The economic crisis in 2009 in Romania was augmented by an image crisis as far as the press is concerned. This was triggered by the elections, the interference of politics, the obedience of some journalists and the interest of media owners, the "Press Freedom in Romania" report indicates. The report was published on Monday by the ActiveWatch-AMP, on the World Press Freedom Day.
The report is not exhaustive. It shows that 2009 was a difficult year for the freedom of the Romanian press for two main reasons - the economic crisis and the electoral campaign. On one hand, the economic crisis made the advertising market crash. On the other hand, there have been massive redundancies, affecting thousand of journalists.
Older practices used by politicians have made their comeback: politicians seized the context created by the financial crisis and made pressures using state publicity. "Additionally, they attributed publicity contracts preferentially to the media institutions that belonged to people close to them or to those who were presenting them favourably in the editorial space."
The image crisis in the Romanian press is also described to be "without precedent": the trust in the press was shattered by the abuses in the media during the electoral campaigns; by blackmail accusations (the National Anticorruption Agency case) and censorship (the Nistorescu - Cotidianul newspaper case); by politicians, including the President, discrediting the press; by mass-media owners' involvement in political campaigns and obedient and non-professional journalists.
According to the report, these are the main events with an impact on the press freedom in 2009:
- the economic crisis led to the sacking of 3,000 mass-media workers, the closing down of tens of publications and the plummeting of incomes in advertising, therefore mass-media became very vulnerable to political and economic pressures;
- President Basescu "led a campaign to discredit the journalists from the big media groups";
- "press group owners proved to be engaged in supporting one or other candidate for the presidency and imposed their options in the editorial policy";
- lack of impartiality, biased articles;
- the control enforced again, by politicians on the media, through publicity contracts;
- threatening journalists and subjecting them to aggressive behaviour;
- the authorities have promoted legislative initiatives with a negative impact in the freedom of expression;
- the public television remains vulnerable to political pressures, and in 2009 there were public alarm signals from SRTv journalists.
The only events with a positive impact on the freedom of expression highlighted by the 2009 report on press freedom was the adoption of the Unique Deontology Code, initiated by the Media Organisations Conventions and the creation of the Media Commission, set up by the Romanian Press Club.
The report presents major cases threatening the freedom of expression and is based on direct research carried out by the team, information collected with the help of Freeex, articles and materials published in the written press, Radio, TV, blogs and online publications, official reports and reports published by independent institutions. The document shows tens of cases, among which:
- advertising used for pressures: the Monica Iacob-Ridzi case; the Elena Udrea case; the pressures on GSP; the Radu Mazare case;
- ethics issue: the Basescu tape case; the Bogdan Chirieac-Sorin Rosca Stanescu - Macovei case, the "We want respect" (Realitatea TV) case; the way in which the press behaved during the electoral campaign; Basescu vs. press moguls and journalists;
- countless insult and libel cases and trials etc (from Ciutacu-Nasul to Basescu-Patriciu and Basescu-SOV);
- various VIPs insulting journalists (Mircea Basescu, Becali etc.);
- an increase in the work conflicts;
- pressures from authorities, both at a central and local level (the abuses journalists in the Republic of Moldova were subjected to, the Chinese Embassy - Dalai lama - B1 TV case, censored blogs)