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March 16, 2011, noon

From the ground up: The growth of independent media in Romania

Editor’s Note: Our sister publication Nieman Reports is out with its spring issue, which spotlights the efforts of reporters trying to uncover corruption. We’re highlighting a few entries that connect with subjects we follow in the Lab, but go read the whole issue. In this piece, 2011 Nieman Fellow Stefan Candea writes about the development of independent media in Romania and the creation of the Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism.

It’s hard to do honest investigative journalism in Romania. To understand this, one need only look at the country’s media landscape and know how its societal institutions function. After the collapse of Communism in 1989, a new elite emerged from the huge pool of former agents and informants of Securitate, the Communist secret service. Members of this heavily protected elite became judges and members of Parliament, prosecutors and business leaders, media owners and senior journalists.

The elite’s most valued asset is its control over information. It is not coincidental that most of the public still doesn’t know the names of many of the 15,000 agents and 400,000 informants from the time when President Nicolae Ceausescu ruled this country with an iron fist. And the elite — most of all older journalists and politicians — profoundly dislike independent journalists, and especially nosey ones. While I was writing these words, I kept being pulled back to an evening last November when I attended the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) awards ceremony in New York City. On this night journalists gathered to celebrate the courage, persistence and determination of those who report the news despite being arrested, kidnapped, shot at, and sometimes killed. (In 2010, 44 journalists were killed while doing their jobs, according to CPJ.)

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POSTED     March 16, 2011, noon
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