Reporter.London and The Daily Beast exposed for a global audience a long-running scandal in Romanian media and politics, which has drawn in the local franchises of US brands Newsweek and CNN.
For several years, top political parties in Romania had been paying the equivalent of millions of dollars to news media organizations in the guise of “press and propaganda” funds, which though perfectly legal as far as the parties are concerned, raise grave questions about the independence of the journalism produced by the beneficiaries of this money, even more so since the contracts were secret until recently exposed by local investigative journalists at Recorder.ro and Radio Free Europe.
The inflows of money to Romanian news media has coincided with a period of increasingly inane coverage of the main political issues on the country’s biggest TV stations and news websites, prompting experts and insiders to suspect self-censorship, even as payments were carefully structured to only reach website content, which is unregulated (as opposed to television broadcasting).
“It’s a big problem for the credibility of the media industry, because it has become difficult to distinguish what is bought up and what is organic journalism,” Septimius Pârvu, of the Expert Forum think tank, which has launched a lawsuit over Romanian political spending, told The Daily Beast. “I get a sense that the parties have come to impose their own agenda on the media and the money they pay means negative news is omitted. It’s a bad influence on the media market.”
Click here to read the full story including reactions from CNN and Newsweek, which reject the idea that there may be a problem.
The story was typical of the type of material Reporter.London seeks to provide in its collaborations: namely, exposing overlooked but important stories in under-covered regions, involving global business, finance and politics.