institute's largest ever
The Desert Research Institute has secured the largest private donation in its 44-year history from one of the nations leading philanthropists, James E. Rogers, CEO of Nevada-based Sunbelt Communications, DRI President Stephen G. Wells and Nevada Test Historical Foundation (NTSHF) President Troy E. Wade announced today.
Rogers has pledged $3 million to DRI for its new Las Vegas Science and Technology Building, which includes the Atomic Testing Museum operated by the NTSHF. As approved by the University and Community College System of Nevada Board of Regents in today's meeting, the facility will be named in honor of Rogers father, Frank H. Rogers, a central figure in the early development and operation of the Nevada Test Site.
Slated for completion this summer, the 66,000-square-foot $13.1 million addition to DRIs campus at 755 E. Flamingo Road marked its groundbreaking last June. Funding for the project comes from state capital-improvement appropriations, state revenue bonds, and a capital campaign being conducted by DRI and the NTSHF.
Two-thirds of the Rogers donation is earmarked for construction of the new facility and build-out of the museum. With the remaining $1 million, DRI will create a new interdisciplinary center dedicated to environmental contaminant detection and clean up. Called the Center for Environmental Remediation and Monitoring, it will also be named in honor of the senior Rogers.
Frank Rogers played an early and important role in the establishment of the Nevada Test Site, and this naming will acknowledge his personal role at the Nevada Test Site, Wells said. It will also acknowledge him as a symbol for all the engineers, scientists, technicians, craftsmen, and support personnel who played significant roles in the establishment of the Nevada Test Site.
Wade, who was a manager at NTS during the nations most active nuclear weapons testing periods, worked with Rogers. Like so many others at the test site, Frank was a patriot, Wade said. He knew there was a job to be done in the defense of freedom, and he dedicated his life to that goal. This museum will be a fitting tribute to the men and women of Franks generation.
Named one of the nations top 12 philanthropists by Time magazine in 2000, James Rogers has donated in excess of $200 million to schools, universities and other non-profits in recent years. Rogers owns Sunbelt Communications, which operates NBC and Fox affiliate TV stations in nine western U.S. communities, including KVBC Channel 3 in Las Vegas and KRNV Channel 4 in Reno.
This donation has deep, personal meaning for me. My father was a hard-working man of great integrity who was proud of the work he did at NTS. I know he would be profoundly pleased that this building and center will bear his name in memory of people who put duty to country at the top of the list during perilous times, Rogers said.
The 8,000-square-foot Atomic Testing Museum will feature exhibits depicting the Cold War role of the Nevada Test Site in southern Nevada, placing it in context within American daily life and current affairs during that period. Another 2,000 square feet of museum space will be dedicated to traveling exhibits from the Smithsonian Institution, with which the museum is affiliated, and other entities.
A nonprofit, statewide division of the University and Community College System of Nevada, DRI pursues a full-time program of basic and applied environmental research on a local, national, and international scale. Nearly 500 full- and part-time scientists, technicians, and support staff conduct some 150 research projects at DRI annually. More than 85 percent of DRI's annual $33 million operating budget consists of research grants and contracts obtained by its scientists. The balance is received from the state of Nevada for administrative costs.
Indymedia.org team in merger talks with CBS/Viacom
George Soros, CEO of Indymedia.org ltd has begun merger talks with the CBS/Viacom News Network to help bring together the Vibrant Staff of the Independant News Network with the resources and Global Consumer Reach of the CBS news network. This follows a meeting of the IMC Board of Directors and key Indymedia shareholders where it was decided that Indymedia needed to branch out from its traditional Liberal readership demographic to encompass more mainstream news interests and readerships....
Did Soros just bank it? I know he couldn't have spent it--there were too few ads to justify all that money.
IRS needs to be all over that 527.
1. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $50,000 grant to the Nation Institute "to support project to improve performance and reach of Radio Nation, weekly public radio news and commentary program." George Soros' personal advisor for politics, Hamilton Fish III, is also a top executive at The Nation Institute.
2. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $50,000 grant to the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, which used to be headed by former Pacifica Foundation Executive Director Lynn Chadwick.
3. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute apparently gave a $125,000 grant to the Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting [CIPB} group (on whose board sits FAIR/CounterSpin co-host Janine Jackson) "to cover administrative and start-up costs for launching national campaign entitled Citizens for Independent Broadcasting."
4. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $78,660 grant to Don Hazen's Institute for Alternative Journalism/IMI/Alternet in San Francisco "to fund start-up of Youth Source, a youth Web site which will be part of a larger web poral, Independent Source."
5. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $126,000 grant to the International Center for Global Communications Foundation "toward launch of Media Channel, first global media and democracy supersite on the Internet."
6. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave 4 grants, totalling $118,000, to the Internews Network.
7. In 1999 George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $12,000 grant to Downtown Community Television Center. (There's a possibility that this was the group which provided studio facilities for Democracy Now after the 1999 WBAI Christmas coup).
8. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $150,000 grant to the Fund for Investigative Journalism. (Is this the same media group which provided some funding for KPFA's Dennis Bernstein during the 1990s?) 9. In 1999, George Soros' Open Society Institute gave a $35,000 grant to American Prospect magazine.
10. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $30,000 grant to the Center for Defense Information.
11. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $75,000 grant to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
12. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave 4 grants, totalling $220,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists--on whose board sits NATION magazine co-owner and editorial director Victor Navasky.
13. In 1999, George Soros' Open Society Institute gave 2 grants, totalling $272,000, to the "Project on Media Ownership."
14. In 1999, George Soros' Open Society Institute gave a $100,000 grant to the Public Media Center in San Francisco.
15. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $73,730 grant to the dance company of a Pacifica Network News staffperson's domestic partner.
16. In 1999, George Soros' Open Society Institute gave a $50,000 grant to Youth Radio in Berkeley.
17. In 1999, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave 2 grants, totalling $393,000, to the Tides Foundation.
18. George Soros's Open Society Institute recent gave a $102,025 grant to Radio Bilingue.
19. George Soros's Open Society Institute has also apparently been providing funds to subsidize a "parallel left" section of the prisoner solidarity movement. Critical Resistance, the Prison Moratorium Project, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and The Sentencing Project are all being funded by George Soros's Open Society Institute.
20. In 2001, George Soros's Open Society Institute also gave grants to help subsidize the Jews for Racial and Economic Justice group, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement group, the Million Mom March group and the Center for Investigative Reporting.
21. After 9/11, George Soros's Open Society Institute gave a $75,000 grant to the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Research Institute, a $250,000 grant to the ACLU and a grant to the LCEF group on whose board Mary Frances Berry used to sit.
Is there a Soros ping list and archiver on FR? If so, add me to the list...
Billionaire George Soros
Billionaire Peter B. Lewis
Most American citizens are content whomever is in the Oval office, do their 40 hours at work, take their check and enjoy the weekend. Some Americans are unhappy with the condition of the country. And a select few will do ANYTHING to see that President Bush is removed from office. 2 of these men are billionaires George Soros and Peter B. Lewis.
Mr. Soros is President of Soros Fund Management and Chief Investment Advisor to Quantum Fund N.V., a $12 billion international investment fund which is generally recognized as having had the best performance record in the world during its 25-year history.
Peter B. Lewis is the chairman, chief executive and president of The Progressive Corporation. Progressive is the nation's third-largest auto insurer. Lewis started as a local Cleveland car insurer. Today his Progressive does about $9 billion in sales a year.
Steve Kirsch, who made his fortune when he sold his Internet company, Infoseek is also joining in the anti-Bush donations. Also, Hollywood billionaire Stephen Bing donated $1 million to MoveOn.org.
However, both men will stop at nothing short of a gunshot to unseat President Bush and the Republicans from the White House. Soros in the Washington Post speaks of defeating Bush: "It is the central focus of my life," The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is "a matter of life and death." Asked whether he would trade his $7 billion fortune to unseat Bush, Soros said "If someone guaranteed it."
Both of these men have given $2.5 Million a piece to the far-left organization MoveOn.org. MoveOn.org is so far left it opposed any U.S. military response after the terror attacks of 9/11, asking instead for a ``peaceful response to break the cycle of violence.'' It was founded by Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, (computer entrepreneurs who also created the flying toaster computer screen saver), during the Clinton impeachment debate as an online petition urging Congress to censure him and move on to other business. It has become more powerful than the Democratic party itself in the advertising world. MoveOn.org plans to spend $15 million on anti-Bush ads.
Both Soros and Lewis also gave $10 Million a piece to the newly formed Americans Coming Together. Bill and Hillary Clinton are maneuvering to replace the Democratic party with Americans Coming Together, according to former adviser Dick Morris in a New York Post column. Harold Ickes, President Clinton's former deputy chief of staff, is working closely with Soros to fund and run it as well. Morris believes the Clinton's move to circumvent the Democratic Party is to provide a "lifeboat" for the likelihood that, at that point, were Dean takes the prize, he will fire their close associate, Terry McAuliffe, and take control of the Democratic National Committee according to WorldNetDaily. Morris says, "No longer will it's[DNC's] treasury be available to the Clintons to use as their private fund, channeling donations to candidates and causes they favor or that favor them." Worried by the Dean campaign support before the elections started, he said, "they [the Clintons] are working on stripping the Democratic Party of its central role and giving it to the more pliant Americans Working Together, instead." The Democratic Party, limited to donations of $2,000 per person by the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, has been unable to raise enough hard money for a national campaign. That means it essentially is ceding its main role to Americans Coming Together, Morris said.
In an article in the Washington Post, George Soros compared the Bush administration to Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union. Someone needs to remind him that Nazis and Communists follow far-left views .
But Soros has his own big special interests. He has been accused of ''destabilizing world currencies and wrecking the economies of nations.'' A French court found him guilty of insider trading and fined him $2.3 million in 2002. He has been called the ''Daddy Warbucks'' of drug legalization, spending more than $15 million initiatives pushing the issue.
Lewis is on the "legalize marijuana" train as well. Since 1996, seven states have passed ballot measures allowing the medical use of marijuana. In the seven states for which data are available, the measures are being financed by what might be deemed the holy trinity of drug policy reform: George Soros, Peter B. Lewis, and John Sperling. All three of these exceptionally rich men may have given to a wide range of philanthropic causes, but changing pot laws is apparently high on their list. Headquarters of the effort is a California-based operation, the Campaign for New Drug Policies. The Campaign's financial director, Lanicia Bentley, told Capital Eye that the organization's primary funders are Soros, Sperling, and Lewis. Bentley said the group supports initiative efforts in California, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Utah.
Of course on a trip to New Zealand, Lewis was arrested and admitted to three charges of importing drugs after customs officers found two ounces of hashish and 1.7 ounces of marijuana in his luggage. Of course, Lewis said he was carrying the drugs for "medicinal purposes." The Washington Times reported that the incident "sparked a political furor after the charges were dropped and his identity was suppressed by a court in New Zealand." New Zealand Judge David Harvey dropped the charges and invited Lewis to watch the challenger rounds for the Americas Cup yacht race while in New Zealand and to "enjoy the fresh air." The judge had issued a suppression order against the release of Lewis name, stating, "The consequences of publication would far outweigh the crime".
