Many politicians have become media owners and managers, the FreeEx report on freedom of the press in Romania reveals.
The politicization of the media grew last year, many politicians and important political aides becoming media owners or managers ahead of the 2012 elections year, the FreeEx report on freedom of the press in Romania in 2011 shows. The report was launched on Thursday by ActiveWatch. The FreeEx report points out that the growing politicization of the media ahead of the 2012 elections year is among the most important events that had an editorial impact on freedom of expression in 2011. “Apparently paradoxically, in recent months the market faced a boom of news channels, explainable through the approach of the elections year. Their economic sustainability however raises serious questions. At least five news channels at national level, plus other regional channels have entered a market whose earnings from advertisements show no sign of recovery after the period of crisis,” the report reads, pointing out at the same time that this aspect fuels speculations concerning these media institutions’ reason of being – “that of serving as instruments of political influence in elections year 2012, a year marked by local elections in June and by Parliamentary elections in November.” The report also states that politicians and important political aides such as Sebastian Lazaroiu, Vasile Dancu, Cosmin Gusa and Dan Andronic have become media owners or managers in the last year, “raising new questions about the credibility of journalism.” At the same time, ActiveWatch notes that the media market continues to be dominated by businessmen that are mainly interested in obtaining political and economic advantages and are willing to invest fabulous sums in order to reach these goals. This could be one of the explanations for the immense losses that important media actors registered in the last 7-8 years, the report adds. On the other hand, large international media trusts have continued to scale down their activity in Romania against the backdrop of the crisis and of unfair competition. The report mentions Germany’s WAZ media group that pulled out of Romania complaining that “the Romanian mass-media is largely in the hands of oligarchs, namely of businessmen that have earned their money somewhere else, usually during privatizations.” The report also notes that the abundance of televisions is not accompanied by diversity in the editorial content. Considering that over 80 per cent of the population states that television channels are their main source of information, the quality of journalism impregnated with political partisanship, cheap sensationalism and the exploitation of subjects that are not socially relevant becomes even more worrying, the report points out. At the same time, ActiveWatch states that the television channels’ race for ratings has heightened, 2011 seeing serious ethical errors that ranged from making up news to overemphasizing rows between “stars,” exploiting tragic but irrelevant events, promoting hate speech etc. At the same time, the press showed little interest in subjects of major public interest that revealed abuses made by the authorities, the violation of fundamental human rights or corruption. On the other hand, the report shows that the worsening economic situation has brought about specific phenomena – publications shutting down, layoffs, salary cuts, labor conflicts – the written press being the worst affected sector. Under severe economic pressure, editorial offices were increasingly willing to compromise, this having severe consequences on the editorial content that is in the process of continued and severe degradation, the report adds.Romanian Press Club: The press needs new breath of life
Starting in 2012 the mass-media has to come up with “a new definition of its own values and standards, after its main preoccupation was survival in the last two years,” the message of the Romanian Press Club (CRP) on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day reads. “The World Press Freedom Day is a good opportunity to reflect on the way in which journalists use their freedom, statute and credibility and on how they can be affected by involvement in political causes towards which they should keep a necessary distance,” the CRP’s message reads. On the World Press Freedom Day the CRP is calling for “solidarity within the profession, in order for the mass-media’s good causes to be efficiently promoted with the purpose of redefining and consolidating the journalist’s social statute.”