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January 17, 2022

Defence strategy: Media pressure among country ‘vulnerabilities’

Press, opposition slam proposal as dangerous precedent meant to ‘hush up all those who have different opinions.’

Media campaigns ‘meant to discredit state institutions’, to diminish their capacity to enforce the law and pressure put by media trusts on political decision-making processes are some of the country’s main vulnerabilities, according to the National Defence Strategy submitted to Parliament for approval. The document was discussed in a session of the Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) on Tuesday before being sent to MPs, who decided that a report on the strategy will be ready this autumn and will be followed by a final vote. The document, copies of which were obtained by both Mediafax and Agerpres, includes in the ‘Risks and vulnerabilities’ chapter the frailty of the international financial system, radical, extremist and irredentist attitudes, in the context of vulnerabilities related to organised crime, corruption and ‘ordered’ media campaigns.

Other vulnerabilities include corruption, tax evasion, smuggling, underground economy practices, budget unbalances generated by wrong political decisions, a drop in public health care services and others. Possible threats to the country’s security, according to the document, include proliferation of mass destruction weapons, development of ballistic missile programmes, organised crime in the context of the economic crisis, climate change, pandemics and public health risks, and others, such as a drop in birth rate, degraded family cohesion and low level of education services.

As for external threats, CSAT identified “an increased risk of instability and insecurity in the Black Sea area” and “perpetuated uncertainties in the West Balkan region.”

The document also contains an explanation as to why so many various fields of action were included in the strategy under the chapter ‘Risks and vulnerabilities’: “For a country that takes important steps on the path of modernisation, like Romania, vulnerabilities can be as important as threats.

A major crisis in fields such as education and health care can make the state more vulnerable, affecting its functioning and diminishing its response reaction.”The strategy also makes reference to the US anti-missile shield, part of whose elements will be installed on Romanian territory, underlining that the project will have a concrete contribution to the development of NATO’s own defence system, given that Romania does not have the capacity to develop such a capability by itself.

In the context, CSAT holds that ballistic missile threats are real, according to national and NATO assessments. “The development of an integrated missile defence system, based on detection and interception capabilities, is an essential component of the response to such threats,” the document reads.

Another issue tackled in more detail in the strategy is tax evasion and the best means to fight it and prevent it. CSAT will also hold a separate session next week to discuss the issue. The strategy calls for the creation of a single centre in charge of combating tax evasion and putting forth legislation in the field.

Dangerous precedent

TV channels, newspaper and news agencies reacted immediately to the news, labelling the inclusion of media campaigns in the National Strategy as an attempt to ‘destroy’ all parts of the press which are critical of the current rule.

The opposition also slammed the proposal, with Social Democrat Party leader Victor Ponta saying that the strategy clewarly reveals how “the current rule wants to destroy any critical voice, may it belong to the media, unions or the oppositions.” Ponta added that the media is already target of an obvious attack, which also includes higher taxes on royalty contracts. PSD National Council leader Adrian Nastase also said such a move was predictable, proving President Basescu’s ‘totalitarian tendencies,’ and underlined that “within the current political rule, anyone who has a different opinion, should no longer exist.”

Liberal Teodor Melescanu, a former defence minister, warned that the move was a “dangerous precedent” that could seriously harm “press freedom principles in a democratic country.”

When asked to comment on the issue and whether the current rule deems the media a threat to national security, PM Emil Boc avoided giving a clear answer after yesterday’s government session, instead quoting excerpts from the National Strategy. Presidential aide Valeriu Turcan also insisted that the strategy refers only to ‘ordered media campaigns.’

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