There is one troubling thing about all of this when you look at the big picture. There are so many social issues in the U.S. that are lacking in funding. Shelters, drug rehabilitation (not only by liberal Hollywood stars), Habitat for Humanity, Public Health research (cancer, AIDS, etc.), libraries, schools, colleges, inner-city problems, the Peace Corp, etc; all these need help financially. The Democratic party is supposed to be the party that aggressively attacks and solves these issues. Here you have billionaires who could be great philanthropists but choose to throw away their money on useless issues. They heavily support lobby for the legalization of marijuana and assisted suicide, and give even more millions away to organizations whose only objective is to make anti-Bush ads for the media. Plus the untold monies that go personally to individuals who will attack Conservative media personnel with any means possible (cough*Al Franken*cough). Is this what the Democratic party has become? I'm sure Thomas Jefferson and FDR would be pleased. These people could be the saints of our time but instead have chosen to become screaming partisan outcasts.
In the past, where were these type of people that would want to remove President Clinton? Or President Carter? Or President Johnson? Or President Kennedy? These were all Democrat Presidents. You don't hear of millionaires during each of these administrations putting their money into groups that would try to remove each President. And the left is always accusing the right of being the extremely rich untaxed people with money to spend. Why weren't they doing the same as Soros and Lewis during past administrations? It makes you wonder about the scruples of these two men and the political left they follow.
I encourage all who read this to boycott Soros Fund Management and Quantum Fund N.V. (of Soros), and The Progressive Insurance Corporation (of Lewis). Any money going to these companies is obviously used in questionable ways by the heads of the companies personally.
More hatred info: In a December 3, 2003 column in The Hill, respected Democratic pollster and strategist Mark Mellman wrote, "Democrats hate George Bush." Mellman went on to quantify the hatred: "The level of animosity Bush arouses in Democrats appears unprecedented. The data are not strictly comparable, but in 1998, 75 percent of Republicans said Bill Clinton made them angry. Bush's father could arouse the ire of only 64 percent of Democrats. Today, Bush enrages nearly 90 percent of Democrats."
John Armor at Chronwatch gives us a look at info from Soros' website:
From Soros' biography on the website of his Open Society Institute: he was born in Budapest in 1930. It notes that he ''survived the Nazi occupation'' and left there in 1947. Curiously, it neglects the fact that he also survived the Communist takeover of Hungary. He graduated from the London School of Economics. In 1956, he moved to the United States and began his very successful career as an investor and market manager.
Because Soros made a comparison, not an exact equation, I quote his precise words used to connect the recent abuse of a dozen Iraqi prisoners to the murder of 2,900 Americans on 9/11. He said, ''The picture of torture in the Abu Ghraib, in Saddam's prison, was the moment of truth for us, because this is not what this nation stands for. I think that those pictures hit us the same way as the--as the terrorist attack itself. Not quite with the same force because the terrorist attack, we were the victims. In the pictures, we were the perpetrators, others were the victim.''
This incredible statement is a small example of Soros' overall philosophy. He laid out his views in the February, 1997, issue of The Atlantic Monthly in an article entitled, ''The Capitalist Threat.'' There, he attacks ''laissez-faire capitalism'' and ''social Darwinism'' and makes the charge that, ''The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.''
Of course, any competent historian should know that laissez-faire capitalism died as a viable concept in the United States seventy years ago. The beginnings of the death of social Darwinism in both the U.S. and England were more than a generation prior to that, when the first laws were passed concerning child labor, public health, and restraint of monopolies of various types.
In this long article, Soros claims that there is no such thing as ''ultimate truth'' in the organization of societies and governments. In short, contrary to all thats been learned since the fall of the USSR, he advances (without using these words) the ''moral equivalency'' between western ideals and those of other, mostly totalitarian, governments in the world. In short, Soros is a geopolitical moron.
Mind you, no one who has managed to accumulate about seven billion dollars in a single lifetime can possibly be an objective moron. It takes serious intellectual firepower to accomplish that task. But when it comes to the differences between nations, and the uniquely successful history of the United States, Soros is a moron. Like most of his ilk, he has a blind and unjustified faith that the United Nations--a collection of representatives of mostly dictatorships--is better able to lead world affairs than the handful of fully civilized governments, beginning with the United States.
Why has Soros reached this false conclusion? Perhaps hes cut too many corners and stepped on too many people in his own path to the top, and now seeks to atone for his own misdeeds though his current philanthropy. More than a few American robber barons turned to philanthropy at the end of their careers. More than a few great institutions owe their funding to such late-life spasms of conscience.
Perhaps Soros is one of those: a self-loathing millionaire. In any event, Soros has chosen to put $16 million of his own money into the 2004 election, in part by the new (and legal for the moment because the Federal Election Commission has declined to act) route of the ''527 organization.'' He's chosen four organizations, the best known being Move-On.org; an examination of its primary leaders will turn up more than a few devotees of Fidel Castro, Yassir Arafat, and assorted other modern, government-based murderers.
The simpler explanation is that Soros, like many people of substantial self-made wealth, has fallen in love with his own intellect. He assumes that because he has the wisdom to make great money selling widgets, that he must be wise in all matters including history, society, and politics. America has always had an overabundance of people who succeeded in one area, and therefore thought their ideas in other areas were of equal moment and accuracy. Every reader of this column can make his own not-so-short list of wealthy people who are dumb as a hoe-handle outside their area of expertise. (Hollywood alone can produce a substantial list of such people.)
Be that as it may, Soros is neither the first nor the last man of great wealth to put his money and the power it represents behind ideas that are patently absurd and socially dangerous. While in his article he decries communist dictatorships, he seems not to have learned the lessons that were written in blood in the streets of his own hometown, in the very year that he moved to America--the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
I've seen some older Soros threads/bump lists...I will be searching them out and linking them here.
Interesting thought....Same Robert Strong?
Grants and Fellowships
Soros FellowshipThe Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans provides opportunities for continuing generations of able and accomplished New Americans to achieve leadership in their chosen fields. All applicants must be either resident aliens (e.g. hold a Green Card), naturalized U.S. citizens, or children of two parents who are both naturalized citizens.
The Soros Foundation annually awards thirty scholarships of $20,000, plus half of the tuition owed to the graduate school program of the applicants choice, for a period of two years. A Fellow may pursue a graduate degree in any professional field (e.g., engineering, medicine, law, social work, etc.) or scholarly discipline in the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences. The Fine and Performing Arts are included.
Applications are due from seniors in early November, and candidates should expect to participate in an interview as the vetting process transpires.
Liaison Officer: Professor Robert Strong (Politics) or Associate Dean Bent
Consult the program website at http:// www.pdsoros.org
Is this the Robert Strong mentioned in that blurb below???
Read that Vita!
Bureaucracy and Statesmanship: Henry Kissinger and the Making of American Foreign Policy (University Press of America, 1986).
Working in the World: Jimmy Carter and the Making of American Foreign Policy (Louisiania State University Press, forthcoming).
Articles, Book Chapters & Essays
"October Surprises," Intelligence and National Security (April 1993).
This article: Bush Guard Memos Questioned
Is this the same Robert Strong????
Robert Strong was a friend and colleague of Col. Killian who ran the Texas Air National Guard administrative office in the Vietnam era. Strong, now a college professor, believes these documents are genuine.
"They are compatible with the way business was done at the time. They are compatible with the man that I remember Jerry Killian being," says Strong. "I dont see anything in the documents that is discordant with what were the times, what was the situation and what were the people involved."
"He [Killian] was a straight-arrow guy," adds Strong. "He really was. I was very fond of him, liked him personally. Very professional man, a career pilot. He took his responsibilities very, very seriously."
George Soros, Postmodern Villain
by Srdja Trifkovic
NGO's, Behold Your God.
George Soros was born in Budapest in 1930 but, today, spends most of his time in New York City. Not much is known about his early years. He is the only eminent "holocaust survivor" who has been accused of collaboration with the Nazis. In 1947, he managed to sneak through the Iron Curtain, and, the official story goes, "he landed penniless in London, but by hard work and sheer genius, he rose to become one of the planet's most successful investors and richest men."
Mr. Soros' peculiar moral values, political views, and ideological preferences would be immaterial without the money that he can spend promoting and imposing them. The bulk of that money-currently estimated at not less than seven billion dollars-was earned in the minus-sum game of currency and stock speculation, contributing nothing to the creation of wealth and making millions of ordinary people poorer in the process. His offshore Quantum Fund-legally headquartered in Curacao, beyond U.S.-government supervision-specializes in speculative investments to take advantage of deliberately induced political and economic weaknesses of different countries and regions. In an interview with the Swiss weekly L'hebdo (May 1993), Soros outlined his strategy: "I speculate on discrepancy between the reality and the public image of this reality, until a correctional mechanism occurs, which approaches these two."
His profits are staggering. On September 16, 1992, he famously made a billion dollars in one day by betting against the Bank of England and the pound sterling. In July 1997, he contributed to the Southeast Asian financial crisis by shorting the Thai bath. In early 2000, he supposedly suffered losses on tech stocks, but some analysts now suggest that the burn of the NASDAQ was controlled and that Soros helped to start the fire. By last November, he was betting the U.S. dollar would plummet. As the London Independent reported (November 28, 2003), his activities were contributing to a growing belief on Wall Street that the dollar would slide even further.
There is nothing new in Soros' approach to making money or in the ability of such a person to make an impact, invariably detrimental, on his host society's morals and culture. What is new with Mr. Soros-in addition to the implausible claim that a private speculator could get as far as he has unaided by any established financial interests-is his systematic, concerted effort to use a large part of his fortune to promote his peculiar social and political views. He does so through a global network of "nongovernmental organizations" named after himself and active primarily in Eastern Europe but also in Africa, Latin America, and the United States. At age 75, money is not his object but his tool. He has used it to develop a well-coordinated global operation centered on the Open Society Institute (OSI) in New York, which funds a network of subsidiaries in over 50 countries.
Even before the Open Society network came into being, Soros' blueprint for postcommunist "shock therapy" reform had been put to the test. First came Poland, where the first postcommunist prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, was close to Soros and subsequently remained associated with his local subsidiary, the Stefan Batory Foundation. In his book Underwriting Democracy, Soros says that he personally prepared the broad outlines of Poland's comprehensive economic reform:
I joined forces with Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Harvard University, who was advocating a similar program, and sponsored his work in Poland through the Stefan Batory Foundation . . . The IMF approved and the program went into effect on Jan. 1, 1990. It was very tough on the population, but people were willing to take a lot of pain in order to see real change.
