The Romanian media monitoring NGO Active Watch-MMA, a Reporters Without Borders partner since 2004, has just released the English-language version of its 11th annual report analyzing the steady decline in media freedom in Romania, a European Union member. The Romanian-language version of the report, describing 2010 as a disastrous year, was released in May.
Ranked 42nd in the Reporters Without Borders annual press freedom index in 2007, Romania is now 50th. This steady fall is due in large part to the many conflicts of interest and power struggles that undermine the media’s influence. At the same time, journalists still lack proper work contracts and the problems for outspoken ones are now compounded by an increase in the frequency of lawsuits sometimes leading to disproportionate damages awards.
While the recent decriminalization of media offences must be welcomed, the repeatedly-promised overhaul of the law regulating public radio and TV stations has barely begun and the appointment of their managers continues to be clearly politicized.
Last year saw a number of particularly repressive proposed laws and measures that ActiveWatch and journalists’ organizations opposed. The culmination was a national defence review commissioned by the president and approved by the Supreme Council for National Defence (CSAT), which described the media as national security “vulnerability” and accused them of ruining the state institution’s reputation and just trying to extort public funds.
The economic situation is not encouraging for the media. At total of 6,000 journalists and media workers have been laid off and at least 60 newspapers have closed since the start of the economic crisis. Income from advertising has fallen sharply, and there have been additional threats to the advertising market of late.
Like their European Union counterparts, Romania’s politicians are steadily undermining Europe’s status as a model of media freedom. Under attack in Hungary, Britain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and France, freedom of the media has greater need than ever of strong and unconditional support in order to reverse this slide, which Active Watch and Reporters Without Borders will continue to analyze.
Read the full report: