The European Council requests Romania’s political parties to be transparent when they offer money to media institutions. The country provides funds from the state budget to the political parties, which means that certain transparency is needed when parties start spending it. One of the directions money is spent is sponsoring TV channels and local publications. Politicians are then invited to TV shows and take advantage of positive media exposure. No journalist is crazy enough to criticize politicians from the party that has just sent money to the newspaper’s bank accounts for his salary, right?
The European Council released a report involving press freedom in Romania. It was released on the same day that a local press investigation revealed that specific political parties in Romania had created a system for self-promotion on television news, with public funds flowing to the trusts’ accounts via media agencies. Because of the secrecy surrounding these million-euro contracts, the European Council commission claims that “the use of public funds by political parties to finance the media and influence their content based on secret contracts represents the greatest concern,” potentially compromising editorial independence.
According to the European Council, financing the media in Romania by the political parties compromises both the freedom of the press and the democratic process. As a result, the Council calls for the implementation of legislation requiring the disclosure of covert agreements between political parties and the media, upon which public funding for the media is based. This is a common sense request, as the parties use tax-payers money for sponsoring the media institutions.
According to the Council, Romania has achieved significant strides in the legal system and the fight against corruption, even though Romania still has a flawed democracy. However, the institution expresses its worry about Romania’s justice laws, as well, saying in the report that the justice laws, which should be discussed at this time in the Romanian Parliament, do not adhere to the view of the Venice Commission and GRECO in the Monitoring Report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Group of States Against Corruption). To make new revisions to the justice legislation, the Council requests that the Romanian legislature consider the European institutions’ advice in this regard.
There is no doubt about the power of media in influencing Romanian public opinion and how political parties most often handle this power. A thing and a habit have been known for years without anyone taking measures in this regard. It is unknown if it will change with all the warnings of the European Council because Romania is a former communist country where some communist habits, such as bribing others to make them silent or to behave accordingly, are still unscathed after 30 years of early democracy.