Reporters Without Borders joins its partner organisation ActiveWatch-MMA and 18 other Romanian NGOs in condemning a national defence strategy review commissioned by the president that identifies the media as “a vulnerability” for “national security.” (Read the joint release issued by the NGOs bellow)
Approved by the Supreme Council for National Defence (CSAT) and submitted to parliament, the review the document identifies as one of Romania’s vulnerabilities the orchestrated media campaigns, aimed at slandering the state institutions by disseminating false information about their activity.” It also accuses the media of posing a threat by trying to influence “the political decision-making process with the aim of securing economic advantages.”
“We are outraged by the findings of this CSAT-approved study document,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is astounding that the government of country that is a European Union member can regard the media as a threat to national security. We thought this kind of language was nowadays used only by dictatorial regimes that exploit national security concerns to legalise censorship and justify jailing lots of journalists. The international importance of such views in a strategy report should not be minimised.
“The claims made about the media’s impact on defence strategy are completely unwarranted. If the press get their facts wrong, European governments have many options at their disposal for ensuring that the facts are corrected and they rarely fail to take advantage of them.
“We support the appeal by ActiveWatch and the other NGOs to parliament for the report to be quickly amended in order to eliminate any reference to the media as a ‘vulnerability.’ We also urge senators to take the utmost care with this report, on which they are now supposed to take a position.”
Appeal of ActiveWatch and the other NGOs
June 23, 2010 National Defense Strategy is a risk to the Romanian democracy We, the undersigned media organizations reject and condemn the conclusions presented in the National Defense Strategy, according to which the media represent “a vulnerability to our national security”. The Strategy was initiated by the Romanian Presidency, adopted by the Superior Defense Council (CSAT) and sent to the Senate on June 23rd, 2010.
According to the National Defense Strategy, “the tactic of media-engineered smear campaigns aiming to denigrate the actions of government institutions by disseminating false information, the pressure exerted by media trusts vis-à-vis political decision making process with the purpose of obtaining economic and relational benefits from the government institutions” represents a vulnerability for the Romanian state.
We would like to remind the President as well as the Superior Defense Council (CSAT) that in democratic societies the role of the media is to inform the public regarding all public matters. When journalists inform the public, there is a risk that government institutions may be criticized. The risk of journalists misinforming the public and “disseminating false information” is a risk assumed by any democracy in defense of the right to free speech. It is the media’s responsibility to disseminate information and it is the public’s right to receive and evaluate the information. Politicians and government workers have the right to counteract any erroneous information disseminated by the media.
The CSAT-produced document does not contain or make reference to any proof regarding “media-engineered smear campaigns”. The same is valid for the statement regarding the “pressures exerted by media trust companies on the political decision making process, with the purpose of obtaining economic and relational benefits from the government”. These statements by the National Defense Strategy are abusive and generalizing and have no base in reality, and thus represent a libel to the entire Romanian media.
The official document contains superficial terms and accusations against the media as a whole, and represents a grave threat to the right of freedom of speech, as it can serve as a future basis for legislative initiatives meant to preempt any criticism of the government. This is why we condemn the statements made in the CSAT Strategy and appeal the Romanian Parliament to make the necessary amendments to this document by eliminating any reference to the issue of vulnerability as created by media criticism.
ActiveWatch - Media Monitoring Agency Center for Independent Journalism The Association for Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Expression APPLE Local Editors and Owners Association Convention of the Media Organizations Romanian Federation of Journalists - MediaSind Romanian Media Owners - Romedia Center for Legal Resources Society for Justice - SoJust APADOR-CH Protecting Human Rights League - Cluj AltPhel Professional Journalists Union Hungarian Journalists in Romania Union DANK Media Cluj-Napoca Association of Journalists in Salaj Romanian Academic Society League of Journalists in Sibiu The Civic Movement of Spiritual Militia Reporters Without Borders