Romania’s only English-language daily newspaper, the ‘Nine O’Clock’ celebrated 20 years of existence Wednesday, at the Intercontinental Hotel, in a festive event attended by more than 50 heads of diplomatic missions accredited in Bucharest, bank presidents, many foreign investors, politicians and journalists.
Radu Bogdan: In the beginning, there were only four pages…
In the opening address, the Director and founder of the newspaper, Radu Bogdan made a brief overview of the newspaper’s surprising 20-year history.
“When we got launched, at the beginning of October 1991, without doubt, nobody would have imagined that we will go all this way. We may say that this was no easy road; it was a difficult path, which took us much effort, but we walked it until now. As I wrote in today’s issue (No. 5025), we started with a 4-page newspaper printed on a plane screen printing machine, two pages first, and then the other two. For over 15 years, we have been working with ‘Fundatia Europeana Dragan’ (the FED printing shop). We want to thank them once again for accepting us and for how we succeeded to collaborate all these years,” Radu Bogdan stated.
“As I was saying, the road was not easy, but there are some explanations for our resilience. A very important explanation is that we have always strived and made efforts to offer our readers the most correct and objective image of the realities of today’s Romania. Finally, we must mention that, during all these years, we were in a permanent dialogue with the political organisations and authorities that led Romania. It was not by chance that the journalists of ‘Nine O’Clock’ were integrated in the press delegations that accompanied the Romanian presidents, prime-ministers, ministers of interior, or ministers of defence in their visits. Unfortunately, this did not happen anymore in the last 5 years.” “I must emphasise, on this occasion too, the excellent collaboration we had through all these years with the banking institutions, starting with the National Bank of Romania (BNR), with many foreign companies that operate in Romania, and with many Romanian businesspeople,” Radu Bogdan added.
Emil Constantinescu: Nine o’clock stands for the West and this is the orientation ‘Nine O’Clock’ has always had
The Director of the newspaper gave the floor to the former president of Romania, Prof. Emil Constantinescu, whom he thanked for always being close to the Nine O’Clock newspaper. “Excellencies, ambassadors, distinguished dignitaries of the Romanian state, honoured guests. Today is no easy day either for you, as October is a busy month, or me, as I must attend two events. As we know, today is the German Unity Day and also today Vaclav Havel, the iconic president of the Czech Republic turned 75 and, in his message to Romanians, voiced his hope that I would be there for this celebration, which should happen in about 2 minutes. I was invited to deliver the opening speech of the event organised by the Czech Embassy and by Havel’s friends in Romania. Yet, I came here, out of friendship for my old colleague Radu Bogdan, and out of friendship for the ‘Nine O’Clock’ – the only English daily in Romania. I do not want to scare you by saying that I know Bogdan for over half a century; don’t be scared by this figure. There is something else that must be said. Before the Revolution, I used to know few people. When you dedicate your life to scientific research, and you work in the education system, you must get isolated. Over the last 20 years, I have known too many people and something odd happened. Those whom I respect are getting fewer and Bogdan is one of those I truly respect.”
Former Romania’s president Mr. Emil Constantinescu recollected the early days of “Nine O’Clock”: “I remember that, when it appeared in 1991, it was also the first foreign-language newspaper I could see in Romania and a paper which had the right attitude, the attitude I have always wanted to see displayed by the press: the objective reporting of news. This was something new back then. The entire press and the society at large were normally swayed by strong passions, political passions which rarely allow you to remain objective. It’s been 20 years and, sadly, if you want to find an objective presentation of news events, you have to learn English to be able to read ‘Nine O’Clock’”.
Mr. Constantinescu reminded a statement made some years ago by Mr. Steven van Groningen, CEO of Raiffeisen Bank Romania, on the occasion of another “Nine O’Clock” manifestation. More explicitly, Steven van Groningen recounted at the time that, when he first came to Romania, he couldn’t speak Romanian, he could only understand English and he would read “Nine O’Clock” to keep informed. Afterwards, he learned Romanian, but he still had to rely on “Nine O’Clock” in order to make sense of things.
The former head of state added that he liked the name “Nine O’Clock” for two reasons. “The first reason is the fact that, once you say ‘Nine O’Clock’, it means nine o’clock sharp, it implies precision and the punctuality we wish we had. I remember that, while doing research for my doctoral thesis as a geologist in the Banat, I used to work in a village where half of the people were Romanians and half were Germans and the man who announced meeting times would announce 5 o’clock for the Romanians and 6 o’clock for the Germans. The second thing I like about the name ‘Nine O’Clock’ is also related to my memories as a geologist and to the time of my military service. In that context, Nine o’clock stands for the West and this is the orientation ‘Nine O’Clock’ has always had and I hope will always have,” Emil Constantinescu concluded.
The director Radu Bogdan thanked the ex-president Constantinescu not only for his generous words, but also for the excellent collaboration the newspaper had with the former head of state during his term at Cotroceni Palace. “Mr. President expertly highlighted the essential traits of ‘Nine O’Clock’ and explained clearly why the paper has endured for 20 years. I thank you once again, Mr. President!”, Radu Bogdan added.
Steven van Groningen: “A stability factor”
Steven van Groningen, CEO of Raiffeisen Bank Romania, attending, as every year, “Nine O’Clock” celebrations, was the third speaker, extending in perfect Romanian his congratulations and praises to the ‘Nine O’Clock’ management and team. “When I first came to work in Romania in 1993, ‘Nine O’Clock’ had already been launched and I’ve been reading the paper ever since. I can say the daily faithfully represents the business and banking community and I greatly admire Radu Bogdan and his team for everything they have done. I know it hasn’t always been easy, but I can say ‘Nine O’Clock’ has been a stability factor for 20 years, at a time when many other things lacked stability, I believe this is worth mentioning,” van Groningen stated.
The CEO of Raiffeisen Bank Romania reiterated his famous statement, already mentioned by Emil Constantinescu. “President Constantinescu did indeed mention something I said some years ago. The first time I came to Romania I couldn’t speak Romanian and I couldn’t always understand what I read, now I’m better at reading in Romanian, but I’m no longer sure what to make of it,” he said, amid laughter and cheering from the audience. He closed his speech by wishing Radu Bogdan and his team another heartfelt “Happy anniversary!”. “I am confident that ‘Nine O’Clock’ will remain a stability and objectivity factor in the years to come,” van Groningen concluded.
The anniversary gala ended most agreeably, with two concerts featuring the Allegretto children’s choir and the young Romanian Opera tenor Vlad Mirita.
Photo by Erdeli Adrian