CME

How a Corrupt Minister in Romania Brought Media, Journalists and Bloggers to Clobber a Journalistic Investigation

For four years, two journalists investigating a suspected money laundering and influence peddling case at a Romanian ministry faced numerous obstacles. But they didn’t expect to grapple with so many obstructions from their own peers. A spate of emails between people involved in the case shows why journalists turned against journalists.

“Two bloggers cost €1,200, VAT included. Some of those big bloggers.”  This is what an online media advisor in Romania replied when asked whether she could place a piece written by Elena Udrea, a former tourism and regional development minister in Romania, on a popular blog.

It happened in 2011 at a time when sports journalists Catalin Tolontan and Mirela Neag were sweating over unearthing evidence of suspected graft among officials in the ministry in an investigation that became known as the Bute Gala case. The two were following tips that a ring of public officials were siphoning off public cash by illegally awarding funds to companies involved in the organization of a major boxing event in Bucharest. The event was named after Lucian Bute, a 35-year old renowned pugilist born in Romania.
 

The Key Media Owners in Romania Have All Fell Foul of Law

They started television stations two decades ago and acted as the “merchants of hope” as they were selling glittering realities Romanians were craving for. More than 20 years later, television in Romania is an affair blemished by scandals, pressures and unlawfulness.

Organizations such as Freedom House or Reporters Without Borders continue to rate Romania high on the scale of media freedom. This is not necessarily inaccurate if one looks for example at access to information and freedom of speech. And yes, in theory, any honest journalist can enjoy full professional freedom if they write on their blog or on a few alternative platforms. They might also enjoy freedom in mainstream media, but only until they intersect with the interests of media owners. That is the true limit of Romanian media freedom.