No room to relax in December either, after busy previous months: anti-Western speech was vigorously displayed throughout the month and did not take a break during the holidays. 1,650 articles were published in Romanian media in the last month of 2019: 780 focusing on anti-EU facts and 870 on anti-US topics. One in nine articles was biased: 57 pieces of news and 27 analyses on EU matters, 76 pieces of news and 31 analyses regarding US issues.
The most covered subject of the month was the NATO Summit that took place in London at the beginning of the month. The topic was important for local propaganda because of its connections to Romanian military, as we are about to see further on.
As for EU related topics, anti-Western speech related to Brexit, mass attacks (be those stabbings, as on London Bridge and in Amsterdam, or shootings, as in hospital in the Czech Republic), protesting and rallying in capitals across Europe (massive clashes with police forces in Paris, after pension reforms announced, rallies in support of the judiciary in Warsaw and calls for PM Babis to resign in Prague from tens of thousands that took the streets), diplomatic rows (Germany versus Russia following the expelling of two Russian diplomats and France versus Russia after the publication in media of revelations connected to a GRU assassins network deployed in the French Alps), EU budget controversies, US sanctions on Nord Stream 2, the EU Green Deal, the new referendum on Scotland independence requested by the Scottish PM following the December 12th election in the UK, the Sardine movement against far right in Rome, Erdogan’s repeating blackmail concerning the migration flow to Europe and the investigation into Ursula von der Leyen’s activity as German Minister of Defense.
Besides mass shootings (New Orleans, Pearl Harbor, Pensacola airbase, Jersey City, Chicago), located on US soil, all other topics that triggered the publication of anti-US articles referred to foreign issues. Even the impeachment of president Donald Trump is, in fact, related to something that happened far away, in Ukraine, so media covered as equally important Giuliani’s connections there and Biden’s Burisma business deals, not to mention the hearings and everything around the impeachment procedure. The relationship with North Korea and Trump’s attempts to “denuclearize” the country were also covered. Turkey was in a lot: with its purchasing of S-400 missiles from Russia, deeply displeasing for the US, with the Armenian genocide (recognized by the US Senate but denied by the White House) and with its threat to shut down two very important US military bases on its territory. China accused the US of meddling in Hong Kong and Taiwan internal affairs and, at the very end of the month, the US embassy in Baghdad was under attack by an angry mob of thousands.
NATO, money for nothing
As mentioned earlier, the NATO Summit in London was the perfect opportunity for local propaganda to hit more targets at the same time. Sputnik had a great time doing that. For instance, turned Hungary’s veto on Ukraine’s joining the Alliance against Romania, a country that needs to “learn” from its Western neighbors. Then, Sputnik made president Iohannis look like a critic of NATO using a headline as follows: “Absurd talks al NATO – what Iohannis revealed”. As a matter of fact, Iohannis revealed nothing, he only expressed some opinions for reporters (such as “all NATO countries have a say before decisions are made” or “we must discuss about China”). But that did not stop Sputnik to conclude (inside the article also) that internal talks at the NATO summit were… absurd.
Jurnalul implies that NATO turns, as EU has already, into a two-speed Alliance and Romania may be now well seated when it has to spent “only” 2% of its GDP for military expenditures but this may affect its position in Brussels and may also no longer be enough in the event of a 4% of the GDP target, as it is rumored. Național doesn’t have as many nuances: for this newspaper, Romania is “NATO’s fool” – spending too much for nothing in return.
Remember Iohannis “revelations” in Sputnik’s view? That was not enough and Kremlin’s propaganda tool had to do what it had to do and say it itself: NATO was “delirious” when targeted China as a threat.
The Romanian president is no angel either: although harmful for the country, he is ready to spend even more for NATO whereas internal military production development is on hold.
That’s bad? Wait, it gets even worse: somehow, Sputnik puts in the same pot ingredients such as the money Romania paid for the Patriot batteries, an article published by Bloomberg, the mention that Michael Bloomberg might compete for the White House, Romania’s fiscal deficit and cooks a stew which tastes like a lot of money that gets into electoral campaign pockets. Enjoy!
The US justice cap
A valuable and loved member of the propaganda topics family, judiciary wasn’t missed in December. US ambassadors to Romania had everything to do with it once more. The one to go, Hans Klemm, that received the “Star of Romania” medal from president Klaus Iohannis at the end of his term, allowed Lumea Justiției to write about this in terms of an exchange: Iohannis got a cap from president Trump, Klemm got a medal from Iohannis. Lumea Justiției does not leave anything to imagination: Klemm got the medal for supporting the unfair justice system designed to hunt down those who do not submit to external forces that control Romania.
The ambassador that followed Klemm, Adrian Zuckerman, infuriated Sputnik which believes that Zuckerman is willing to bring back to life the “parallel state”. So, new US ambassador, same state of things.
With just a few days left before the new year’s eve, the government promised to shut down the General Prosecutor’s Office special department in charge of investigating magistrates, a structure set up by the previous cabinet which was heavily criticized for its political agenda. According to Național, this is not justice, but “EU’s ass-kissing justice” (that’s the actual headline of the article).
Național was doubled by Lumea Justiției, which essentially used the same rhetoric. However, LJ did not mention any ass-kissing. Instead, they spoke about “EU lackeys who want to put honest magistrates in chains”.
* The authors of this analysis/study divided the media articles into two categories (news and analysis), each classified as biased or neutral. A geographical criterion was also used to link the media articles to the EU and the US. According to this study, a piece of news is nothing more but a short article covering a fact or a statement whereas an “analysis” may be a column, an investigative piece or any other type of article that is based on several facts and statements that are premises for the conclusion that the author of the article wishes to make public. The neutral characteristic is attributed to those news and analyses that use actual quotes (and not made up or out of context ones), rely on fact checking and logical syllogisms, provide side relevant data (context) in order for the public to get the bigger picture. News and analyses are labelled as biased when, on the contrary, the journalist’s work is not compliant with all of the above: quotes are partial and/or manipulated/manipulative, there’s no vetting process, neutral context is not added (and when there’s some context provided, facts are selected to match the conclusion – which, in this sort of cases, is pre-set – and not the other way round).