Poland was only a start, however; far more important to his goals was his association in 1991-92 with Russia's "reformist" leaders Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar and their Harvard guru Sachs. Within a year of their "shock therapy," hyperinflation had wiped out Russians' savings and the long-suffering middle class with it. Pensioners were literally starving. The parallel "privatization" of Russia's huge resources-timber, oil, gas, chemicals, media-created the robber oligarchs and contributed to Russia's effective deindustrialization. The country was lowered into neocolonial dependence: a supplier of energy and raw materials and an importer of high technology and manufactured goods. Nevertheless, in early 1993, Soros felt that Russia had not gone far enough: "The social safety net would also provide a powerful incentive to shut down loss-making enterprises. Factories could be idled and the raw materials and energy that go into production could be sold for more than the output."
George Soros is out to deconstruct nations and states as Europe has known them for centuries, with Russia always the main prize. In an interview with the Moscow daily Komersant (August 8, 1997), he declared that "a strong central government in Russia cannot be democratic." "The rescue of a free Russian economy depends on the attraction of Western investments," he added, and, to that end, "Russia's general public must accept the ideology of an open society."
By that time, a total of 29 "Soros Foundations" were active in every postcommunist country. In 1994, his foundations spent a total of $300 million; by 1998, that figure had risen to $574 million. These are enormous sums in an impoverished and vulnerable Eastern Europe.
Those foundations say that they are "dedicated to building and maintaining the infrastructure and institutions of an open society." What this means in practice is clear from their many fruits. Regarding "women's health" programs in Central and Southeastern Europe, for instance, one will look in vain for breast-cancer detection or prenatal or postnatal care. Soros' main goal is clear and frankly stated: "to improve the quality of abortion services." Accordingly, his Public Health Program has supported the introduction of medical abortion in Albania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia and the introduction of manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) abortion in Macedonia, Moldova, and Russia. In addition,
OSI has also worked with international and local NGOs to respond to the growing strength of the antiabortion movement. Through its influence on ministries of health and hospital administrators, that movement has made strides in reducing access to abortion . . . OSI will continue to support training in quality of care and efforts to keep abortion legal, safe, and accessible for all women in the region.
Why is Soros so interested in promoting more abortions in Eastern Europe? Overpopulation cannot be the reason: The region is experiencing a colossal demographic collapse and has some of the lowest fertility rates in the world. Unavailability of abortion cannot be the answer either: According to a recent U.N. report, five European countries had more abortions than live births in 2000-the Russian Federation, Bulgaria, Belarus, Rumania, and Ukraine. Overall, the report said, abortion rates are "substantially higher in central and eastern Europe and the CIS countries than in western Europe and North America." The only logical answer is that Soros wants as few Russians and others born into this world as possible.
Soros' public-health programs also "support initiatives focusing on the specific health needs of several marginalized communities" and promote "harm reduction": "Its primary goal is to empower drug users to protect their health. Needle/syringe exchange and substitution therapies (e.g., methadone) are at the center of harm reduction health interventions." His "harm reducers" have expanded their work with special initiatives on "sex workers" and prisoners and launched a policy initiative that attempts to ensure that "repressive drug policies do not impede the expansion of harm reduction efforts."
Over the past five years, the Soros network has given a successful start to previously nonexistent "gay" activism in almost all of its areas of operation. The campaign for "LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] Rights" is directed from Budapest, where Miriam Molnar's 1999 policy paper published by OSI defined the "problem" as discrimination and the low level of acceptance, visibility, and political representation of LGBT's. It was necessary either "to convince the society to accept LGBT people as equal and let the society make pressure [sic] to the politicians (through media) to change laws" or "to convince the politicians that LGBT people are equal and that they need help in convincing the rest of the society." The overall goals were to generate discussion about LGBT identity within the community, to make them visible and "create a positive image," and to establish regular forums of discussion with other groups in the region. Specific tasks included the development of websites in English with subsites in local languages, the establishment of task forces that would react to all "homophobic" media outbursts in one "Pink Book," and the organization of two-week summer schools for teachers that would "provide training about discrimination of [sic] LGBT people, disabled people, overweight people etc."
In November 1999, a pilot project began at the Center for Publishing Development (OSI Budapest) on homosexual books in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, and Slovakia. That same year, Nash Mir (Our World) Gay and Lesbian Center announced that it had been registered as an NGO in the Ukraine. From that moment, the group was free to pursue its stated goals, including "fight against sexual-orientation discrimination" and "homophobic sentiments in societal consciousness" and "assistance to upbringing of gays' and lesbians' self-consciousness as equal and valuable members of society." The group expressed gratitude for its legalization to the "Ukrainian branch of Soros Foundation Network (Renaissance Foundation) which lobbied our question in the Ministry of Justice and render [sic] legal assistance to us."
Gay.ru is a Soros-funded Moscow NGO that has developed "into an established and recognized Russian gay and lesbian center" and "the clearing house for lesbian and gay groups scattered across the country":
We keep contacts with all existing gay, lesbian, and AIDS organizations in Russia and maintain on-going correspondence and reporting to international gay and lesbian organizations . . . We have collected the biggest off-line library that features over a hundred Russian titles and some fifty English classic books on gay studies. It was greatly enhanced by the Core Collection on Gay and Lesbian Issues awarded to us by the Soros Foundation in 2000.
In Bucharest, Monika Barcsy of the local Soros branch bewailed the fact that, in Rumania, "the homosexual identity is stigmatized" and is one of the main bases for treating individuals as "the others" in an attitude of intolerance. Their families became the victims of prejudice "just because the society is unable to accept the legitimacy of same-sex relations as a 'normal' manifestation." The author singles out the Rumanian Orthodox Church as a prime culprit: "The problem is that many Christian Orthodox students' organizations and other student groups support the church." In 1994, she points out, more than 100 theology students began a series of demonstrations in front of Rumania's parliament against homosexual propaganda in the media and collected signatures demanding legislation to criminalize same-sex relations. Barcsy concludes by reiterating the standard Soros line:
Gay men and lesbians need rights that guarantee them the expression of their identity in the public sphere . . . [T]he legal status of gays and lesbians, their ability to move and appear in public, to speak out and act together should be considered a very good test of the civic openness. [It] can't be resolved with the new laws made under the pressure of different human rights organizations. Romania needs . . . to ameliorate the negative responses towards the homosexuals from the majority population . . . There are "problems" with the society as a whole, and the society's mentality can't be changed overnight.
A key pillar of Soros' activities is his dictum that "no-one has a monopoly on the truth" and that "civic education" should replace the old "authoritarian" model. Civic education does not have to be "just a dialogue" between a teacher and students, he says; in addition, "we have projects like health education, where people use new ways to discuss issues like hygiene, diet, and sex." While "this does not sound like traditional civic education," he continues, it is "a new way for teachers to relate to their pupils," just as citizens must relate in new ways to governments and elected officials in societies trying to become more open and democratic.
Accordingly, throughout postcommunist Eastern Europe, the Soros Foundation's primary stated goal is to "democratize the education system" by "instituting curriculum reforms." What this means in practice has been demonstrated over the past three years by Serbia's education minister Gaso Knezevic, a friend and confidante of Soros. Since the first day of his tenure, Mr. Knezevic has insisted that schools must be transformed from "authoritarian" institutions into "exercise grounds" for the "unhindered expression of students' personalities in the process of equal-footed interaction with the teaching staff, thus overcoming the obsolete concept of authority and discipline rooted in the oppressive legacy of patriarchal past." Mr. Knezevic started his reform with primary schools, with a pilot program of "educational workshops" for children ages 7 to 12. The accompanying manual, financed by the Open Society, rejects the quaint notion that the purpose of education is the "acquisition of knowledge" and insists that the teacher has to become the class "designer" and that his relationship with students should be based on "partnership."
In Russia, Soros' associates exercise great control over the selection of textbooks for Russian schools. According to a press release by the Gaidar Youth Library, financial support from the Open Society Institute provided it with computers, videocassettes, and CD's, all of which made "special training" for the children of "underprivileged people" possible in the library:
We organized a special seminar "Children's rights nowadays" for all specialists who took part in our project . . . The working group of the program "The Circle of Friends" is grateful to the "Open Society" Institute (Soros Fund, Budapest) for the opportunity to realize this project in a full volume.
In 1999, the Moscow Open Society office started a major five-year project, "The Development of Education in Russia." Its goal is to "reeducate rural teachers at a cost of US $100-150 million" (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 19, 1998). It is also applying a program called "Tolerance" in Russian secondary schools, but its masterminds may have made a linguistic blunder. According to a Russian critic of the program,
The Russian translation of this Latin word-tyerpimost-has the dual meaning of prostitution and could be confused with doma tyerpimosti, houses of ill fame . . . How come this financial manipulator tries to teach us about tolerance, us who grew up with Leo Tolstoy, one of the first philosophers of non-violence? . . . But Mr. Soros is also a horribly distorted mirror, which should make us see our own, present image, without blinking or turning away. There are times when evil can become an eye-opener, when its derisive laughter can waken us up and help regaining our strength. We should not miss this opportunity.
A first step in that direction may have been taken last November 7, when the OSI Moscow office was raided by a private security company hired by the owner of the building with whom the foundation was engaged in a protracted legal battle. Only weeks before, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the billionaire oligarch and OSI Moscow executive director who has his own NGO called the Open Russia Foundation, was arrested and charged with tax evasion, theft, forgery, and fraud. Soros denounced the arrest as an act of "persecution" that should disqualify Russia from belonging to the G-8 group of industrialized countries. "I believe that he acted within the constraints of the law. I am doing the same in the United States," said Soros, alluding to his multimillion-dollar donations toward "regime change" in Washington next November. The American press indignantly reported that the raid was directed against a philanthropic organization that had spent "more than $US 1 billion on charitable projects in Russia in the past 15 years."
"Racism" is Soros' regular obsession, but he faced the potential problem of finding it in racially nondiverse Eastern European countries. This has been resolved by identifying a designated victim group-Gypsies! "Few minority groups in Europe face as much social, economic, and political discrimination as do Romani people," says OSI. Being a "Roma activist" has become a lucrative designation within the community. Seventy of the most promising ones came to the conference "Roma in Expanding Europe: Challenges for the Future," held in Budapest last summer, at which Soros inaugurated a "Decade of Roma Inclusion." The conference offered policy recommendations, some of which could have been written by Jesse Jackson: first, obligatory and free preschool education in desegregated classrooms; second, Romani assistants in the classroom, especially in preschool; third, antibias training for teachers and school administrators; and fourth, integration of Romani history and culture in textbooks at all levels.
Legally mandated affirmative-action programs for Roma in high schools and universities were recommended by the delegations of Rumania and Serbia-Montenegro. On employment, the conference recommended tax incentives for those who employ Roma and access to low-interest credit for small Roma-owned family businesses. The Czech and Slovak delegations also proposed setting aside a percentage of government contracts for Roma construction firms. In the area of housing, specific demands were made to combat "racism and discrimination," including the "legalization" of shantytowns and "equal access" to municipal housing. The conference concluded that combating racial discrimination against Roma must be pursued through the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation complying with the requirements of the E.U. Race Equality Directive.
The Rumanian delegation demanded that the Bucharest government recognize the Roma holocaust by issuing a public apology along with urgent adoption of a reparations package. The European Union was asked to make sure that Roma are broadly involved in the design, implementation, and evaluation of all E.U. spending on Roma projects.
