Vol. 4 No.1  

Government silent on spies in media

Secret service agents still present in Romanian newsrooms test the balance of press freedom against national security, finds Ana-Maria Nitoi
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In 2006 the Romanian Domestic Intelligence Service (SRI) let slip that its secret agents were working under cover in the Romanian media.
This SRI statement, given by a spokesman to journalists, was not a surprise. But it did allow the press to accuse agencies of interfering with media freedom, even though such operations were legal.
Therefore the Parliamentary commission that controls SRI’s activity started an investigation to discover in what kind of operations these agents were involved. Its intention was to see whether there was a conflict of interests between human rights and national security.
Now, 18 months later, there are still no results from this investigation and no confirmation that it has been concluded. Contacted on the phone, Radu Stroe, the president of this commission, refused to comment on the probe. The SRI did not give any reply to The Diplomat on this issue. George Maior, the head of domestic intelligence, has also been silent since the admission.
When the scandal became public, a group of media owners and senior journalists, the Romanian Press Club, introduced a change to the media Code of Conduct, recommending journalists not to work for or co-operate with the secret services. But such an initiative is only voluntary. Since then, there have been no indications that any members of the SRI in the press have left their posts.
“It is a very dangerous practice that risks undermining the credibility of the press from the inside,” says Razvan Martin, co-ordinator of programmes for the Agency for Monitoring the Press.

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