| IMAGES AND ISSUES:COVERAGE OF THE ROMAIN THE MASS MEDIA IN ROMANIA |
The role of the mass media in shaping perceptions, attitudes, andunderstandings has been well documented. The Project on Ethnic Relations(PER) has been acutely aware of the interrelations between the media andthose portrayed by the media, for the tone and character of theserelationships play an important part in interethnic relations. Particularlywith respect to minorities and those seeking to overcome the history ofmisunderstandings born of negative and stereotypical imagery, this is anarea where there is a dire need for open and honest communication.
It is the practice of PER to organize and facilitate dialogues betweenparties that normally find it difficult to meet face-to-face without thepresence of an impartial third party. In keeping with this practice, PERco-sponsored a seminar in Prague in September 1996 that brought togetherRomani elites and journalists and a small number of non-Romani journalistsfrom the mainstream media of several countries in the region (see the PERreport, The Media and the Roma in Contemporary Europe: Facts and Fictions).Subsequently, representatives of the Romani community in Romania asked PERto provide an opportunity for considering the questions raised at theseminar in the circumstances specific to Romania. Romani elites in thatcountry strongly believe that a large segment of the media presents a falsepicture of the Roma, and they have accused the media of in effect fomentingviolence against the Roma.
The workshop that is the subject of this report was PER's response to thatrequest. It was held in Sinaia, Romania, from June 27 to June 28, 1997, incooperation with the Department for the Protection of National Minorities ofthe Romanian Government and with the Roma Center for Social Intervention andStudies (Rromani CRISS), a nongovernmental organization in Romania. Partialfunding was provided by the Confidence-Building Measures Programme of theCouncil of Europe. The participants were Romani elites and journalists,non-Romani journalists in Romania, and journalists from media in othercountries. A list of participants appears at the end of the report.
Questions such as these were the subject of discussion: Who is responsiblefor the often negative image of the Roma in some of the Romanian media? Isit biased coverage by journalists, or does the Romani community fail toprovide accurate information to the media, forcing journalists to rely oninformation received from the police press bureaus? Can journalists developa "code of ethics" concerning the communication of information about ethnicminorities in general and about Roma in particular? What possibilities arethere for cooperation between the mainstream and the Romani media?
The goal of the workshop was to share the experiences of Western and othermedia professionals in dealing with the problems of reporting that involvesethnic content and to stimulate a continuing discussion of those problems,looking toward the establishment of informal mechanisms of evaluation andthe promotion of professionalism.
The workshop led to several concrete outcomes: the formation of a "ContactPoint" between the Romani community and the media, which will provide themedia with information from and about the community and will organizemonthly dialogues between the two parties, and the initiation of internshipsfor young Romani journalists at two of the leading Romanian dailies. Inaddition, PER's Bucharest office will hold monthly workshops for journalistsaimed at developing standards to help avoid ethnic stereotyping in themedia.
This report was prepared for PER by Jennifer Tanaka, consultant to RromaniCRISS. It was edited by Warren Haffar, PER program officer, and Robert A.Feldmesser, PER's senior editor. The participants have not had anopportunity to review the text, which is thus PER's responsibility alone.
Livia B. Plaks, Executive Director
Princeton, New Jersey
A Note on Terminology
Gypsy is an English term used to denote ethnic groups formed by thedispersal of commercial, nomadic and other groups from within India from thetenth century, and their mixing with European and other groups during theirdiaspora.* The term Gypsy and the several European variants of Tsigan areconsidered by many to be pejorative.
Rom refers to a member of the group.
Roma refers to a plurality of members and to the group as a whole.
Romani refers to the language spoken by the Roma. It is also used as anadjective.
The role and impact of the mass media are often emphasized in discussions ofviolence and discrimination against the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe.Although these problems are not unique to that region, they have specialimportance there now because of the vast economic, social, and politicaltransformations that are propelled by the move toward the principles ofdemocracy, freedom of speech, and civil rights.
The Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) has been engaged in a continuingeffort to identify practical and durable ways of overcoming the negativeportrayal of Roma in the mass media. The workshop whose proceedings arepresented in this report was part of that effort. It was held in Sinaia,Romania, from June 27 to June 28, 1997, and it concentrated on the situationin Romania. The hope was that the focus on a single country would allow theproblems to be addressed in greater detail, leading to the building ofconfidence between journalists and Romani elites, hitherto adversarialgroups, and thence to the development of approaches to the resolution ofdisputes.
Before the workshop began, a number of documents were distributed to theinvited participants. Some of these were prepared specifically for theworkshop; others were outgrowths of previous activities organized by PER orby Rromani CRISS. The documents were: (1) a report of a study of the presscoverage of Roma in the 1996 general elections; (2) a thematic analysis ofthe texts of articles concerning Roma from six daily newspapers during theperiods May 19-25 and June 2-7, 1997; (3) analysis of the use of the terms"Rom" and "Tigan" in articles appearing in thirteen newspapers between March21 and June 19, 1997; and (4) a proposal for a Romani press agency.
Setting the Framework
Three presentations were made at the outset of the workshop. The first ofthese was by William Pfaff, a journalist with the International HeraldTribune and a member the PER Council for Ethnic Accord. He dealt with theorigins and evolution of ethnic nationalism, secular nationalism, and theliberal state. Ethnic nationalism, he contended, endangers the verydefinition of "citizen" when the nature of citizenship becomes such thatpersons are individually marked by birth and their place in the state isinseparable from the community into which they were born. When members ofdifferent ethnic groups are then present within the borders of a state,extreme manifestations of ethnic nationalism appear, such as "ethniccleansing," leading to the violent expulsion of the members of some ethnicminorities.
On the other hand, in the context of the secular nationalism of a liberalstate, nationality typically rests on cultural and historical bases andacknowledges the importance of personal identity, and the concept ofcitizenship is constrained by the underlying principle of equality withoutregard to ethnic or racial group. In the liberal state, journalists bear theresponsibility of reporting from a detached standpoint, so that they canclarify ideas and make objective and nondiscriminatory analyses of events.They must also be conscious of the dangers of propagating ideas that may bedetrimental to any group of citizens, because "ideas may manufacture facts."
The next presentation was by Dan Pavel of the Bucharest office of PER, whogave an overview of the history of nationalist thought in Romania in thesecond half of the twentieth century. Following the Communist takeover,official propaganda integrated Romanian nationalism with communism. Sincethe overthrow of the Ceausescu government in 1989, the idea has been putforth in academic circles that civil society contains three main strata:civic, non-civic, and anti-civic. The civic stratum is the one that may beconsidered "natural;" it is characterized by pluralism, widespreadparticipation, and observance of human rights. The non-civic stratumconsists chiefly of Mafia-type organizations, and the anti-civic stratumrefers to nationalist groups and religious fundamentalists. Thus, thequestion arises, "What can we do so that the civic component evolves as thedominant one"?
The third presentation was by another member the PER Council for EthnicAccord, Nicolae Gheorghe, the coordinator of Rromani CRISS and a member ofthe PER Romani Advisory Council as well. He described the Roma as goingthrough a process of "ethnogenesis"--constructing a new Romani groupidentity, as other groups had done in the nineteenth century. The presentgoal, especially in Romania, is to upgrade the status of members of thecommunity from "Tigan" to "Roma," symbolic of the move from "slaves" toequal status as citizens in a state governed by the rule of law, with theright to identify themselves as belonging to the Romani minority.
