Pretty balanced proportion of anti-Western pieces of news in February’s Romanian media: over 700 for each of the anti-EU and anti-US categories. However, this is only accurate when looking at the big picture. At local level, though, anti-American propaganda tools were much more used than those focused on European issues.
Speaking of the general picture – when related to US, the topics that the Romanian media covered were Trump’s Middle East peace plan, Trump’s impeachment (the Senate trial & acquittal), Al Qaida claiming responsibility for Pensacola base shooting, London allowing Huawei to provide 5G equipment, Chinese nationals indicted (Equifax), no more US troops in the Philippines, US troops wounded in Iraqi bases (despite “all fine” initial verdict), Swiss encryption company (Crypto AG) used by CIA to spy on tens of countries, Roger Stone trial and conviction, France allowing Huawei to provide 5G equipment, Iranian satellite launch, Pentagon money for Trump’s wall, Russia meddling in US election again, Assange potentially pardoned by Trump, Huawei to build its first plant in Europe (France).
Subjects in connection with the EU were as follows: Brexit, Post-Brexit negotiations, stabbings in London, migration (clashes on Lesbos), German land PM elected by far right, Bulgarian PM vs president, Poland defying the EU (new legislation on judicial reforms), Hungarian teachers take to the streets against PM Orban’s propaganda, negotiations on the EU budget, Green Deal national plans, Brazil seeing France as its main military threat, Scottish independence, Salvini on trial for not allowing migrants ship to dock, Ursula von der Leyen investigated in Germany for military contracts, Facebook shutting down accounts used by the Russian military espionage, mass shooting in Berlin & another one in Hanau & car driving into a carnival crowd in Germany, Orban Viktor – extremely active against Brussels, Turkey allowing Syrian refugees to get to Europe.
“Romania, disfigured by EU & NATO”
Yet somehow Antena 3 did not feel that that had been enough and brought in Dan Puric, the pantomime dancer with a constant need of talking on TV. And, while on live TV, Puric stated that Romania, disfigured by EU & NATO, is about to lose all identity. Of course, there was no host to argue the dancer out of it, although a host was present. The interview was quickly covered by Sputnik, which undoubtedly chose the essential phrase used as a headline: “We entered NATO and EU as lackeys, all that’s Romanian has to vanish”.
As something more seemed necessary to be added, Sputnik did it: it quoted Ingrid Mocanu, an employee of the Ministry of Justice, which had claimed that “Puric and Tudor are pushed away by bastard traitors to their country”.
Coronavirus, made in US laboratories
It only came naturally that “disfiguring” nations such as the US would produce a virus to make China and eventually the world get on its knees, right? Right, according to Russian state TV (as Hotnews noted adding that this is nothing but a conspiracy theory) or according to a huge number of Russian origin trolls on the WWW (a propaganda operation covered by Revista 22).
Active News even published a map suggesting that there might be some connection between the bats that allegedly carried the virus and the Pentagon.
Still not sure what to think about all this? Well, this might just clear things up: Romania develops coronavirus vaccine able to cure white people only.
The Russian ambassador goes where the US base is
But then professional propaganda means adding some local flavor. That’s why recent efforts carried out by Romanian authorities in order to extend the US military base at Mihail Kogălniceanu did not remain unpunished: Active News covered some fictional protests against expropriations around the present day base. One could almost think of a strange timing coincidence given that the Russian ambassador to Romania chose to go to Constanța in February and deliver a speech at a local private university on Russia’s right to take control over Crimea.
No occupier though could be successful without local collaborators and Național found some important such assistant: the head of the Romanian military secret service which, of course, covered the US troops’ tracks in the “house of horrors” located in Caracal.
But there is hope for the subjugated nations, noticed both Agerpres, Romania’s state owned media agency, and Sputnik, Russia’s state owned media outlet: according to a survey, NATO’s image worsened “drastically” in France and the US (not to mention that the people’s support for the Alliance in France and Germany is dissolving and the Europeans are less and less trustful when it comes to the US military role in defending them from Russia’s attacks.
