Today, Nine O’Clock turns 22. This important date in the history of our newspaper comes a week after we have printed the issue 5,500.
When the first issue of “Nine O’Clock”, Romania’s first ever English language daily, appeared October 10 1991, nobody could imagine what the future held in store for it. Neither myself, nor my three former fellow foreign affairs commentators with whom I brought this initiative to life, or the readers, most of them foreigners living and working in Romania, would have thought of the… issue 5,500.
As I said before, the publishing of “Nine O’Clock” was a mere matter of chance. Having graduated the Faculty of Law, University of Bucharest, where I also took my PhD in International Public Law, and having worked continuously as a foreign policy commentator, in the early 1990, I had run for a couple of months, at the invitation of Romania’s first president the “Dimineata” daily newspaper, which was meant to be the first democratic newspaper in the new Romania.
Late that year, I was editor-in-chief of the “Mondorama” magazine published by “Agerpres”, when, one evening, my younger friend, the late Ralu Filip, who was to become president of the National Council of the Audiovisual, only to die absolutely unexpectedly of a disease which was not diagnosed in due time, invited me to visit Ceausescu’s former club on the bank of the Floreasca Lake. Ralu, a professional lawyer, had his first press article, published by me. Chance had it to meet at the said Club an important Greek businessman who ran an US import-export company that exported steel and petrol products from Romania, while he was celebrating his birthday anniversary in a select company of Romanian businessmen, politicians and bankers, some of them still present on the Romanian political and economic scene. A few weeks later, he told me he would like to do some business together, and this is how I got the idea of a daily English language newspaper being published.
It is my former colleague Viorel Popescu who hosted at that time a Radio Romania programme called “Nine O’Clock”, who gave the newspaper the same name, though it is also true that, afterwards, the Radio Romania Director back then well-known journalist Eugen Preda, suspended my colleague’s programme. However “Nine O’Clock” with its 5,500 issues and 22 years of existence, continued, and, most importantly, made an outstanding name for itself in the landscape of the Romanian post-December 1989 press.
Looking back to the early days of Nine O’Clock, we cannot help remarking that our chief concern was to offer our readers a most accurate picture possible of today’s Romania and not the few problems it has been facing over time, and not the few success stories it had over time. We also cannot help noticing the permanent dialogue we have had all this time with state institutions and decision-makers. For years, the newspaper’s correspondents joined the journalist delegations that accompanied Romania’s presidents, prime ministers, ministers of foreign affairs, defence and so on. Also, we cannot help remarking the steady dialogue and cooperation with foreign diplomats, bankers and banks, business people that allowed us to enrich the content of our newspaper and to offer information and viewpoints directly from the source, to contribute to the rapprochement and development of cooperation between our country and other countries of the world.
I always fondly recollect the words said by the former president of Romania, Emil Constantinescu, at the 20th anniversary of Nine O’Clock: “To understand what’s going in Romania one should learn English.” Same as I cannot forget what I was told, several years ago, by the former ambassador of Austria in Bucharest, Dr. Martin Eichtinger, before he left Romania: “Unfortunately, only lately did I realise that foreigners – diplomats, businesspeople, bankers etc. – are using the ‘Nine O’Clock’ in drafting their reports on Romania. And the policy towards your country is decided based on the reports sent from here. In other words, it is you that make the image of Romania.” Smiling, I told him that he should tell this (…) to Premier Emil Boc.
Of course, we cannot say that, same as the rest of the press, we too do not feel the effects of the present economic and financial crisis that made – as it is known – many victims in the ranks of the Romanian daily press. However, we haven’t lost, nor will we lose our optimism, as we keep counting on your support and cooperation. And, last but not least, also on the dialogue and understanding of government authorities and of the Romanian political class.