AGERPRES National News Agency's management, invited to Senate's Committee on Culture and Media

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The Romanian Senate's Committee on Culture and Media will debate on Wednesday, in a public session, the proposal to modify the AGERPRES organisation and functioning law; the National News Agency's Director General Alexandru Giboi was also invited to attend the session.

The draft law was initiated by Social Democratic Party (PSD) Senators Lucian Romascanu, currently Culture Minister, Valer-Daniel Breaz, Gabriela Cretu, Ovidiu-Cristian-Dan Marciu and Liviu-Lucian Mazilu.

In the memorandum of reasons, the initiators propose the removal from office of the AGERPRES Director General in case Parliament rejects the institution's annual activity report. Furthermore, they maintain that the AGERPRES Director General "enjoys, in fact, total immunity during his/her mandate," adding that "from among the culture public institutions under parliamentary control, AGERPRES is the only one in the case of which Parliament has no action instrument in case an inadequate functioning is found, caused by a non-performing management. "

Reactions on the draft law have come up from the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the Romanian Trade Union of Journalists MediaSind, as well as the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA).

The European Alliance of News Agencies requests Romania's Parliament to "keep unspoiled the editorial and managerial independence of AGERPRES" and underscores that independence and continuity are "vital factors" for the existence of an unbiased news service.

"Independence, transparence and continuity are vital factors for the existence of an unbiased news service, which Romania's citizens and those abroad can rely on to be informed. We understand the need to control the financial sustainability, but we ask Romania's Parliament and Government to keep unspoiled the editorial and managerial independence of AGERPRES, a respected member of the European Alliance of News Agencies," reads a letter EANA sent to the relevant institutions in Romania.

The case has also been brought to the public's attention on the Council of Europe's Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists.

"The new law stipulates that any political majority can decide upon the removal from office of the Director General, while the current law in force provides that the Director General cannot be biased, namely promote ideas, programmes and activities of political parties. Such provisions would have the same impact as in the case of "the management of the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation (SRR) and the Romanian National Television Corporation (SRTV): upon each ballot, the SRR and SRTV administration boards can be changed before the completion of their tenure, to reflect the new political forces," the Romanian Trade Union of Journalists MediaSind maintains.

In a letter addressed to Parliament, the AGERPRES Director General and the Romanian Trade Union of Journalists request Parliament to abandon the draft law and draw the attention that the modification of the law "opens the path to political subordination" of the National News Agency. The call on abandoning the draft law also enjoys the support of the European Federation of Journalists.

"We believe that the proposed modification opens a path to political subordination of the AGERPRES management. Any political majority could believe that the Director General isn't 'loyal' enough to the majority, and could decide to reject the activity report, regardless of the management quality, but only based on political criteria," the Romanian Trade Union of Journalists shows. AGERPRES (RO — author: Cristina Tatu, editor: Antonia Nita; EN — editor: Adina Panaitescu)

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