Soros' "programs" would have been deemed laughable or outrageous in their target countries only a decade ago. No one is laughing today, however. For thousands of young Eastern Europeans, to become a "Soroshite" represents today what joining the Party represented to their parents: an alluring opportunity to have a reasonably paid job, to belong to a privileged elite, and, for many, to travel abroad. The chosen few go to Soros's own Central European University in Budapest, where they are taught that affirming a scientifically grounded truth is "totalitarian" and that the sovereign nation-state is evil.
There is not one patriot (Russian, Croat, Latvian, Serb, Rumanian, Hungarian) or one practicing Christian on Soros' payroll. In all postcommunist countries, Soros relies on the sons and daughters of the old communist establishment, who are less likely to be tainted by any atavistic attachments to their native soil, culture, and traditions. The more successful among them-and the most loyal-may spend years drifting from one "project" to another, and some have been living that way for more than a decade. Soros has revealed (in Underwriting Democracy) that his Open Society foundations will help create an international web, at the heart of which will be the computerized base of personal data that will enable Western multinationals to find the local candidates they need.
These new janissaries, just like those of the Ottoman army of old, have to prove their credentials by being more zealous than the master himself; as the Balkan proverb has it, "a convert is worse than a Turk." Nobody is more insanely vehement in his insults against the Serbian people and their history, religion, art, and suffering than a dozen Serb-born columnists who are on the payroll of Sonja Licht, Soros' Gauleiter in Belgrade.
Hoi polloi are force-fed the daily fare of OSI agitprop by "the Soros media"-the term now exists in over a dozen languages-from the Gazeta Wyborcza in Warsaw to Danas (Today) in Serbia, the Monitor in Montenegro, the Markiza TV channel in Bratislava, and Vreme weekly and the B-92 electronic media conglomerate in Belgrade. They invariably parrot Soros' views and ambitions, reflected by the agenda of the local Soros foundation at home and, in world affairs, by the International Crisis Group (ICG), largely financed by Soros and run by his appointees.
Soros' agenda in world affairs is clear from the fact that his appointees include Gen. Wesley Clark, who commanded NATO forces in the war against Serbia in 1999; Louise Arbour, the former chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal at The Hague; former assistant secretary of state Morton Abramowitz, an enthusiastic supporter of Bosnian Muslims and Albanians in the wars of Yugoslav succession; and former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose visceral Russophobia aided and abetted the rise of Osama bin Laden and his jihadist cohorts.
As Gilles d'Aymery noted two years ago, Soros is not just the power behind the Open Society Institute, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Crisis Group:
[L]ike an immense Jules Verne octopus, [he] extends his tentacles all over Eastern Europe, South-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus as well as the republics of the former Soviet Union. With the help of these various groups [it is possible] not only to shape but to create the news, the agenda and public opinion to further aims which are, in short, the control of the world, its natural resources and the furtherance of the uniform ideal of a perfect world polity made in America.
That polity will not be "American" in any recognizable sense if Soros has his way, however. Here, he supports increased government spending and tax increases, drug legalization, euthanasia, open borders and immigration, immigrant entitlements, feminism, free abortion on demand, affirmative action, and "gay" rights. He opposes the death penalty in any circumstance. One of the trustees of OSI is Lani Guinier, the law professor whom Bill Clinton tried to nominate as head of the civil-rights division of the Department of Justice but changed his mind when she was found to favor minority veto power over legislation. Its president is Aryeh Neier, who had for 12 years been executive director of the Soros-funded Human Rights Watch and, before that, national director of the American Civil Liberties Union for eight years.
That he is anti-Bush is unremarkable, but Soros' statement last December that the defeat of the President is "a matter of life and death" was silly. His largesse to Bush's foes-although substantial-does not reflect the stated urgency of the moment: $15 million for America Coming Together; $3 million for John Podesta's new think tank; and $2.5 million for MoveOn.org falls far short of a month's cost of running his many foundations around the world.
Soros remains primarily committed to destroying the remaining bastions of the family, sovereign nationhood, and Christian Faith east of the Trieste-Stettin line. He senses that his full-throttle intervention in America is not necessary, because things are gradually going his way anyway. No matter who is his party's anointed candidate come next November, the real choice will be between George and Gyorgy, and that is not much of a choice.
Chronicles' foreign-affairs editor Srdja Trifkovic is the author of The Sword of the Prophet: Islam-History, Theology, Impact on the World.
The two men are neighbors in Sun Valley, Idaho.
"We used to have dinners as a foursome,'' Mr. Soros said, "and I got to know him quite well. We spent a whole afternoon over Christmas in 2001 talking about foreign policy."
Although he said he did not necessarily share all of Mr. Kerry's views, he added, "I'm very confident he would make a very good president."
He likes euthanasia? A man his age with his wealth is flirting with disaster by endorsing euthanasia. Does he have any heirs?
Poor Russia, first Communism, now Liberalism.
Big political money still in play
Special interests simply use different channels
By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Congress passed a law last year that was supposed to keep big, special-interest money out of politics.
It's not happening.
While large amounts of special interest money can no longer go to political parties, the money simply is flowing to other groups.
That's being felt several ways in Greater Cincinnati:
The Republican Governors Association is the new power in political money, and Tristaters have seen it flex its muscle with a barrage of campaign ads in the Kentucky governor's race.
Cincinnati financier Carl Lindner, who for years was a top donor to political parties, has shifted his money to the Republican Governors Association, giving it $150,000 in the past year.
The Republican Governors Association will be an even bigger force next year, when 11 governorships are up for election. Experts say the association's new clout will help shift power from the parties to governors. The chairman next year? Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.
For ordinary voters like Tony Schrand, 79, a retired pipe fitter from Erlanger, it's evidence that big money always will try to influence politicians.
"I do object to out-of-state interests trying to buy our elections," he says.
The Republican and Democratic governors associations run what are known as "527" committees, named after a section of the tax code. They officially have no relation to the national Republican or Democratic parties.
Donors to the national parties can give only $25,000 a year. But donors can give any amount to either governors association or any of the thousands of other 527s.
And they are.
A report this month from the Center for Public Integrity found that corporate and labor money that used to support the political parties now is bolstering the governors associations. The center's analysis showed the Republican governors had raised more money than any other 527 this year - $7.5 million through Sept. 30.
The Democratic Governors' Association was second with $3.7 million through June 30.
"We will maintain an aggressive fund-raising schedule," promises Brian Hicks, a Columbus political consultant who handles Taft's fund-raising. Hicks, who until recently was Taft's chief of staff, will work closely with the Republican Governors Association when Taft takes it over in November.
As chairman, Taft will help determine which races will get money, making him a power broker among governors and state legislators. Republicans now are governors of 26 states, not counting California.
"We certainly hope to keep that and add to that," Hicks says.
The Republican Governors Association calls its donors "members." The highest membership level costs $100,000 and is known as "cabinet" level. The Democratic Governors' Association operates in the same way, with those who give or raise $100,000 getting named to a "finance council," says executive director BJ Thornberry. Big donors get invited to VIP receptions and other exclusive special events, she says.
The top donor to the Republican Governors Association this year is Cincinnati's Lindner, owner of the Cincinnati Reds and chairman of American Financial Group and Great American Insurance Group.
A spokesman for Lindner says he doesn't seek favors from politicians and donates only because "he is a believer in the American system." He donates at every political level, from city council to president, and though most of his money goes to Republicans, he also donates to Democrats.
Altria, parent company of Kraft Foods and Philip Morris, wrote a $72,000 check to the Republican Governors Association in August. Company officials say Altria is just doing what it always has done: staying active in politics.
"We feel like it's our responsibility to do so for our millions of shareholders, our employees and other important stakeholders for the company," spokesman David Tovar says. "We want to work with elected officials on important policy decisions they make that affect our companies."
While Tovar says he didn't know the specifics of the donation and whether it had anything to do with the Kentucky governor's race, he says the Bluegrass State is important to Altria.
"A lot of the tobacco we use is grown there," Tovar says.
The Republican Governors Association has been airing ads in every Kentucky market accusing Democrat Ben Chandler of wasting money he won for the state in a health-care settlement. Chandler, Kentucky's attorney general, has been asking stations not to air it and says he had been victimized by "an avalanche of money" poured in by "Washington insiders."
The Democratic Governors' Association also has been collecting huge checks from typical donors to Democrats. Its five biggest donors are labor unions. The top one is the union representing government workers, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Representatives did not return calls.
The biggest donor to 527s in the past three years has been actress Jane Fonda and other liberals. Liberal and labor groups plan to use 527s to mount a major campaign to get rid of President Bush. Financier George Soros alone has pledged $10 million to a new 527 called Americans Coming Together, which will spend $75 million to air anti-Bush ads and get out anti-Bush voters on Election Day.
The 527 committees existed before campaign finance reform, and the new law limits such committees from coordinating campaigns with federal candidates, such as House members, senators, or presidents.
The new federal campaign finance law, which took effect after November's elections, barred political parties from receiving unlimited donations that corporations, labor unions and individuals once lavished on them.
Opponents, chief among them Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued that stopping the flow of big money into politics was like trying to stop water from flowing downhill: It would just flow around any obstacle.
"It's just shoved the money around to other sources," groups that are less accountable for what they say than local politicians who must face voters, says Bob Doyle, a Democratic political consultant who helped Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and is trying to re-elect Kentucky Rep. Ken Lucas.
"This is basically a reordering of the hierarchy of campaign spending," Doyle says.
Top donors to the Republican and Democratic governors associations in recent years:
Republican Governors Association
Carl Lindner, Indian Hill, $100,000 in April and $50,000 in November 2002.
David Luff of FirstEnergy Corp., Akron, $100,000 in 2002.
HCR Manor Care, Toledo, $50,000 in June.
Frank Gates, Dublin, $40,000 in September.
Anthem Inc., Cincinnati, $25,000 in August.
Lewis Smoot of the Smoot Corp., Columbus, $25,000 in 2002.
Diebold, Canton, $25,000 in May.
Democratic Governors' Association
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., Columbus, $20,000 in 2002.
Anthem Inc., Cincinnati, $20,000 in 2001.
HCR Manor Care, Toledo, $20,000 in 2002.
Republican Governors Association
Kindred Healthcare Operating Inc., Louisville, $25,000 in June.
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Louisville, $20,000 in July.
Brown-Forman Corp., Louisville, $15,000 in June.
Democratic Governors' Association
Ashland Inc., Ashland, $55,000 combined in 2001 and 2002.
National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Lexington, $25,000 in 2002.
Almost Family, Louisville, $25,000 in 2002.
Churchill Downs, Louisville, $30,000 combined in 2000 and 2001.
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Louisville, $15,000 in 2001.
Brown-Forman Corp., Louisville, $15,000 in 2002.
Soros is a pillar of wickedness.
This guy is good while Murdoch is evil. I don't get it.
