Superpower wins as Romanian media botches local Wikileaks release
Romania’s publishing of its own Wikileaks revelations has descended into a bitter war between two media outlets, as opposed to a fight with authority on the principles of free access to information
The Wikileaks revelations were due to be published in independent investigative magazine Kamikaze, but local website Hotnews managed to scoop the publication, gaining the documents from an unknown source.
Hotnews then published a bonanza of revelations about international relations between Romania and its partners, political intrigue and corruption online on a Sunday, when everyone was asleep.
Because the stories came out in a rush, they had no impact on the public consciousness. It was too much to read. Readers had to think about what it meant. The stories did not have any context.
It is masterpiece of journalistic incompetence on Romania’s part that the media managed to make Wikileaks boring. The largest leak from secret documents between the only existing superpower became, in Romania, a passing headline on a ticker under the sports news.
Those in power managed to succeed - by whatever means possible - in a divide and rule strategy over the Romanian media.
If you missed the revelations, here are a few highlights from Kamikaze, the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism and Hotnews.
2005: Romania’s health system is riven with corruption, including bribery and kickbacks rife among doctors, nurses and managers. But a cable from 2005 outlines how the USA was prepared to offer Romania a grant of 400,000 USD in 2003 to the then-Social Democratic Government (PSD) to investigate corruption in healthcare – but Health Minister Ovidiu Brinzan turned down the money. “The grant was withdrawn because the Ministry was not interested in dealing with the serious issue of corruption in health care,” reads the cable.
2005: The USA has publicly called for the reopening of international adoptions between the USA and Romania following a 2005 moratorium, as well as solving the ‘pipeline’ cases of families who were waiting to adopt children when the ban began. Meanwhile Romania wants the US to drop its visa regime for Romanian nationals – which is a decision which must be taken by the US Congress. However a 2005 Wikileak accounts how one demand may be conditional upon the other – which is a cynical piece of diplomatic horse-trading. On a visit by assistant secretary of state for counsellor affairs Maura Harty in 2005 to Romania, allegedly reiterating what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said, it reads: “there would be no ‘traction’ on the Visa Waiver Programme’ unless there were ‘traction’ on adoptions” and “there could be no progress on the visa waiver program if there were no progress on adoptions”.
The cables also reveal how since 2006, the US has tried to ask Romania to take some detainees from Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay. In 2010 a cable states that the US wants to build a radar site in Turkey to accompany its missile shield in Romania.
In 2009 the US expressed concern about the safety and security at Romania’s only nuclear power plant in Cernavoda, Constanta county – which is a worry due to a the possibility of a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. A cable from 2009 states: “an actual incident involving the release of radioactive material would severely test the Government of Romania’s crisis management capabilities. Emergency response training, in general, tends to be inadequate.”
In 2008, a cable quotes a Romanian official declaring that the Turkmenistani President Gurbanguli Berdimuhamedov would reduce natural gas supplies to Russia to assure an adequate supply to the EU-backed gas pipeline project Nabucco, which aims to run between Azerbaijan, Turkey, Romania and Austria, cutting out Russia.
A US cable form 2007 states that Ukrainian foreign office officials have a theory that Romania aims to divide the Republic of Moldova in two – giving the breakaway republic of Transnistria to Ukraine and annexing the remainder for itself. The theory states that the two new countries would merge in a superstate. The name of the new country? ‘Romanova’.