By Klodiana Kapo
Difficult questions in unusual times, where access and the information that comes from the giant “Internet” is infinite. In this river of information that is served to us nonstop, the difficulty for those who want to exhaust their minds is not only in selecting the information, but also who to put their trust on. In this difficult time all of us went after experts and theories that give hope, because we want this nightmare to end. Because life is priceless.
Today more than ever, news without facts must come to an end. Because they do damage and sow hate and fear. In the absence of information, hundreds of people started to use homemade remedies, that prevent the virus by causing other problems. But this was only one side of it. In this period, journalists faced lack of information and transparency, which did not diminish, but increased panic and fear from this virus.
The old “ask-what-you-want, I-answer-how-I-want” game continues for years , making almost impossible to gather official information and hindering the right to have transparency.
And if we want to talk facts, only during the last three months the journalists of Faktoje have sent over 50 freedom of information act requests to central institutions of the Albanian government, but in none of those cases we had an answer for the requested information. In the press offices of these institutions tens of experts are employed and have the primary task to inform the citizens, and not only to hold press conferences with the media, where you don’t have anymore the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers (because of the restraining measures and the social distancing).
The television studios have transformed into one of the primary sources of statements and promises of high public officials, whom, even though were asked a few times, didn’t respond clearly about the number of testing kits that Albania has at its disposal, who has the right to get tested and when do you have that right, how is the tendering process for the supply of medical equipment being managed, how and who receives the material, how many times should the medical staff get tested and if it is getting tested or not, how are the tendering processes and concessions being managed in these times of pandemic when from the official projections only the number of the unemployed is expected to rise by 60 thousand people? How will the financial plans of the government be executed and how can the citizens benefit of them? A lot of questions, which received vague answers.
And in the same time, the government, with stable seriousness has clearly and easily transmitted all the restraining measures to avoid the spread of the virus. Measures that all of us have accepted firmly believing that this social distancing would lower the number of the infected and the spreading of the virus. But what impressed us was the language used in both cases and by the same government. The language, the transparency and the clarity in giving the restraining measures of social and physical distancing is crystal clear.
A fellow journalist, for days now, has raised a question in his personal social media profile: Why aren’t the direct siblings of the COVID-19 patients getting tested? But not only that! Every time the government releases the plan of financial measures, it lacks the clarity on the manner these measures will be applied. So, it lacks that simple guide that establishes who will do what, when and with what costs. Us journalists were teached that the simple language is what shows not only clarity, but also truthfulness.
In the Institute of Public Health, the investments these last three decades have been very few, as the number of specialists is. An institution that has a fundamental task in serving the citizens, in informing them with transparency. But is it happening? The experts of this institution are doing the best they can, in very difficult conditions, because only today you, “the politics of yesterday and today”, were reminded of them. And in fact they have an essential role for us citizens. They should be the watchdogs of health and environment. They should inform us regarding the quality of the air, water, chemicals, the pollution in the soil and in food, radiation, they should focus on the health of children, the qualities and criteria that a school should fulfill in order for the kids to develop all their abilities… In fact this forgotten and “covered in dust” institution should be a research center, with investments and maximal independence. Independence because greed has swallowed everything.
We need transparency from you public officials that for three decades have placed on top of your platforms the education, health and agriculture.
There are millions of euros worth of investments, the benefits of which we are not seeing today. Today we are afraid that one grave evil can take us to immediate collapse.
So Faktoje, this small medium has its eyes opened to assess the veracity of those statements and promises, that you, dear official, have made and that we truthfully hope you keep.