>>>>As the government started easing restrictions on the media, a number of Western organizations began looking for ways to help the country's fledgling free press. Among the first groups to begin work in Albania were the International Media Fund (IMF), the United States Information Agency (USIA), the Cox International Center at the University of Georgia and the Soros Foundation.<<<<
On the Road to a Free Press in Albania:
Evaluating Outside Aid Efforts
By Van Kornegay
Edited by Al Hester and Kristina White
Copyright © 1995
The James M. Cox, Jr., Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, 30602, U.S.A.
[Editors' Note: This study by Professor Van Kornegay of the University of South Carolina was funded by the James M. Cox, Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research of the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. So far as the editors know, this is the first attempt to evaluate in detail efforts by a variety of non-Albanian organizations, agencies and institutions furnishing aid to help establish a free press in Albania.]
A Media Struggling to Mature
The office walls of the Democratic Press printing plant in Tirana, Albania are decorated with an American flag, a poster of the Statue of Liberty rising up out of the mist and portraits of Presidents Bush and Clinton. But it's the other symbols of new-found freedoms that cover the room like wallpaper: Playboy's Miss September, Miss October and Miss every-other-month-of-the-year. Coming off the press is the most recent issue of Eros, a soft-porn tabloid printed at the plant.
The more wholesome icons were in vogue during the heady days when communist rule had come to an end and journalists were getting their first taste of press freedoms. But today, the mood in the Albanian media has become more somber. The dialog of democracy is still an ideal, but pornography helps pay the bills. Like the rest of this small Balkan nation of 3.5 million, the media are struggling to mature as they wrestle with issues of financial survival, an uncertain political climate and whether the new face of press freedom looks more like Lady Liberty or Miss October.
To help Albanian journalists find a new role in their emerging democracy, Western organizations have sponsored a variety of media aid programs. Many of these aid efforts have provided essential resources to help nurture a fragile, free press while others have struggled to bear fruit in the harsh climate of a society with no democratic legacy.
Reviewing Media Aid Efforts
This monograph is a review of such efforts to aid the Albanian media. It is not a comprehensive enumeration of all the projects that were undertaken or are still underway, but an accounting of some of the first efforts that began in early 1991. Through the voices of the aid recipients and organizers, and from my own experiences, I hope a discussion of these efforts will help inform the decisions of those still involved in the important work of building a free press in Albania.
As they have struggled to establish a free press, Albanian journalists and their benefactors have confronted endemic problems of a nation with a long history of isolation and totalitarian governments.
The Balkans have been called "Europe's forgotten rear door" and Albania is perhaps the most anonymous and enigmatic nation of this region. Its people are descended from the ancient Illyrian tribes that by some accounts came to the area even before the Greeks and Slavs. The Albanian language, Shqip, comes from these tribes and bears no resemblance to any other known tongue.
As far back as the 18th Century a British journalist described Albania as "a land within sight of Italy which is less known than the interior of America."  Not much has changed in the intervening years. When Albania began opening its doors to foreigners in the late 1980s, the first visitors found a nation behind the times and falling apart. Anthony Daniels wrote in 1991:
"At Tirana Airport one leaves a continent and several decades behind. . . People move slowly, almost with reluctance. The aircraft in which one lands stands in solitary glory on the tarmac (apart from the few ancient and probably flightless MiG fighters half-hidden behind the bushes. . .). One walks to the terminal through a pleasantly seedy garden with spiky grass and stunted palm trees, and notices there is no smell of aviation fuel in the air, as at other airports. . . Before the entry formalities are completed, the aircraft has taken off for its return to the other world, and suddenly the reality of Albania's terrible isolation is revealed to the tourist. If he contracts appendicitis now, he will have to submit to an Albanian appendectomy." 
I visited Albania four times between the fall of 1992 and late 1994 as part of an aid program to provide computer training to journalists, which was sponsored by the James M. Cox, Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia.
I didn't have to go far beyond the dilapidated airport to discover why the U.N. would classify Albania as a "least-developed nation," the only one ever in Europe. From a distance, the skyline of the capital city of Tirana had a familiar urban profile with row upon row of high-rise apartments. But up close the crude brick and mortar construction of the buildings gave the city a primitive, unfinished look. Windows were broken, public fountains were dry, everything seemed old, worn and used up.
Much of the blame for Albania's misery lies at the feet of xenophobic dictator Enver Hoxha. Albania underwent a massive spiritual and material erosion during his reign that started at the end of World War II and lasted until his death in 1985. Hoxha left Albania with a crumbling infrastructure and a huge vacuum in public life. Even after his death, his legacy remained a strong force in the country under a hand-picked successor, Ramiz Alia, who wasn't voted out of office until March, 1992.
The Media As Hoxha's Mouthpiece
picture of Relindja Democratike newspaper
Relindja Democratike is the newspaper of the ruling Democratic Party and was the first opposition paper to appear as the dictatorship fell in Albania. Today it is widely criticized as being little more than a mouthpiece for President Berisha. The front page photo was an attempt to discredit a socialist politician by placing his likeness in the mouth of the late Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha.
Hoxha used the media as an important instrument of policy. Broadcast media, especially radio, were the dominant tools of propaganda since they afforded the easiest access to the majority of the Albanian population living in the remote and mountainous countryside. It also allowed Hoxha to transmit his propaganda abroad--probably the only export to come out of Albania during his reign. For years Radio Tirana broadcast worldwide in more than 20 languages from atop nearby Mt. Dijti, and it was famed for having one of the most powerful signals in Europe.
But even though radio was an important tool of the government, it developed little depth or sophistication in its programming. By 1991 there was only one national program simulcast on AM and FM from 5 a.m. to midnight, and four stations in smaller cities which only broadcast several hours a day. 
Television eventually became the most important segment of the electronic media, but it developed at a much slower pace. The only TV station in Albania didn't start broadcasting in color until the early 1980's, and color TV sets weren't common in Albanian homes until the mid 80's because they were too expensive. 
Albania's close proximity to Europe made foreign TV and radio programming accessible, but it had little impact on public life during Hoxha's reign. The regime tried to maintain a captive radio and television audience with threats of harsh prison sentences to those caught tuning in to foreign stations. Many, however, listened to foreign broadcasts.
picture of the Voice of the People newspaper
The "Voice of the People," the newspaper of the socialist party and of the hard-line communists before the revolution, is printed on old hot metal presses. But it still has the highest circulation of any paper in Tirana--about 30,000.
During Hoxha's rule the print media were less pervasive and influential than broadcast. Newspapers were published by the only real political party in Albania, the communist Labor Party, which cultivated a handful of party organs. Zeri i Popullit, or Voice of the People, was the party's flagship daily paper and had a circulation of 180,000 at its peak. It still survives today but with a circulation of approximately 30,000.
Aside from Zeri i Popullit, the government sponsored several non-daily newspapers targeted at different audiences. There was a newspaper for youth (Zeri i Rinise), sports (Sporti), arts and culture, (Drita), labor (Pune), and the military (Luftetari).
Albania Opens the Door
It wasn't until communist regimes in other East Bloc nations began to crumble and demonstrations erupted in Tirana in December, 1990, that the government began giving up its monopoly of the print media. In response to the waning influence of communism and the internal unrest, laws were passed that sanctioned the publication of newspapers and magazines by groups outside the government.
As the government started easing restrictions on the media, a number of Western organizations began looking for ways to help the country's fledgling free press. Among the first groups to begin work in Albania were the International Media Fund (IMF), the United States Information Agency (USIA), the Cox International Center at the University of Georgia and the Soros Foundation.
The Need for Aid
The first media aid initiatives started when IMF President Marvin Stone visited Albania in May, 1991. Only six months earlier the government had issued its first permit to a newspaper offering an alternative to Labor Party propaganda. Relindja Demokratike, a newspaper of the opposition Democratic Party, published its first issue on January 5, 1991 and quickly sold 50,000 copies. 
Stone found that the print and broadcast media, like the rest of the nation, were in dire need of assistance. The available printing technology was 50 years old, distribution systems were inefficient and subject to tampering from Communist cronies still in control, and newsrooms lacked basic tools, such as electric typewriters and ribbons.
"Visits to the two state-owned publishing houses is a trip back to pre-World War II technology," wrote Stone in his report. "In the major house, the British linotype machines are as much as 60 years old. Spare parts are no longer available. The lead for plating has been recycled so many decades it has lost its durability. The sole rotary press itself is 50-60 years old. All of this is housed in a dark, Dickensian warehouse," he wrote. 
A Tirana seminar for journalists, held jointly by several aid organizations in the fall of 1991, was probably the first effort by the West to help develop an independent Albanian media. Taking the lead in this pioneering effort was the International Media Fund, set up by the U.S. Congress to help develop a democratic press in Eastern and Central Europe; the U.S. Information Service in Tirana; and the Cox International Center of the University of Georgia. Among journalists and academics meeting with a large group of Albanian journalists and political leaders were David Binder, foreign correspondent of the New York Times, known for his thoughtful coverage of the Balkans and other areas; Bill Kovach, veteran editor and curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University; Professor Ray Hiebert of the University of Maryland; and Professor Al Hester, Director of the Cox International Center.
This first seminar, held in what had been the Enver Hoxha Museum, was well-received by the Albanians who spoke out strongly for freedom of the press. The seminar laid the ground work for future IMF, U.S. Information Agency, Cox Center and other aid efforts.
"Those were euphoric days in Albania, particularly in the media," said Hester. "Albanian journalists came to these seminars and said things they had never said before, at least not in public or with their colleagues. They had never thought much about reporting critically on the affairs of the government because it wasn't a possibility. They talked of being freed, not only from their long isolation from the world, but from an enslavement of the mind." 
In addition to conducting seminars, these aid organizations also began providing material aid. The IMF purchased a satellite dish and VCR tapes for the government television station so it could capture, record and play back international programming. IMF also donated two vans to aid in the distribution of newspapers. The Soros Foundation began supplying newsprint to opposition newspapers, since the only newsprint plant in the country could not meet demand.
In the winter of 1992, the Cox Center set up a computer lab in a government-owned building with a half-dozen personal computers and laser printers purchased by the IMF. Al Hester used the lab as a site to conduct desktop publishing and reporting workshops. For most of the journalists who participated, it was the first time they had ever used a computer.
Aid to the Broadcast Media
More long-term projects were initiated to lay the groundwork for increasing the diversity of the broadcast media through the construction of two new radio stations. The IMF funded the construction of a Tirana station that was the first in-country alternative to the government-owned station, and IMF funds purchased a transmitter and studio equipment for another community radio station in the city of Elbasan.
The first station went on air in 1992 and continues to broadcast over the Tirana area. Most of its programming comes from Voice of America Europe; however, it supports a small Albanian staff that reports Albanian language news once in the morning and once in the evening. The IMF claimed the station became the most popular in Tirana soon after it went on the air. 
The station played on the radios of virtually every newsroom I visited in the fall of 1992, and it was strange to hear American rock music piped into this ghost town corner of the world.