Gheorghe pointed out that there was diversity among the Roma, reflected indifferent ideas about how Romani ethnic identity should be combined with theconstruction of democratic political institutions. One possibility is forthe Roma to affirm their identity in the context not of a particular statebut of a "European identity," perhaps represented by such bodies as theEuropean Union and the Council of Europe. This would be consistent with thesituation of the Roma as a stateless nation, dispersed throughout Europe andother parts of the world. The most recent censuses in Central and EasternEurope (1990-1992) show that Romania has the largest population of Roma. Oneinteresting finding of a study made for Rromani CRISS by Radu Halus of theRomanian National Commission for Statistics shows that the proportion of thetotal estimated Romani population in that country who declared themselves tobe Roma increased between 1977 and 1992.
However, the geographical dispersion of the Roma is only one element intheir pluralism. Actually, the Roma are a multicultural people, withdifferent religions, geographical zones of mobility, and cultures, includingdifferent languages, in the form of both Romani dialects and the officiallanguages of the states in which they reside. The construction of anidentity that would take into account all of these differences presentsformidable problems.
But there is one commonality among the Roma: They are all looked upon as"foreigners." Similar to the historical experience of the Jews, the Roma inCentral and Eastern Europe have been perceived as outsiders in their owncountries, a perception that has been based largely on beliefs about "race."In the mass media, Roma are often referred to as "colored" or"dark-skinned," and they are frequently described as possessing "inherent"deviant behavioral patterns. Violence against Roma has sometimes taken theform of "ethnic cleansing," in which Romani families have been evicted fromthe villages in which they were living and their homes have been burneddown.
Andrzej Mirga, Chairman of the PER Romani Advisory Council, commented thatthe Roma are currently confronted with several basic issues concerning theirhistorical legacy and their future prospects, both of which are involved intheir high rates of unemployment and low levels of education. Moreover,since 1989, Roma have become the main scapegoat in many countries of Centraland Eastern Europe, creating new barriers which must be overcome, both bythe Roma themselves and by the societies with which they coexist. (See thePER publication, The Roma in the Twenty-First Century: A Policy Paper.)
Studies of the Romanian Mass Media
The press coverage of conflicts between Roma and members of the majority infour Romanian communities was analyzed in a study coordinated by Ion-AndreiPopescu of the Institute of Studies and Polls ESOP OMEGA. Some of thefindings are presented here, and a fuller summary appears as an appendix tothis report. The incidents studied took place in the Bolintin area, 1991;Hadareni, 1993; Bacu, 1995; and Tanganu, 1997. Two of them were ratherlarge-scale conflicts that resulted in the destruction of the majority ofthe Romani homes in an attempt to evict them from the villages. In Bacu, twoRomani bystanders were wounded by gunshots following an altercation betweensome Roma and non-Roma and the burning of three Romani homes. The policeintervened by guarding the Romani homes that had been involved in thealtercation, but non-Romani villagers attacked other Romani homes that werenot being guarded. In the other incidents, members of the majoritypopulation gathered and threatened to attack the Romani men from the villageand burn their houses, but the flight of the Roma and the intervention ofpolice forces prevented further escalation of the conflict.
One finding of the study was that, over the six years between the first andlast of the incidents, the Roma were increasingly characterized by negativeattributes, while the non-Roma and their actions were increasingly presentedin positive terms. Another change was that, during the first two incidents,emphasis was on the malfunctioning of the justice system, the perceivedfailure to punish the allegedly criminal behavior of the Roma, whereas inthe last two, emphasis was on the "unlawful" behavior of the Romathemselves. Still another change was that fear among the groups involved wasreported on during the first two incidents but went unmentioned in thecoverage of the last two.
The study also found a change in attitudes toward the social integration ofthe Roma. In the first two events, blame was largely placed on the inabilityof society to absorb the members of the Romani minority. In the last two,society was no longer held to be at fault; rather, it was the Romathemselves who were considered responsible for the lack of integration,intimating that it was because of their "complacency."
A change was observed in the sources of information for the stories as well.The 1991 incident brought forth a wide variety of articles, many of whichwere largely speculative. Later, there was greater use of official sourcesand local documentation. Especially noteworthy is the increase in thejournalists' use of police jargon, sometimes repeating verbatim terms foundin the police inspectorate's press releases--"Gypsy, without occupation,""with (or without) penal antecedents," "with (or without) legal domicile inlocality," "known criminal," etc.
