Media in Romania: “I’ve experienced censorship.”

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Elise Wilk is a Romanian journalist. In this interview she talks about how the government influences her work.

Let’s take the protests in Bucharest against the government as an example: it was quite obvious that reporting was not always objective. When a TV station that was pro-government reported, the numbers stated on TV were always very small – for example, if 10,000 people were on the streets, the TV report said it was 2,000 at the most – and then, when it was a TV station that was anti-government, the same numbers were even greater. Television is an important medium in Romania because it also reaches those people in villages that might not have access to the internet.

So is the media or television rather pro-government?

I would say, the major ones are rather pro.

Then, is it possible at all to report critically? And where does this happen?

Yes, it is still possible to report critically. In the newspaper that I work for, for example: the Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien. This is a German-language newspaper and it is possible to publish critiques in it. However, we have a small readership because few people understand German. But in the meantime there are also blogs and other organisations such as “Casa Jurnalistului” or “Recorder”. There are several independent journalists there who are financed by their readers and they can report very well – that is, of excellent quality – and also very objectively. So reporters can be critical too.

How was it in your own experience? You were an investigative journalist even before working for the Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung. Tell us what you experienced in your time.

Yes, I used to work for the Romanian press, mostly in the local press. And the fact of the matter is that the local press is mainly financed by politicians. It happened more than once that I was already off duty and got a phone call: “Come to the office. You have to write something. Your article has been taken out of the paper – it can’t be published because this one or that one called and didn’t want it in.”

So you were censored.

Yes, that’s right.

Now you are with the Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung – but why is there a German-language newspaper in Romania at all?

There is an important German minority in Romania. It’s only around 12,000 people now but it used to be 300,000. There are German schools, German text books, place names and of course there is also a newspaper for this minority.

How important is a newspaper for such a minority, a German minority, any sort of minority? Do you also see yourself as a preserver of the German-language in Romania?

I would say that such a newspaper is absolutely vital since the duty of the paper is not only to provide accurate information but it is also a structure that holds our community together. And without this structure, the community would no longer exist. We had a celebration for the 60th anniversary of our weekly paper – and the publisher of the paper, from the Demokratisches Forum der Deutschen in Rumänien (Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania), said that as long as the German minority existed, our newspaper would also exist.