"Ain't that America, you and me," the lyrics of a John "Cougar" Mellencamp song echoed one night through the dingy, three-room apartment that was the newsroom of Relinda Demokratique.
Ain't that America, something to see, baby.
Ain't the America, land of the free
Little pink houses for you and me."
I couldn't tell whether the music was a source of hope and inspiration or just a diversion from the heartaches of a people whose tiny apartments rarely had heat or running water. Whatever the effect, the IMF-sponsored station gave Albanians some of their first cultural connections with the West, and they were connections they were eager to make.
Aid to the Print Media
While there has been progress in upgrading facilities of government-owned stations, the aid effort to the broadcast media has been hindered by the prohibitive costs of equipment and the fact that private ownership of radio and television stations is still against the law. The print media, however, have faced fewer technical and legal obstacles, and as a result, the aid effort here has produced more dramatic changes.
One of the most ambitious media aid projects was the construction of the Democratic Press printing plant. At a cost of more than $1 million, the IMF purchased land and constructed the plant to house computers, platemaking equipment and a printing press. Albanians were hired to run the facility and sent to Germany for training.
The printing center constructed by the International Media Fund in Tirana.
At the time of its construction in 1992 and early 1993, the printing plant was one of the most ambitious building projects in Tirana. The steel frame building would not rate as much as a second glance in most Western cities, but it was a novel structure for Albania at the time. In fact, all of the materials to build the plant had to be shipped into the country, and the project manager, Bruce Anderson, said none of the Albanian construction workers had any experience with modern building methods or materials.
Sharing Responsibility and Profits
The IMF invited seven independent newspapers in Tirana to participate in a consortium which was supposed to jointly operate the plant and share in its profits. Three of the seven newspapers had existed under the old communist regime and were struggling to remake themselves, while the other four were new publications supported by parties in opposition to the Labor Party.
Zeri i Popullit, the Labor Party's newspaper, was not invited to participate in the consortium. "They controlled the only printing plant in town when we came there," said IMF Senior Counselor Bill Sheehan. "They were being sponsored by the communist government who'd been in power for years, and we weren't going to bring them into the group." 
The Cox Center also participated in the project by coordinating the placement of computers and laser printers in each of the seven newsrooms and by sending consultants to Albania on five occasions to provide training.
The Free Press Is Launched
The new equipment freed the seven newspapers from having to use the services of the communist party press house for typesetting and lay-out; however, it also created problems the Albanians had never faced using primitive production methods. The same day I delivered computers to one newspaper staff they put aside their manual typewriters and started entering stories and laying out pages on the terminals. Throughout the day there were power outages and resulting computer crashes, and by late evening not one page was finished.
"Mr. Van. When will we get our newspaper out of the computer?" asked the editor.
"When you get the electricity to stay on," I said.
"But the electricity never stays on for long," he moaned.
The sun was rising the next morning when the last page crept off the laser printer, and the pasteups were rushed off to the printing plant. But the Albanians were undaunted by the experience. After a few hours sleep, I trudged back to the office and found a machine that looked like a huge green hot dog stand blocking the front door. It turned out to be a diesel generator left behind by the Chinese some 20 years before. The Red Army's bright star adorned one side, and several copy editors were huddled around a panel of knobs and dials trying to decipher the operating instructions, written in Chinese.
No one knew Chinese, but no one wanted to spend another night waiting for the electricity to come back on, either. The generator was started and a thick cable terminated by two exposed wires was threaded through a window. After several misconnections that caused a shower of blue sparks, the lights flickered on and the Albanian free press lurched forward, courtesy of communist China.
By the time the construction of the the Democratic Press printing plant was finished, most of the newspapers had completed the conversion to computerized lay out and typesetting. The plant was dedicated on February 2, 1993, in a ceremony attended by President Berisha, representatives of the Cox International Center, the International Media Fund, USIA and most of the Tirana media. Addressing the crowd, President Berisha said he had encouraged the building of the plant because he believed a free and independent press was essential to building a democratic Albania. However, less than two years later, several journalists were jailed for violating press laws that had been passed during his administration and his political opponents were charging him with resorting to repressive tactics.
Along with their desperate need for material and technological assistance, Albanian journalists have had few opportunities for any type of formal journalism education. Nor has Albanian society at large ever been exposed in a systematic way to a thoughtful explanation of the role of a free press in a democratic nation.
Aid initiatives in this area consisted of providing study abroad programs for Albanian journalists as well as sending U.S. professors to Albania to teach and help develop journalism curricula.
In one of the first exchange programs, the Cox Center brought a handful of Albanian journalists to the University of Georgia for a series of journalism seminars. The USIA's Voice of America and the Cox Center also provided a year-long fellowship in 1992 to Albanian journalist Anton Joro to study journalism at the University of Georgia where he translated a basic journalism text.
Other groups, such as Gannett's Freedom Forum, the Knight Foundation and the Soros Foundation, have also sponsored programs to bring Albanian journalists to the U.S. to study in university journalism programs or gain practical experience working in the field.
Developing a Journalism Curriculum
"The newspapers only talk to themselves and not to their readers," said a member of this English class at the University of Tirana. "We don't trust them."
In Albania, university courses in journalism were either limited or nonexistent under communism, and, as with any other endeavor, there were significant obstacles to developing new programs. Shortages of knowledgeable faculty, facilities and textbooks have been a major problem for creating programs in even the most basic disciplines. 
In response to this need, IMF helped coordinate the placement of three Fulbright Scholars in the journalism department at the University of Tirana. Ned Colt, a broadcast journalist, was the first Fulbright scholar to teach in the program in the fall, 1992, semester. Cathy Packer, a journalism professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, followed and taught from January, 1993, until June, 1993, and Frank Jossi, former director of the World Press Institute at Macalester College, taught from fall, 1993, until spring, 1994.
The three professors taught courses in basic reporting and mass communications and worked with the small Albanian faculty to develop a journalism curriculum.
In addition to the Fulbright Scholars, three American exchange students from the graduate school of Columbia University also taught briefly in the department during the fall, 1993, semester. They came to the university and started a student newspaper, Reporteri, with support from the IMF and the Soros Foundation. The trio taught a practicum-type course that gave Albanian students hands-on experience with basic reporting, layout and production.
University of Tirana newspaper
This is a student newspaper at the University of Tirana, started with the help of U.S. journalism students. University administrators shut the paper down and evicted the U.S. students from their offices when the first issue printed articles criticizing a new press law. The newspaper continued publishing from the offices of the Soros Foundation's Media Training Center.
Reporteri's first issue became one of the most controversial events in the media aid effort to Albania. In an editorial, the newspaper wrote: "For years, journalists were mouthpieces for the state, hiding, manipulating or exaggerating facts to serve the propaganda machine. . . . Our responsibility is to provide objective and balanced information free of political or ideological taint." 
The issue also contained an article that aired criticisms of the government's new press law--a document crafted with the help of the journalism department's then Chairman, Rudolph Marko. Just days after it appeared, the three Americans were barred from the university, and desktop publishing equipment donated by IMF was locked up. University officials denounced the Soros Foundation on national television, accusing it of a conspiracy to discredit the Berisha regime.
After being banished from the university, the three American students moved to the Soros Foundation's Media Training Center where Marianne Sullivan was made co-director, and Reporteri continued publishing on a sporadic basis.
The Media Training Center is one of the most visible symbols of the Soros Foundation's presence in Albania, and it's this type of presence that has helped make George Soros' name a household word in much of Eastern Europe. Since 1991 the Soros Foundation has spent or committed many millions of dollars to Eastern Europe through more than 30 philanthropic projects. In doing so, founder George Soros has become one of the most influential and controversial figures in the region. A recent public opinion poll in Bulgaria put his name recognition at 85 percent. 
Activities at the center typify the Soros Foundation's interest in financing programs for education and information. Located down a narrow alley near the city's main square, the center is a modern, two-story stucco building painted a subdued tan, yet it stands in stark relief beside the dilapidated, World War II vintage buildings on either side.
Walking into the center is like clicking your heels and being magically sent back to Kansas. Here, floors are level, windows and doors all shut tight and the carpet and furnishings are new. There are computers, Touchtone telephones and fax machines. It's like any office you'd find back home and like no other office anywhere in Tirana.
The center is a site for small workshops where journalists and students learn desktop publishing and graphics skills on several computers. They can also read the wire services of Reuters and Associated Press, and there is even a small video editing room for those interested in learning basic broadcast editing skills.
Programs have been created to bring high school and elementary students to the center where they learn how to publish their own newspapers and newsletters. And media center staff have been active in picking Albanian students to participate in study-abroad programs sponsored by a variety of other aid groups.
The Media Center has also organized seminars for practicing professionals on topics such as the role of women in the media, newspaper distribution, government secrets and the publics' right to know, press law and writing.
One of the more impressive aspects of the aid effort to the Albanian media has been the degree to which a variety of public and private organizations have cooperated with each other.
The Thomson Foundation from England has worked with the Soros Foundation to provide BBC internships for Albanian students, and two German organizations the Frederick Ebert Foundation and Hans Siedel Foundation have provided legal and legislative counseling on the development of Albanian press laws.
The Knight Foundation sent American journalists Rick Foote and Warren Talbot to Tirana for three months in the summer of 1994 as Knight Fellows. During their stay, they offered training in newsroom organization, copy editing and layout. They also taught a crash course in journalism at the Media Training Center for Albanian students who were preparing to go to the U.S. as part of a study abroad program.
Laying the Foundation for a Free Press
After more than three years of aid efforts the current picture of the Albanian media scene is one of contrasts. The encouraging signs of greater press freedoms are often overshadowed by the tumult of a contentious party press that practices journalism like a blood sport. But this much of the picture is clear: Albania has opened its doors to foreign aid and, with it, ideas that have produced significant changes in the media.
Evidence of this change is most obvious in Tirana where satellite dishes are blooming everywhere on top of the ramshackle apartment buildings. Today, Albanians can tune in to every form of international programming, including CNN.
The actions of aid agencies in early 1992, which brought more foreign television programming to Albanian TV and offered an alternative to the government radio station, were important first steps. They gave Albanians some of their first links to Western-style media that in turn have created a greater demand for reforms in the Albanian media.
These reforms have been slow in coming, but there are signs of progress. Private ownership of television and radio stations is still against the law, and most reporting is controlled by government station directors or self-censorship by fearful reporters. But while the content may be tame, broadcast reporting is no longer completely one-sided.
In the Fall of 1994, I watched state-run TV air a program in which opposition politicians debated the referendum for a new constitution. The proposed constitution, which President Berisha pushed hard for, was eventually defeated at the polls. Much of the criticism reported by the media claimed the proposed constitution placed too much power in the hands of the president. In this case it was clear that even the government controlled TV station would air the issues of the day and challenge the authority of the sitting president.
In the area of radio, the Albanian people's desire for more Western-style journalism even threatens to render some aid efforts passé. Since its promising start, the popularity of the IMF sponsored Voice of America radio station has waned because Albanians now want more internal news than the station can provide. Increasingly, they are tuning in to the BBC station broadcasting out of Italy to get it.