The US ambassador, a mentally ill nouveau riche hillbilly
The most vicious charges against the US were still to come though and they were carried out by the best troops in Romanian media: Sputnik, Cotidianul, Active News, Q Magazine, Lumea Justiției.
In their defense, the media outlets could argue that it’s not them who started, but the US ambassador to Romania, Adrian Zuckerman. According to the diplomat, recently appointed as US mission chief in Bucharest, Huawei is no partner that Romania could trust and in the near future the country must tackle the infamous corruption inherited mostly from the social-democrat governments.
In response, Sputnik wondered: was Zuckerman’s speech full of praise for the actual PM and president just polite, was it a blunder or simply a blunt interference in Romania’s internal politics? So far not so bad, one that knows Sputnik would say, but then things got a bit heated. The next article by the Russian state media was pointing out that the US diplomat “forces us” to trust only some companies. A very similar position was expressed by Active News, with a threatening nuance: the US ambassador “warns Romania” not to use Huawei equipment. Or…? Active News does not say.
However, Sputnik covers the story like a pro: Huawei replies in “inflammatory” manner. On Q Magazine’s view, Huawei doesn’t even need to respond as its whole activity so far made it emerge victorious in the war with the US.
From there on, though, no silk gloves on: Sputnik itself claimed Zuckerman’s mind is “volatile/unsteady/moody” therefore he should visit a psychologist, then added – using a “political scientist” words – that the ambassador is not only a “nouveau riche hillbilly, someone between (Gigi) Becali and a journalist for (former communist) Scânteia daily”, but also – quoting a “top analyst” – “not a US representative, just an organized crime member”. The Russian media outlet kept the best for last and quoted ex-minister of Finance Orlando Teodorovici saying that Zuckerman is simply “fake”, has no professionalism and not even decency. Given all those, the only remaining thing to do for Sputnik was to suggest the social-democrats what to do to get back at Zuckerman for his remarks.
Apparently, though, it was still not enough and a Romanian-American living in New York was brought to the scene. He did not come himself but sent a letter that said, according to Cotidianul, that ambassador Zuckerman was nothing more than a “tenderfoot”. Or, in the words of those in charge with the headlines at Lumea Justiției, “Different US ambassador, same filth”. To that, even Sputnik felt the need to reply rather neutral: “Essential questions to Zuckerman from the US”.
When an MEP gets Sputnik messages published by FT
The EU budget talks in Brussels gave a Romanian MEP, Clotilde Armand, the opportunity to play big. Or so she thought when she decided to have an opinion published in the Financial Times. The headline let little room if any to debate: “Eastern Europe gives more to the west than it gets back”. The subtitle added some nuances: “EU budget should take into the account corporate profits and the cost of brain drain”. Even more of those in the actual article: “EU membership has brought immense benefits to central and eastern Europe, but western economies also profited handsomely from the enlargement process. It is high time politicians in the west explained that fact to their constituents — EU money is not charity. It is a quid pro quo”.
As expected, the article did not go unmentioned in Romanian media and made headlines on RFI, România TV, Evenimentul zilei, Hotnews and in other media. Such as, of course, Sputnik, who couldn’t miss it and used the otherwise predictable headline “The EU budget, yet another opportunity for the West to put the Eastern countries to their knees”.
A week later, Clotilde Armand explained her reasons during a meeting with journalists and other persons interested in the EU budget debate (some pictures here, the live stream here. Amongst other things, Armand said that the FT headline was not her choice but FT editorial staff’s. However, she did not reject the headline and insisted that, in her view, this sort of approach is necessary when trying to make a Western audience understand that there’s no charity in the process of making the EU budget. She conceded, though, that for a Romanian audience, the message sent might be awfully similar to that spread by Russian propaganda.
* 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).