Europe

BBC World Service ends Albanian language broadcasts

BBC Albanian website - screen grab
Image caption The BBC served an Albanian-speaking audience plagued by civil unrest in the 1990s

The BBC's Albanian Service has made its last broadcast after nearly 20 years serving audiences in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia.

It is one of five language services closing after cuts announced by the BBC World Service in January.

The Albanian Service first operated in 1940-1967, then resumed broadcasts in 1993 as Albania emerged from communism.

The service came into its own as Albania was shaken by civil unrest in 1997, the BBC's Sean Fanning reports.

Around 750,000 people listened across Albania, Kosovo and part of Macedonia.

The service was a major source of information for people in the region during the Kosovo conflict in 1999.

The head of the service, Ilir Nishku, said he felt "sadness because we are closing... but also a sense of pride at what we have achieved".

The main reason for the closure is wider budget cuts, but BBC management also cite the development of local media and Albania's eventual membership of the European Union.

Critics argue that while local media is free, much of it is polarised and there is still a need for an independent voice in the region.

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