"The BBC station in Italy has a staff in Albania and it gives us more current information about Albanian events," says Alma Kondili, an Albanian student studying at the University of South Carolina. "The Voice of America station has less staff and less variety. We listen to it for music, but for news, the BBC station is better." 
As the media aid effort and other outside influences have given the Albanians more choices, the government radio station has been forced to become more innovative in its programming. A radio call-in program called "No Silence Tonight" was started in the spring of 1994, and it features young Albanian hosts talking to callers about the "secrets" in their lives. Arben Kallamata of Radio Tirana says the show represents a small breakthrough since Albanians have never been able to call a radio station and express their opinions on any subject. 
There have also been encouraging developments in the print media as a result of aid initiatives. Residents of Tirana buy their newspapers in the city's main square, a large open area which is intersected by the traffic-choked Boulevard of the Martyrs. The square is bordered by drab government buildings with names like the Palace of Culture, and the facade of one is emblazoned with a huge communist-era mural depicting a parade of triumphant workers. They march on, out of step and oblivious to the political ground that has shifted beneath them. Amid the noisy traffic and a growing number of privately owned cafes, kiosks sell more than 20 different newspapers with opinions that run the political spectrum.
The Democratic Press printing plant has had a direct impact on the growing variety and improved quality of Tirana's newspapers. As of this writing, the plant is still the best equipped printing facility in Albania, and the majority of established newspapers in the capital print there. In the same week it was dedicated, newspapers began printing at the plant and realized immediate improvements in quality. Photographs, when available, were no longer blurry and smudged due to poor printing. The graphics were crisp and the typography, for the first time in years, was legible.
The turn-around time for getting newspapers out on the street also improved dramatically. Breaking news became a real possibility for a daily newspaper like Relindja Demokratike. Previously, it had taken almost two days to get a newspaper typeset and printed using the Labor Party's hot metal typesetting system and printing press. Thus, Wednesday's paper had to be put together on Monday.
I saw this change illustrated on the night Relindja Demokratike converted their production system from manual typewriters to the computer and pagination software. The last page was coming off the laser printer when an editor raced in with the important news that a notorious bank robber had just been arrested. "It's sensational!" exclaimed the editor. Bank robberies were a new and fascinating event in Albania at that time.
Page one was brought up on the screen and a story removed to make way for the news. Albanians awoke the next morning to find the robber's arrest detailed on the front page in a large black box with reversed type.
Evaluating Education Efforts
It's much easier to substantiate how material aid has changed the quality of the media than it is to judge how journalistic seminars and education programs have changed their character. Albanian journalists, many of whom eagerly attended the first seminars and forums in 1991 and 1992, now offer a range of opinions on the value of such programs. Some acknowledge they played an important role in helping set a new agenda for the media, while others play down their influence or are dismissive of them entirely.
"I've been to several of these forums and I don't think they have much impact," said Gjergi Pilika, a freelance journalist who writes for Republika and Koje Jone. "In Albania poverty is what determines loyalty. People may talk about noble ideas, but they are usually willing to trade their professional standards for money." 
Albanian journalists also complain that most of these seminars focused on free press ideas that were too far ahead of their time for Albanian society. "We have a saying that you can't raise a baby in the street and expect it to grow up and become a good person," said Pilika. "Right now the Albanian media are like babies in the street. We need some rules to keep us from becoming dishonorable citizens."
But in spite of the skepticism, a number of ideas put forth at these seminars and forums are taking root and showing tentative signs of growth. From her vantage point at the Media Training Center, Marianne Sullivan said she's seen a slow but positive evolution in the content of a number of newspapers.
"They've started running more pictures, more package stories and more news from outlying districts," she said. "That's very important since more than 50 percent of the Albanian population lives in rural areas. They've also started printing TV and train schedules and more ads. Those were things you didn't see in newspapers just a short time ago." 
Koha Jone newspaper
Koha Jone uses many photos and breaking news stories. It is considered by most Albanians to be a reliable and independent source of information.
The tabloid Koje Jone (Our Time) is considered by many Albanians to be one of the most independent newspapers, perhaps because it frequently levels harsh attacks against the government. Koje Jone is a daily and contracts with the Democratic Press to print anywhere from 10,000 to 13,000 copies each issue.  It has led the way in publishing consumer-oriented items, such as a column on women's issues, and has published investigative pieces on the influence of gangs and the problem of police brutality.
Surprisingly, the government news service, Albanian Telegraph Agency, has also gained a reputation as a reliable news source. The ATA publishes daily bulletins which supply newspapers, government agencies and businesses with Albanian news. The ATA has also begun publishing an eight-page tabloid, Lajmi i Dites (News of the Day), three times a week at the Democratic Press with a $25,000 grant from the IMF. 
With a staff of about 70 reporters and editors, ATA is one of the few news organizations that goes beyond the urban centers to cover national news. Lajmi i Dites also carries international news by publishing stories from Reuters and Agence France Press.
"Journalists with the ATA were some of the most professional I met," said Fulbright scholar Frank Jossi, who conducted several reporting workshops at the agency. "Most Albanian journalists only write commentary and analysis and don't recognize what we would think are obvious story ideas. But the ATA people were more enterprising about developing story ideas." 
Whether these positive changes in the print and broadcast media would have happened without the presence of the aid effort is an open question. Undoubtedly, most Albanians were already eager to embrace the culture and many of the institutions of Western democracies. But without the aid effort, it is doubtful they would have ever found the wherewithal to begin building these institutions. The technical and material aid gave the media a jump start, seminars and forums helped framed the debate about where it would go.
Journalism Educators Encounter Many Obstacles
In the area of journalism education, the achievements of the aid effort have been tempered by material and cultural obstacles. In many cases, journalism educators had to try and create something out of nothing. All of the Fulbrighters at the University of Tirana had to use interpreters to translate lectures and grade papers as well as create their own instructional materials. There was only one Albanian textbook, a small handbook produced by the IMF that covered the basics of journalistic writing.
"Language was a bigger issue than I thought it would be," said Fulbright scholar Cathy Packer. "As I was lecturing, students would start arguing with the interpreter over the meaning of words. But that's understandable; they didn't even have words for things like advertising. It just wasn't a part of their vocabulary." 
Packer taught a course she called "Theory and practice of the free press," using articles from journals and magazines. " I brought over a lot of stuff that was at the high school level, because I thought I should keep things as basic as possible," she said. "But the Albanian students were very bright, especially when you considered the hardships they had endured. They were every bit as capable as undergraduates in the U.S."
Frank Jossi taught a two-hour beginning reporting course twice a week with 35 to 40 students. "When I got there they had assigned me a course, but they didn't have a classroom for me to teach in," said Jossi. "We finally found a room in a local library and that worked out well because it had no windows, and I could keep them focused on the class. 
"They weren't accustomed to coming in and taking notes and tests and writing papers and getting involved in dialog. They were used to just showing up, listening to a lecture and then taking a pass or fail test at the end of the semester."
Jossi had students read and analyze samples of Western journalism and write basic news stories. However, he encountered difficulties assigning out-of-class reporting assignments. "They didn't like to go out and interview people, especially people in the government, because officials won't talk to reporters, and so it was difficult to give them the type of reporting assignments you would give students in other countries."
Introducing New Teaching Styles
While Albanian students weren't familiar with the more interactive teaching style of U.S. professors, Packer said they welcomed new approaches in the classroom. "I held a mock trial early in the semester in which a student playing a newspaper editor was charged with publishing something critical of a government minister. Another student was the prosecutor and the class was the jury. They all got into it, and the editor gave an eloquent defense of the role of the media in a democratic society. But the students convicted him anyway and sentenced him to prison. Even young students had it in their heads that you don't criticize authority in the newspaper."
By the end of the semester Packer said the jury heard the editor's appeal and overturned their conviction. "They may have been trying to appease me, but I'd like to think it was because I'd worked on them with these ideas about a free press."
Outside of the university setting, the Media Training Center continues to serve as a site for technical training and as a forum for journalists to exchange ideas. A special board, made up of a cross-section of Tirana journalists, meets at the center on a regular basis to brainstorm and debate tactics for improving the Albanian media. The board has enabled Albanians to come up with their own ideas for confronting issues such as censorship, newspaper distribution and sensationalized reporting.
The center has also helped refine and maintain study-abroad programs by matching students with situations that relate better to their experience in Albania. "It's counter-productive to send an Albanian journalist to work on a large newspaper in a big metropolitan city in the U.S.," said Sullivan. "It doesn't relate to their situation here, and they just end up getting lost in the shuffle and overwhelmed by the pace."
Instead, Sullivan tried to match Albanian journalists up with smaller papers in more rural areas of the U.S. "It gives them a chance to work in an environment that is more like Albania. They come back with clips, and they get more feedback while they're on the job."
Road Blocks and Potholes
The aid effort has brought improvements to the Albanian media that are real and significant, yet it has also frequently been stymied by the problems of a nation struggling to reconcile democratic ideals with the reality of its totalitarian past.
Despite its auspicious dedication by the president and the enhanced technological capabilities it brought to the print media, the Democratic Press has experienced personnel problems, and critics have charged that it is being used as a political tool by Albania's Democratic Party.
The personnel problems began between the plant's manager, Petro Dhimitri, and the editors of the seven consortium newspapers. Dhimitri insisted on a hard line in his operating policies. He would allow no one, other than plant staff, into the production area of the building and was a taskmaster who enforced deadlines unmercifully. Newspapers that violated one of Dhimitri's policies or had problems paying were frequently refused service.
The problems escalated to the point that the press workers eventually went on strike and soon afterwards Dhimitri was arrested on charges he had illegally authorized the spending of consortium funds. Dhimitri claimed he was the victim of a setup. He was eventually convicted of the charges against him but never sentenced. However, he resigned from the plant when the editors refused to continue printing there while it was under his direction.
Controversy continued to dog the plant even after Dhimitri's departure. There were charges that the new director, Fejzi Bozgo, was being pressured by members of the consortium to deny opposition newspapers access to the plant.
"I did tell Zeri i Popullit they couldn't print here because they are a communist newspaper," said Bozgo. "And I won't let them print here, but that's my right because communist organizations are outlawed in Albania. Other than that, anyone can print here."  Bozgo claims that he is under no pressure from the consortium directors to censure or deny other newspapers access to the plant.
The personnel problems brought to light a criticism Albanians frequently level at outside groups who want to help. They say foreign aid programs frequently fail to take into account how years of totalitarian rule have shaped Albanian society.
"These groups come here for a short time and they make decisions about how to help based on the patterns they observe," said Arben Kallamata. "Yet these patterns often don't reveal the depth or complexity of our problems. Hiring Petro to run the printing plant is a good example. Here is a man who had worked for years for communist newspapers and then opposition newspapers. His career had covered the political spectrum and everyone here knew this and felt this about him." 