Finally, except for some of the stories in 1991, the journalistic discourseharped on the differences between the majority and the Roma--"we" and"they." This approach could be described as a kind of "interpretive scheme,"in which the behavior of the majority was treated with understanding andcompassion, in contrast to the shameless and incorrigible conduct of theRoma.
The Portrayal of the Roma and Crime in the Mass Media
In a number of cases of anti-Romani violence, members of the majoritycommunity justified their behavior, in part, by the alleged failure oflaw-enforcement officials to take appropriate steps when members of theRomani community committed illegal acts. This led them to engage in whatthey called "popular justice"--evicting Roma from their villages, includingsome who were not accused of any crimes. However, it was pointed out thatpolice forces now intervene more promptly to prevent violence and that thefrequency of this kind of violence has decreased since 1993.
One Romani participant suggested that there might be a relationship betweenthe reduced number of outbreaks of violence and an increase in informationabout "Gypsy crime," especially about the apprehension of "Gypsy criminals."That is, the police may be letting the majority population know that "Gypsycriminals" are being caught and punished.
Other Romani participants pointed out the other side of this coin: that theimage of the Roma in the Romanian mass media is one of criminals. Studies ofthe media have borne out this contention. In 1997, six national newspaperswere monitored for articles about the Roma between May 19 and 25 and June 2and 7. During the first of these periods, 11 such articles were published,and every one of them made some reference to criminality. During the secondperiod, there were 21 articles, of which 11 were about criminality.Similarly, in an analysis of articles in four daily newspapers between May 1and June 20, 1997, there were 69 articles, and 36 of them (52 percent) hadthe theme of criminality. (It was later pointed out that these articles hadfailed to note that the source of their information was police pressreleases--a serious violation of journalistic ethics.)
In another study, conducted by the Intercultural Institute in Timisoara aspart of a project on "the role of the press in harmonizing interethnicrelations" (funded by the Council of Europe and the Soros Foundation for anOpen Society), the frequency of various categories of key words in articlesabout the Roma in newspapers in three Romanian cities was noted for theperiod from May 1995 to April 1996. For two newspapers from Timisoara, themost frequently occurring category had to do with "color of skin;" thesecond most frequently occurring category was "infraction." In one Bucharestnewspaper and two from Constanta, the two most frequent categories were"Romani ethnicity" and "infraction." In another Bucharest newspaper, themost frequent categories were "Romani ethnicity" and "group."
Participants pointed out that this image of the Roma as criminals--madevivid with such terms as "Gypsy Mafia" and "gang of dangerousGypsies"--breeds fear in the majority population. Furthermore, reporting theethnicity of Romani criminals and suspects when it has no relevance to thestory implies that there is a definite relationship between being Roma andbeing a criminal or a "Mafioso." One Romani participant said that the mediacoverage presents criminality as "a Romani problem," neglecting to mentionthe economic difficulties (such as lack of income, of social assistance, andof land) that may be the real source of crime.
The moderator remarked that newspapers must take into account what sells,and unfortunately, bad or negative news often sells better than good orpositive news. But an example was given to show that mistakes can beavoided. German newspapers reported that a "Polish Mafia" was responsiblefor car thefts in Germany. There were protests from Poland, and the resultwas that the newspapers began to say, only when it was relevant, that "someof the leaders were persons of Polish origin."
Romanian television recently aired a special report on the question ofwhether there really was a "Gypsy Mafia," in the sense of an organizedcriminal group. The head of the department that produced the report saidthat it was made with the collaboration of a young Romanian Rom and includedmembers of the Romani community. Nevertheless, it was criticized by someRoma because it showed footage taken at an annual celebration of theKalderash tribe showing well-known Roma without their consent. One of themclaimed that the film implied incorrectly that his family and the Kalderashcommunity were engaged in criminal activity, and he demanded a retraction.The issue has not yet been resolved.* (It was pointed out that, in Poland,the family could sue the producers of the report.)
