Unprecedented degradation of the Romanian press – Appeal initiated by G4Media, backed…

Unprecedented degradation of the Romanian press – Appeal initiated by G4Media, backed by Freedom House and Expert Forum

G4Media.ro, Group 4 Media Freedom & Democracy Association, Freedom House and Expert Forum are sounding the alarm about the unprecedented degradation of the media landscape in Romania. Big newsrooms are increasingly censoring stories of major public interest, falsifying by omission the editorial agenda.

It has gone so far that at a recent press conference on a highly newsworthy subject, such as controversial public procurement worth tens of millions of lei, only three journalists attended.

This is not the first time that important issues for society are either totally ignored, downplayed, or ridiculed.

The same happened with the public whistleblower law, the national security laws, the accusations of plagiarism against high dignitaries, or the attempts to strengthen control over justice by amending laws under parliamentary debate.

All the conditions for a dangerous democratic imbalance have therefore been created. They jeopardize Romania’s democratic future. Key institutions of checks and balances are today functioning as appendages to the parties in power.

Most of the press receives generous monthly payments from the parties in the governing coalition under conditions of total opacity. There are reasonable suspicions that the government, using public money, has bought off the media,  the very guardian that should keep it in check.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental value in a democratic society. Censorship and self-censorship in the majority of Romanian newsrooms today have reached unprecedented levels, found only in autocracies or dictatorships.

G4Media and the signatories of this appeal call for an urgent amendment to the law on political parties to limit the amounts that parties can spend on the press outside election campaigns, and for transparency in all contracts concluded in recent years, outside election campaigns, by parties with television stations or other publications.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called in a public report on the 15th of September for the disclosure of contracts signed by parties with the media.

We appeal to the professional conscience of honest journalists. We encourage them to refuse any act of editorial censorship and to do their job in the service of the public.

All Member States are monitored by the European Commission through the rule of law mechanism, which covers both the proper functioning of justice and freedom of the press.

Romania risks ending up like Hungary and losing European funds if it does not take measures to stop the degradation of the media landscape and reduce political control over the press.

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