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What the newspapers say: May 31, 2006

Miercuri, 31 mai 2006, 0:00

The takeover of a media group by another earlier this week sparks huge interest in today’s newspapers, as does a study to reveal the hardcore absentees in the Romanian Parliament. The first political statements by football star Hagi are sanctioned, too, while the bird flu outbreak in the country continues to draw consideration.

The Realitatea Media group, owned by controversial businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, announced on Monday it had reached a deal to buy the majority stake in another media group, Academia Catavencu. According to Evenimentul Zilei, this brings the number of people who control the chunk of the national media to about four.

They are Michael Ringier of the Ringier group, owner of Evenimentul Zilei and many other publications, Adrian Sarbu of Media Pro, Dan Voiculescu of Intact and Sorin Ovidiu Vantu.

That raises a lots of issues including the risks of a economic interference with the editorial part of the business, the chances of smaller, independent media outlets to face a consolidated competition, as well as risks of the big ones to breach the antitrust legislation in the media sector, according to the Evenimentul Zilei analysis.

The same newspaper publishes an interview with Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, who defends himself against a long series of accusations that he was the mastermind of the collapse of an investment scheme that left hundreds of thousands Romanians without a penny six years ago, getting himself rich in the process.

He says all these allegations were proven false and that the “professionals” of the Academia Catavencu group he bought earlier this week are “so good” he would dare hope they would no longer accuse him with unsustainable allegations.

Meanwhile, Cotidianul – a part of the Catavencu group – only publishes a couple of editorials on the takeover issue and focuses instead on a recent report that points out the Romanian parliamentarians with a reputation of hardcore absentees.

According to a monitoring by the Public Policies Institute, quoted by the newspaper, the list of record breakers is led by former Privatization minister Ovidiu Musetescu, who only took part in 1% of the legislative votes over the past four months. His colleagues say they only saw him twice in the current legislature – one in early 2005 and one late last year.

The list continues with a Rroma representative, Nicolae Paun, and a member of the Greater Romania Party, Ruxandra Jipa, who claims he had better things to vote in the biannual Western European Union sessions.

According to Gandul, Musetescu’s case may lead to a in-party sanction for his behavior in the Parliament.

The politics are back in force with a first such statement by Romanian football star Gica Hagi, who, according to Evenimentul Zilei, said in a TV show recently that the Securitate – ex-dictator Ceausescu’s secret police – is still running the country, and the national football stage just like it did before the anti-Communist revolution in 1989.

Thus Hagi, who stood away from politics throughout his career, is answering allegations made by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s son, Valentin Ceausescu, in a sports newspaper recently, where he said he himself was a victim of Securitate, as it was wiretapping his calls.

Meanwhile, Cotidianul reports that authorities in Romania keep secret the existing proof on the presence of the bird flu virus in Romania, arguing that the regulations of the top vet supervising institution in the country, ANSVSA, say so.

But, the newspaper considers, the secrecy might only be applied to results from a British lab investigating the suspicious cases in Romania, and not to Romanian analyses.

And Adevarul reports that the authorities in Bucharest have rejected an offer of support from the European Commission in tackling the bird flu outbreak, opting instead to ask for the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the WHO.

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