The use of the term "Mafia" was a major topic of discussion at the workshop.Romani participants, and some of the journalists, said that the mere use ofa gun or knife in a criminal act does not constitute "organized crime."However, one of the journalists replied that the term "Gypsy Mafia" was notdifferent from such other terms as "Chinese Mafia" and that organized crimecan be of different types--economic, financial, or juridical. He asked whatjournalists were supposed to do when there was a case of organized crime.One response was to follow the example from Poland that had been citedearlier: Write about "persons belonging to the Romani minority" rather than"the Gypsy Mafia."
A participant from the press office of the Romanian police expressed hisbelief that the role of the media is to act as a mirror of society, and thusthe problem was "not how the mirror reflects but what stands in front ofit." A journalist put it more bluntly, saying that the cause of the negativeimage of Roma in the mass media is the behavior of Romani persons, inRomania and abroad. The moderator pointed out that journalists have aprofessional responsibility to present an objective and balanced picture.That may sometimes require writing things that the public may not want tohear, such as refuting a stereotype. He added that the more liberal thesociety is, the easier it is for a journalist to act in a professionalmanner.
The Role of the Police
As noted earlier, the police are an important source of information forRomanian journalists. An example was given of a recent report on statisticsabout crime in May 1996 and May 1997 that had been prepared by theDepartment of Informatics and Operative Evidence of the General PoliceInspectorate. The report stated that, among the 21,825 perpetrators andaccomplices who had been apprehended in May 1997, "2,232 are minors, 8,638are youth, 331 are foreigners, 1,983 are Roma" These figures were thenpublished in a Romanian daily.
A participant noted that Rromani CRISS had been studying the press releasesof the Bucharest police and the General Police Inspectorate and had observedthat persons accused of crimes might be identified as "Gypsy" or "Romani"but not as "Romanian" or "Hungarian." In some of the press releases given tothe organization, however, the ethnic identification of the perpetrator hadbeen blacked out.* The press releases also included the address of thesuspect and information regarding occupation and past criminal record.
Romani participants expressed concern about the studies of "Gypsy crime" bythe Romanian police department. The historical dangers of crime studiesbased on ethnicity, as illustrated by the case of Nazi Germany, were broughtto attention by the recent appearance of Gypsies: The Unknown Next to Us, abook written by a researcher in the Ministry of the Interior. The bookconcerns the "crime phenomenon within the Gypsy minority" and is used astraining material in the Romanian Police Academy. One Romani participantsaid that, in addition, the press may be manipulated by some stateinterests, such as the Ministry of the Interior's campaign againstcorruption.
A representative of the press office of the Bucharest police acknowledgedthat the police records of all recorded crimes in the country includedinformation on nationality along with information on such othercharacteristics as gender, age, and occupation. He insisted that separatedata were not kept for Roma, although the information could be sorted on the"nationality" field. When asked about the relevance of nationality data, heresponded that it was in the interest of society, of sociological studies,and of crime prevention through the identification of possible accomplices.Indeed, he said that his office had been criticized when it tried to presentinformation about crime without such details and that police departments inother countries publish statistics regarding nationality and crime (thoughothers pointed out that it is illegal to do so in some countries). In anycase, he said, it was his opinion that the police press office shouldprovide all data to the media and leave the interpretation to them.
Other participants said that the collection of data on the ethnicity ofcriminals and suspects, even in order to facilitate the apprehension ofaccomplices, is a form of discrimination; that the prevention of crime mustyield to the prevention of discrimination; and that there would be noopposition to the publication of information about the ethnicity of acriminal or suspect when it was relevant to the story.
