Active Watch releases report on World Press Freedom Day: Mass media significantly radicalise public discourse

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During last year, the mass-media have significantly radicalised the public discourse, the fake news phenomenon has contaminated the Romanian media as well, and the protests in January-February have provided the opportunity for ample manipulation and misinformation, reads the “Freedom of the Press in Romania 2016-2017” FreeEx Report, introduced on Wednesday by ActiveWatch.

“The most alarming phenomenon is that the news is competed against by fake news and lies. We considered it would be good to bring to Romania people who can share what they have done to combat fake news. At the same time, a current issue is the hate speech. The refugees are considered terrorists in many places of the world,” has declared on this occasion, Mircea Toma, the president of ActiveWatch.

He added that only 40 of the 130 notifications regarding the hate speech get to be investigated, but none makes it in court.

According to the report, against the background of the 2016 two electoral campaigns and the anti-governmental protests at the beginning of 2017, a large share of the mass-media functioned as a propaganda instrument of several political actors, “intoxicating” the public agenda with partisan speeches, flagrant misinformation, threats and instigations, which inflamed the already tense atmosphere, characteristic of media discourse in the last years.”

The same source shows that the escalation of misinformation and “abrupt” speeches “occurred with the National Audiovisual Council’s blessing, which tolerated and encouraged the news televisions’ slippages, through its inactivity and mild sanctions,” while journalists “have been assaulted, threatened and insulted by politicians, public figures, representatives of the authorities, people of the law, protesters, priests and parishioners, football supporters.”

In 2016, the Romanian mass media market increased by 10 pct against the previous year – a growth that did not reflect in better financial results – the “anti-rebate” ordinance that regulated the advertising money in the media was repealed, and by amending the public acquisition law, the buying of broadcast time or editorial products directly from media services suppliers is exempted from the provisions of this piece of legislation, according to the report.

As far as legislation is concerned, the report highlights the improvement of access to public interest information (Law 544/2001), but criticizes the structures with nation-wide competencies that “try” to promote laws that allow for the “generalized surveillance with the violation of fundamental rights”.

The document also highlights the evolution of quality journalism, especially in the feature report and investigative areas.

The “Freedom of the Press in Romania” FreeEx Report was launched on the World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated on May 3rd. The FreeEx reports, published by ActiveWatch, analyse every year the main events that impact the freedom of expression and, in particular, the freedom of the press. This is the 18th report released by ActiveWatch.

 

Freedom of expression, essential component of any democracy

 

The freedom of expression is an essential component of any democracy, whereas the freedom of the press is its clearest expression, says Romania’s Foreign Ministry (MAE) in a message on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

“On World Press Freedom Day, MAE is once again voicing support for this fundamental pillar of the democratic systems and appreciation for the actions of journalists who contribute to the correct information of the citizens,” reads MAE’s message posted on Twitter.