Freedom of the Press Eroded in Romania
Mircea Dinescu, editor of Romania's Plai Cu Boi
Transcript 7 featured writing from Romania, and spoke of repression and new-found freedom of expression. However, recent events in Romania suggest totalitarianism has not been ousted.
In a recent article, Alison Mutler, chief correspondant for The Associated Press in Romania (see one to one), writes of Romanian journalist Ino Ardelean who reported on links between Romania's ruling Social Democracy Party and prominent businessmen. Ardelean woke up in a hospital with a broken jaw.

Mutler writes: 'Now he thinks he should have seen the warning signs: bad-mouthed by two publications that support the ruling party; cold-shouldered at party news conferences; a fellow journalist quitting after threats were made to his father-in-law's business'.

She goes on to tell how, on December 3rd, Ardelean was severely beaten while on his way home from his office at the national daily Evenimentul Zilei. He is one of 16 Romanian journalists physically assaulted last year - a wave of violence that is putting the Romanian government in conflict, not only with media critics, but with the United States and European Union.

When 40 years of communist rule and state-controlled media ended in 1989, Romanians began to enjoy the right of free speech. But the freedom of the press is fragile, especially in this election year. Attacks on journalists have drawn criticism from advocacy groups and U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest, who see press freedom in the ex-communist country regressing dramatically.

Romania isn't the only ex-communist country where government and business have difficulty tolerating free speech. But ``The situation in Romania is particularly worrying us,'' said Robert Menard, general secretary of Reporters Without Borders.

He said Romania was the only candidate for EU membership `where there are such serious problems with freedom of expression'. Violence against journalists receives little attention from certain quarters in the Romanian media.

President Ion Iliescu condemned the attack on Ardelean. However, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase waited thre weeks before criticizing the attack after the U.S. ambassador had spoken out. Romania's Press Club ignored the subject of violence against journalists at its annual gala, held days after the attack on Ardelean.

Foreign-owned media have also been subject to government pressure. Three journalists at Romania's biggest private radio station, Europa FM, resigned last year, accusing its French managers of pressuring them to report more favorably on the government.

Six journalists resigned from their jobs at BBC's Romanian section in London and Bucharest to protest the firing in November of its most prominent journalist, whose reports were known to have annoyed the government.

Also in January, parliament ruled that the government should appoint the board that runs Dilema, one of Romania's most prestigious independent weeklies, which receives public funding. Twelve of its journalists quit in protest and said they would start their own newspaper.

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