Culture Minister Romascanu says he gets called by embassies, chancelleries inquiring about hot-button media issue

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Minister of Culture and National Identity Lucian Romascanu says he is getting called "by foreign embassies" and asked about the subject of Romanian media politicization.

"You can't just hold a tenured position, they don't understand, and I get called by embassies, chancelleries inquiring: 'Sir, what are you doing? Are you politicizing media outlets?' 'No, it's not the media. It's just AGERPRES, and we don't politicize it, but attempt — until we change all the laws, including Law 41 on the AGERPRES statutes — to find a way of principle — because nobody has anything personal against Mr. Giboi — to allow the director appointed by the state to be also dismissed," Minister Romascanu on Friday told the Adevarul Live webcast.

He went on to say that the intense fervor sparked by the agency's management starts "sounding false" to him.

"All this high-running media fervor starts sounding false to me. (...) I say this again, it's hyped up. I did understand them to a point, I expressed my points of view. I released statements hoping they will reach all ears. Yet we continue, we escalate, drum up, demand the minister's resignation, the withdrawal of the bill from Parliament. This is too much and it sounds unnatural. I am no fan of conspiracy theories, but this is going too far," Romascanu said.

In an Open Letter to embassies, Director General of the AGERPRES National News Agency Alexandru Ion Giboi signaled the intention to "modernize" the institution he is heading through a bill intended to create "an enlarged press office for the ruling party, rather than a functional and modern national news agency."

"An alarm signal was triggered when the 'modernization' started with a bill aimed at sacking the director general. The public opinions expressed by the AGERPRES director, the Romanian Journalists Union MediaSind, the European Federation of Journalists, the European Alliance of News Agencies, and ActiveWatch did not deter the initiators. A public statement of the main initiator of the bill, Lucian Romascanu, the current Minister of Culture in the Government of Romania, highlighted his determination to 'modernize' AGERPRES, and alongside the Romanian Television Broadcasting Corporation (SRTV) and the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation (SRR), transform public service media institutions into 'professional communication bodies of the Romanian state'. An organization cannot be modernized unless one understands its activity. More than that, common sense requires that the organization about to be modernized should be consulted before making the changes. Finally, an organization cannot modernize in absence of quantifiable criteria. In fact, it seems that the Minister of Culture is seeking an enlarged press office for the ruling party rather than a modern and functional national press agency," the letter reads. AGERPRES (RO — author: Daniel Popescu, editor: Cristina Tatu; EN — author: Simona Klodnischi, editor: Adina Panaitescu)

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