But Kallamata says the biggest problem with the printing plant project involved control and authority rather than individual personnel. "The IMF should not have agreed to give so much control of the plant to Albanians so soon. Had they better understood the Albanian mentality, they would have seen that Albanians would use the printing plant for political purposes. They should have created a more restrictive agreement and should have stayed in control longer. People in democratic countries think it is undemocratic to tell people of another country what to do, but we have no tradition of this type of freedom here and we don't yet know how to handle it."
IMF's Bill Sheehan sees it a different way. He says there was too much foreign involvement, rather than too little, in the operation of the printing plant. "Our mandate was to go into these countries and cut through the red tape and get things started. We shouldn't have been refereeing these internal squabbles from overseas. We should have built the plant, trained them how to use it, then let them sort out their personnel problems. We stayed too long." 
Sheehan points out that it's difficult to find anyone in a country like Albania who isn't tainted by some type of political past. "Petro was one of two people in the country we felt were capable of running the plant. It was either hire an Albanian or put a foreigner in there, and after awhile people start to resent you when you exert too much outside control." Culture Clashes Journalism education programs, both at the University of Tirana and in study-abroad programs, have also had culture clashes that have frustrated groups on both sides of the aid equation.
Albanian journalists in at least two study-abroad programs in the U.S. have chosen not to return to Albania when their programs were over, opting instead to enroll in graduate programs or simply stay in the country illegally and find jobs.
In addition, those who have gone abroad have often lost their jobs back home or faced resentment when they returned from co-workers who had to "tow the line" while they were gone. There are no furloughs or sabbaticals at Albanian newspapers, and there are plenty of people eager to fill an empty post in the newsroom.
"I've seen a lot of people who go abroad to study become discouraged when they see the disparities between Albania and the rest of the world," said free-lance journalist Pilika. "They also become frustrated because the style of journalism is so radically different. They know they can't come back here and practice the type of journalism they are studying in another country. I think it's better to bring foreigners here and have them stay for longer periods of time."
Cultural differences came to a boiling point with the Reporteri incident at the University of Tirana. The American students teaching in the program were portrayed as free press trailblazers in national newspapers in the U.S. after they were banned from the school. "Americans teach Albania a lesson in free press" said a headline in the Los Angeles Times. But there were some who felt like the timing and tone of Reporteri may have been too much too soon. "The article they published about the press law was balanced and objective," said Jossi. "And everything they published about it had already been said in the popular press, but publishing it in the school newspaper was like throwing cold water in the chairman's face. I think it could have been handled better. "
A Climate of Backlash
example of erotic magazine
Many new publications are of an erotic or even pornographic nature in Eastern and Central Europe. This Albanian publication is rather sedate compared to some others on the newstands in that nation and elsewhere in the former socialist contries.
example of erotic magazine
One of the "soft-porn" newspapers which have sprung up recently in Albania. The income from these newspapers supplements the less lucrative party newspapers in Albania. Existing laws against pornography are widely ignored.
Jossi also thinks placing too many foreigners in the journalism department at the University of Tirana coupled with the Reporteri incident created a climate of backlash against the Fulbright program.
"There was one American Fulbright and three American students teaching in the department and only three Albanians. It didn't take long before people started asking 'What's wrong with this picture?' They already have too many foreigners marching through there giving them advice. They are starting to say 'Hey, we've got a culture, too.'" 
Two other problems that continue to color the character of the media, and frustrate those involved in the aid effort, are the strident nature of the country's party press and a burgeoning pornography industry.
After being refused service at the Democratic Press, Zeri i Popullit has continued publishing, using an ancient hot metal Linotype for typesetting and a 1940's vintage printing press. The layout is Iron Curtain grey: the type is faded, the newsprint is yellow, and there are rarely any photographs. Yet, it is the most widely read newspaper in Tirana.
"People buy it for the same reason they go to see a boxing match," one journalist told me. "They want to see some blood, and Zeri i Popullit is always swinging at Berisha."
None of these criticisms seem to bother Senior Editor Thoma Gellci. He is relishing his current success and describes Zeri i Popullit's rising fortunes like a victory in a Cold War campaign.
"We've made $30,000 in the last three months, and soon we are going to install the best four-color printing press in Albania," he said. "And then we will underbid that so-called Democratic Press, and all the newspapers will come to print here. And we will build the tallest skyscraper in Tirana and rent out office space to them all." 
When I smiled at his posturing he jumped up and walked to his desk. "You think I'm kidding?" He picked up a stack of newspapers and dropped them on the table in front of me. "Look at all the newspapers we print now. We print more than anyone, and they are the most respected and well-read of all the newspapers."
In the stack were issues of an Albanian imitation of Playboy and a tabloid named Erotika. Blonde-haired and pictured in opulent settings, the playmates looked suspiciously like imports whose pictures had been reprinted from Western magazines.
"You call this respectable journalism?" I said, pointing to Playboy.
"It IS serious journalism," he said indignantly. "People buy it for the articles." His newspaper may have been shunned by Western aid organizations, but that hasn't soured him on capitalist propaganda.
Zeri i Popullit is by no means the only newspaper to peddle pornography and the party line. Most Albanian newspapers are owned by political parties, and their pages are dominated by political articles and opinion pieces with very little breaking news.
"We used to not trust the media because we had one party propaganda," said Kallamata. "Now we don't trust them because we have multiparty propaganda. We don't have a problem with free expression of opinions in this country. We have too many opinions and not enough informative news." 
The frustration with the party press is most apparent among the young and reflects a potentially serious problem of alienation among future readers. It was the students from the University of Tirana who led the demonstrations in 1990 that forced the government to begin easing away from its repressive past, and they, more than any group, have little tolerance for party press propaganda. In an English class at the University of Tirana, students expressed a deep cynicism about Albanian newspapers.
"We don't trust many of the papers," said Ermira Ithamallah, a 21-year-old studying English. "They only talk to each other and not to their readers. You read five newspapers and get five different versions of the same event. We never know the real story. We watch foreign TV to find out what's going on." 
"I'm tired of reading only about politics and political debates," said another student. "I want to read about the things that affect me personally--stories about careers and how to find a job."
Challenges for the Future
Much has been done to help an independent media get started in Albania, but there is still much that needs to be done if the media are to survive and flourish. The most effective aid programs will be those that adjust and adapt to fit the needs of a society in transition.
The current mentality among most Albanian journalists is "Don't tell me something, give me something--a skill, a piece of equipment, a scholarship to study abroad." Continued attempts to influence the character of the Albanian media will have to work harder to gain an audience by providing tangible skills, material aid and technical support as incentives.
Journalism education continues to show promise in helping introduce a new generation of Albanian journalists to the ideas and practices of Western-style media. But journalism education efforts should also be directed at other elements of Albanian society, especially the government. Media relations training for government spokesmen could teach them how to work with the media rather than against it and thus encourage a more open exchange of public information.
Pros and Cons
Study-abroad programs can give Albanians important opportunities to develop journalistic skills and be exposed to Western ideas and culture. Scholarly projects while they are abroad, such as translating textbooks into Albanian, can also help provide badly needed educational resource material back in Albania. But the material temptations to stay in the U.S., combined with the fact that journalists often have to give up their jobs to go abroad, usually make these programs a net loss for Albania.
Shortening the length of time Albanian journalists stay in the U.S. as well as assigning them to more rural areas while they are here might help ensure Albanians return home when their programs are finished. But media aid goals would be better served by sending journalists and educators to Albania for longer periods of time to train people in the environment in which they work.
Marianne Sullivan's time at the Soros Media Training Center and experience with Reporteri taught her that change will be slow and that aid organizations must be willing to adjust their expectations.
"I think too much training and emphasis has been on an American First Amendment model versus a more European model," she said. "We Americans don't accept things like press laws, but they are common in most European nations. I think a press law in Albania is a natural evolution in the development of their press. They don't have the traditions that we do and so some controls, especially at first, are probably inevitable.
"We should concentrate on skills-based things first and then progress to more theory-based concepts. A lot of our training didn't allow for a natural progression to take place. I think it's going to take another round of national elections before the press finds its comfort zone." 
One tactic to build greater trust and acceptance of foreign consultants to Albania would be to give them introductory training in Albanian language and focus on more long-term assignments. Lack of knowledge of the Albanian tongue is a significant hindrance to assessing the quality of Albanian journalism and the ability to offer informed critiques.
Continuity of the aid effort is a problem as well. With each new wave of aid, workers and organizations that come to Albania, new plans and programs are devised based on what may or may not be an accurate snapshot of the need of the moment. Perhaps a board made up of representatives from aid organizations could meet on a regular basis to coordinate efforts and create initiatives with more long-term goals.
There are no neat prescriptions for nurturing a free press in a society that has little or no democratic legacy. Every step is a first step and there are no well-worn paths or time-honored institutions.
There have been obvious successes in Albania. The technical and material aid to the newspapers has propelled production practices from the 1940's into the 1990's in only a few short years. Broadcasting, while still laboring under the yoke of government ownership, is changing due to cultural and political influences from abroad, and aid programs have put the building blocks in place to offer alternatives to government programming when and if laws allow.
But technical successes are only part of the recipe for building a free and independent media. Albania's most potent legacy is one of totalitarian rule, and without a great deal of political maturation, the aid given to the media could easily be turned into a tool for exploiting the seamy and the sensational. Or worse; the underdog free press could become the lapdog of yet another repressive regime.
Albania may yet teach the rest of the world some lessons about determination as it struggles through this difficult transition. Starting newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations in a place like this would seem to most outsiders to be a heroic act of faith in the future. But the Albanians have endured a long bleak night, and they are not ready now to give in to despair.
Perseus-Soros BioPharmaceutical Fund, LP
James A. Johnson
James A. Johnson is Vice Chairman of Perseus
Beginning in January of 1990 and continuing through December 1999 he was employed by Fannie Mae. He served as Vice Chairman (1990), Chairman and CEO (1991-1998), and Chairman of the Executive Committee (1999).
Prior to joining Fannie Mae, Johnson was a managing director in corporate finance at Lehman Brothers. Before joining Lehman, he was the president of Public Strategies, a Washington-based consulting firm he founded to advise corporations on strategic issues.
From 1977 to 1981, he served as executive assistant to Vice President Walter F. Mondale, where he advised the Vice President on domestic and foreign policy and political matters. Earlier, he was employed by the Target Corporation, worked as a staff member in the U.S. Senate, and was on the faculty at Princeton University.
Johnson is Chairman Emeritus of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is former Chairman and Honorary Trustee of the Board of Trustees of The Brookings Institution.
He also serves on the board of the following organizations: Gannett Co., Inc.; The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.; KB Home; Target Corporation; Temple-Inland, Inc.; and UnitedHealth Group. He is also a member of The American Friends of Bilderberg, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and he is Chairman of the Advisory Council for Public Strategies Incorporated. In March 1994, Johnson was named "CEO of the Year" by The George Washington University School of Business and Public Management. He also was named a 1998 Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine. In May 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Johnson received a B.A. degree in political science from the University of Minnesota and a Masters Degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton. In 1997, Mr. Johnson received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Colby College, in 1999 he received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Howard University, and in 2002, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Skidmore College.
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