MediaSind: Draft law threatens independence of AGERPRES news agency

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The Romanian trade union of journalists MediaSind has expressed its concerns about the new draft law intended to regulate the national news agency AGERPRES, to be discussed on 11 October 2017 by the Romanian Parliament.

According to a MediaSind press statement to AGERPRES on Monday, the new law foresees that any political majority could decide to dismiss the director-general, whereas the current law stipulates that the director-general cannot be biased, meaning promoting the ideas, the programmes and the activities of the political parties.

"Such provisions would have the same impact as on the management of the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation (SRR) and the Romanian National Television Corporation (SRTV): following each election, the SRR and SRTV administration boards can be dismissed before the end of their office tenure to reflect the new political forces. Many international organisations, including the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), had denounced this provision as an instrument to politicise the public service media," the statement says.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) backs its affiliate MediaSind in calling on Parliament to abandon the draft law.

"We believe that the proposed modification opens the path to a political subordination of the AGERPRES management. (...) Any political force could find that the director-general is not 'loyal' enough to the government, regardless of the quality of the work, for political reasons only. It must be abandoned," AGERPRES' director general and the Romanian trade union of journalists say in a letter to Parliament.

The draft law has been initiated and submitted by Lucian Romascanu, now minister of culture, while he was president of the Culture Committee of the Romanian Senate. The proposal was also signed by four other senators.

"The case will be submitted to the Council of Europe's platform for the protection and safety of journalists," reads the Mediasind statement. AGERPRES (RO — author: Catalin Trandafir, editor: Oana Tilica; EN — author: Rodica Ionita, editor: Corneliu-Aurelian Colceriu)

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