Friedensförderung durch Brücken der Verständigung
Peace Building through Bridges of Communication




September 27, 2004




Romanian newspapers are complaining that their multinational owners are interfering in their editorial policies.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported that employees at Romania Libera are accusing the paper’s owner, the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) of Essen, Germany, of pressuring the paper to change its editorial content. They allege that the owner had started giving the paper’s journalists “directions about what the newspaper should write about, how should it write and who should not longer be criticized".

According to Romanian media accounts, WAZ is now threatening the journalists who voiced the complaints. Petre Mihai Bacanu, executive director of Romania Libera, told Romania Press Online that he had been threatened by one representative of the WAZ media group.

"I have been threatened by phone call. They threatened I would lose my job. But I'd rather lose it than give up honor," said Bacanu.

Journalists at another Romanian paper, Evenimentul Zilei, are also accusing their owners of interfering with the paper’s independence. They say the Swiss owner, Ringier, was putting pressure on the paper to soften the newspaper’s critical tone in order to increase circulation.

Journalists at both papers stressed that these actions breach  agreements reached at the time of the owners’ initial financial investments. The owners had agreed to limit their activities to marketing issues, leaving editorial policies to the paper’s employees.

Media advocacy groups are protesting the alleged interference. “When outside political interests start pulling editorial strings it can have devastating consequences on quality and media pluralism,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

Foreign publishing groups dominate media ownership in Central and Eastern Europe. WAZ, Germany's second-largest media group, owns over 130 newspapers and magazines, dominating the media market in the region ­ particularly in the Balkans.  Ringier, Switzerland's largest magazine publisher, owns 10

Romanian magazines. It also owns media outlets in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

IFJ also says that these ownership patterns weaken media pluralism, an essential part of a free press.

“The IFJ has been consistently warning that excessive media concentration and foreign ownership in Europe was damaging pluralism,” said White. “The situation in Central and Eastern Europe is particularly acute where foreign publishing groups dominate ownership. Until recently criticisms have been deflected by claims that the companies did not interfere in editorial policy.

These protests have exposed that fantasy.”

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source: IJNet 276
published by: Daniela Mathis date of release on this site 30/09/04 

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