The basis on which ethnicity is determined was also discussed. The policerepresentative said that, in his department, ethnicity or nationality wasdetermined in the same way that it is in the census: by the individual'sresponse to a question on a standard form. Others suggested that a writtendeclaration would be better, because it was not certain that the individualhad in fact identified himself or herself. Romani participants agreed thatpersons are Roma only if they choose to declare themselves as such.
Access to Romani Communities
One of the principle problems raised by the non-Romani journalists was alack of communication between the Roma and the media. Even in the presenceof a readiness to publish positive news about Roma-related issues, Romanicommunities are closed to journalists. Other minority groups providedinformation on a regular basis, but Romani sources did so only rarely. Yetif more information came from the Roma themselves, journalists would be lessdependent on information from the police. If nothing else, facilitation ofjournalists' access to Romani communities would diversify their sources ofinformation. One journalist complained that even in situations of conflict,it was difficult to make contact with Romani community members. Also,however, readers were generally more interested in the response of the localauthorities.
One journalist said that her magazine had experienced a negative reactionwhen it published special material on the Roma. Readers in the majoritycommunity were not motivated to buy the issue when they read on the coverpage that there was an article inside concerning the Roma. In fact, somereaders said that they would cancel their subscriptions if the magazinecontinued to cover this subject.
Some of the journalists spoke of a need for a more structured organizationand diplomatic leadership in the Romani communities. Clearer politicalplatforms were also needed. There would be both greater press coverage andwider public interest if there were stronger evidence that the Roma were anethnic group with specific political problems and political influence.
One of the participants questioned the extent of "modern" political thinkingamong the Roma. In the discussion that followed, it was generally agreedthat the emergence of an increasing number of Romani organizations inCentral and Eastern Europe, some with clear political agendas, was evidenceof the spread of "political thinking" among Roma. However, some expresseddoubts that this was "modern" thinking, for there was so far only a minimalnumber of Romani parliamentarians. The situation was described as one in aprocess of development.
Some non-Romani participants questioned the impact of the Romaniparticipants on the rank-and-file members of the Romani communities. Theyexpressed the hope that whatever practical solutions might be identifiedwould reach beyond the Romani intelligentsia.
The Romani Media
Another important topic of discussion was the distribution, audience, andfunding of the Romani media. One of the Romani participants remarked thatthe Romani communities had only a limited capacity for raising funds,whether through increased readership or by raising funds from othersponsors. Another participant pointed out that the editor in chief of theRomani newspaper that is supported by the state is a political personage,which restricts the scope of the news that it reports.
Some Romani participants said that there was a need for more television andradio programs aimed at Romani audiences, since these would attract morepeople than newspapers do. Others insisted that there should nevertheless bea nationwide, daily Romani newspaper. But were there enough qualified Romato produce professional-caliber newspapers and radio and TV programs? Thiswas an area in which non-Romani journalists could cooperate with members ofthe Romani community, although there has been some training of Romani youthin radio reporting.
In the course of the workshop, the proposal was made that a Romani pressagency be created to increase the flow of information from Romanicommunities to the mainstream mass media. Such an agency could establish anetwork of correspondents who would send information daily to a centralagency, which would in turn send the information on to its subscribers.Reaction from the non-Romani journalists was positive, provided that thecost was low enough and the information was presented in a professionalmanner. One journalist declared that this kind of resource would be moreuseful than any number of Romani newspapers with limited audiences.
Although some participants said that Romani elites have insisted that Romaniissues be covered by Romani journalists, others maintained that Roma mustpresent their points of view through the mainstream media if they wish tohave an impact on their own image. Thus, there needs to be more interactionbetween Romani and non-Romani journalists. Indeed, Romani journalists couldhave a particularly great impact on the image of the Roma by working for themainstream media. To achieve that goal, they must have the training andskills that will enable them to compete with others in the field.
