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First Albanian newspaper discovered

Turkish historians discover the newspaper ‘Iskodra’  as being the first one in Albania. Scholars believed that this newspaper started its print in 1879 at the city of Shkodra, however older publications were discovered dating as back as 1868.

Thus, ‘Iskodra’ postponed publication for 11 years before going on print again. This makes Shkodra the first city in Albania to have under its possession a printing house. Even though the newspaper was written in Ottoman language, as Albania was under its occupation then, this discovery marks the first traces of journalism in Albania.

Albanian historians and writers had no clue that ‘Iskodra’ (Shkodra in Ottoman) was the first newspaper in our country and list its publication date on 1879. Scholar Atilla Girgin is the first to have discovered it, as he lists in his works all the publications and newspapers printed at the Ottoman vilayets of Albania and Greece. The first ones were ‘Iskodra’ at the vilayet of Shkodra and ‘Yanya’ (Ioannina in Ottoman) at the vilayet of Ioannina.

This happened after the Ottoman Empire decides to impose laws and rules about publications in the framework of the Tanzim Reforms. This was due to Takvim-i Vekâyi (The calendar of events) in 1931, the first issue in the Ottoman Empire, which was accounted as an individual work as there were no laws regulating printing.

This attracted the attention of the Sublime Porte, which in 1857 passed the Law of Publication and the Law for the Rights of Authorship. It was later enriched in the Penal Code in 1958, with a Law on Printing in 1864 and the Sublime Decree in 1867. During 1864-67, the Sublime Porte reorganized the vilayets based on the ‘’Vilayets Ruling’’ and imposed that they publish issues according to the Ottoman Laws.

The first two newspapers published are as mentioned above, ‘Iskodra’ in Shkodra and ‘Yanya’ in Ioannina. Scholar Hifzi Topuz also lists ‘Selanik’ in Thessaloniki published in 1869, and ‘Aydin’ in Izmir, in 1874.

These newspapers consisted of news concerning the Sultan, the government, new officials public appointees, on regional public institutions, healthcare, education, economics and constabulary, construction and infrastructure, such as railway construction and telegraphic lines. These articles had no author named, the newspaper was named after the vilayet where it was being published, and the publication was in two languages, Ottoman, and that of the region. Albanian language was not used though, as its alphabet and legit vocabulary wasn’t established until after the Congress of Manastir in Nov. 1908.

In 1876 the newspaper ‘Sabah’ published an article regarding the republication of ‘Iskodra.’ Its author is thought to have been renowned scholar and writer Sami Frasheri. It was made known that ‘Iskodra’ was going to be published again in Shkodra, in Ottoman and Italian.

‘’We think that it would be more beneficial in accordance to an official newspaper’s aim, if in its other page, instead of being published in a foreign language, to be written in the mother tongue of the people. Thus, it would have more impact in the people of those lands,’’ wrote the author.

Thus it was decided that the articles would be published in Albanian as well, using an Ottoman alphabet, even though there was a number of Albanians already using a latin alphabet around the country (the latin alphabet is established during the Congress of Manastir).

Iskodra was a weekly newspaper, prepared by government officials of the vilayet. According to Friedrich Lippich von Lindburg, consulate general of Austro-Hungary in Shkodra, the newspaper was under the influence of Shkodra’s vali Hysen Pasha. Its articles according to him, were strictly critical of Austro-Hungary. Furthermore, writer Zef Skiroi wrote that Iskodra faced its ending in 1880.

This came in May 7, 1880, after the publication was printed under the signature of Ali Pashe (Gucia), Hodo Beg (Sokoli), Preng Bib Doda, Myftiu Hafiz Efendi (Hafiz Daut Boriçi), Bishop Karlo Poten and Kol Çoba, who wrote that they claim their allegiance to the League of Prizren and the Albanian people, since the country was no longer under the Ottoman occupation.

The League of Prizren was suppressed in 1881, and its extinction marked the ending of ‘Iskodra.’ A third publication trial of the newspaper dates in 1897 until 1903, however the data around this period are scarce.