Monday, October 4, 2010

Investigative Journalism

Investigative Journalism in Eastern Europe

For Eastern European and post-Soviet countries investigative journalism represents a rather different idea than what many Western Europeans and North Americans would generally assume. Previously, under the rule of Communist leaders, countries such as Romania had very limited options regarding journalism because that genre of media and reporting was controlled by their government and investigation was not supported. Since escaping Communist rule, Eastern European nations have struggled to break through to a post-Soviet mindset and promote investigative journalism.

Any method of relaying information through a media outlet is strongly driven by audience interest, and it is no different with investigative journalism. Journalists in Eastern Europe find it difficult to receive adequate pay for their work largely due to a lack of interest in the information they report. The idea of this type of media is still somewhat new to many post-Soviet countries; it is still the exception rather than the rule (especially when compared to Western European and American journalistic companies), and readership is quite low (Risky). The environment for the journalists themselves, however, remains rather dangerous and can oftentimes be life-threatening (Mogos). Romanians in particular are known for boldly printing facts and stating their views, but this often contrasts the ideologies and policies of their government. Such a risk can lead to a journalist losing his or her job, harmful threats, and/or death. Yet despite these risks, the journalists—whom are few in number—continue to report stories of corruption and scandal in order to inform the nation’s people. In some way it is a celebration of the partially limited “freedom” journalists now exercise in publishing such content; however, there are still government regulations in certain nations including Romania that prohibit true freedom in openly writing (Risky).

In addition to encountering life-threatening situations, journalists of Eastern Europe are not adequately funded. Without a strong readership or dedicated following, money is not received in order to properly fund a journalist’s salary or the costs of excursions to investigate their stories as well as the cost of printing a newspaper. Dave Kaplan of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists stated in a panel discussion held September 29, 2010, “Good journalism does not come cheap.” If people fear the possible consequences of certain media coverage—whose outlets are often controlled by corrupt officials or groups—then they often choose not to acknowledge that source’s stories, which leads to a rapid decline in readership and decreased funding (Armao 1). It is costly to find solid, professional journalism, but without it community interest is practically non-existent. Unfortunately it becomes a cycle that is hard to break.

Government officials in Romania and other nations continue to regulate what content can or cannot be published out of fear that the public will receive information which may cause them to turn against the government. Therefore the journalists are stripped of media coverage—and payment for content as well—and they lose access to any audience. Such actions by government remind the people of days prior when they still suffered under Communist rule; these post-Soviet nations finally escaped Communism, but certain aspects of regulations in place today are a constant reminder of where they used to be (Mogos).

Romania in particular presently works to build investigative journalism and promote it throughout the nation. The Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism (RCIJ) aims to “enhance the quality of investigative journalism…and consolidate a center for investigative journalism independent from local financing resources” (RCIJ). The RCIJ recognizes the importance of providing other means of financial funding for journalists so that crucial information can continue to be released. Proper funding can also help to provide training, and it “is essential for local journalists to train to build a strong brand of independent investigative journalism in order to combat media outlets owned by corrupt officials or groups” (Armao). The purpose of the RCIJ is to increase the flow of information through investigative journalism to the people and to shed light on what really goes on in their government and to expose scandal in hopes of corruption being resolved.


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