The discussion of possible solutions for the problems that had been examinedrested on an agreement about the importance of identifying common interestsbetween journalists and the Roma. One such interest was that ofprofessionalism, which pointed toward an increased flow of information fromRomani elites to the mainstream media, on the one hand, and, on the other, agreater sensitivity among mainstream journalists to the type of informationthat reinforces the stereotypes of Roma. A significant step towardincreasing the flow of information came with the announcement of theestablishment of a Contact Point, to be funded by PER and the Council ofEurope, between Romani associations and the press.
Another suggestion was for a law on data protection, which could limit theprovision of information from official sources about the nationality ofindividuals. A similar suggestion was for a code of ethics, which might bebuilt upon a compilation of codes of journalistic ethics from othercountries.
Several participants pointed to the need for strong Romani media. Ajournalist offered an internship to two Romani individuals, which would givethem an opportunity to practice writing articles and to learn how anewspaper functions.
Finally, Rromani CRISS invited journalists to a press conference to be heldthe following week concerning the recently issued report, The Roma in theTwenty-First Century: A Policy Paper, by Andrzej Mirga and Nicolae Gheorghethe PER Romani Advisory Council.
There was agreement among the participants that contact and dialogue shouldcontinue, moving to more specific matters and cooperative solutions andcontributing to the process of building mutual trust and confidence.
The workshop at Sinaia was a continuation of PER's efforts to improvecommunication and cooperation between ethnic communities and the mass media.The participation of a larger number of mainstream journalists on thisoccasion than was the case at the preceding workshop in Prague proved usefulin enlarging and facilitating the discussion.
The workshop succeeded in providing an open forum for a specific discussionof the complex relationships between the Romani communities and theirportrayal in the Romanian mass media. However, the issues involved are notunique either to the Roma or to Romania. Questions of objectivity andprofessionalism in the media are universal and of increasing importance. Asthe rights of free speech are expanding, new opportunities are being createdfor fostering effective communication and mutual understanding among peopleof different ethnic identities. These opportunities must not be missed.
Following is a summary of a study of the press coverage of incidents ofcommunity violence between Romani and non-Romani groups in four Romaniantowns. The study was coordinated by Ion-Andrei Popescu of the Institute ofStudies and Polls ESOP OMEGA, Bucharest.
The incidents studied occurred in the Bolintin area, 1991; Hadareni, 1993;Bacu, 1995; and Tanganu, 1997. Two hundred and twenty-six articles wereanalyzed, with the goal of examining their stereotyping, negative imagery,and degree of objectivity. The trends over the six-year period will bediscussed under four headings: general themes, attribution ofcharacteristics, sources of information, and portrayal of group differences.
Mentions of the behavior of the majority group appeared to decrease overtime, while the frequency of references to the behavior and attitudes of thelocal Roma increased. Furthermore, concern for distinguishing individualactors from the minority group as a whole decreased. Instead, there was atendency toward character generalization: Romanians were "good," Roma were"bad."
One constant in the articles was the portrayal of law enforcement as beingslow and indifferent. Besides identifying the deficiencies of lawenforcement, the articles placed a large part of the responsibility for thedisturbances in community life on the unlawful acts of the Roma.
The theme of "interethnic conflict" decreased over time; indeed, it wascompletely absent in the coverage of the last two events. Instead, thearticles about the Bacu and Tanganu incidents spoke of an "intracommunityconflict."
Attribution of Characteristics
Over the course of the coverage of the four incidents, there was an increasein the proportion of negative attributes among all the attributes that weresaid to characterize the Roma. This negative labeling was made especiallynoticeable by the failure to differentiate among the causes of the incidentsand by the tendency mentioned above to fail to distinguish individual actorsfrom the group as a whole. Conversely, there was a decrease in theproportion of negative attributes accorded to the Romanian members of thecommunity. The anger of the Romanian villagers came to be regarded aslegitimate.
The study shows a sharp increase in the frequency of positive statementsabout the intervention of the police, who were seen as another category of"positive" actors.
In the articles about the Bolintin and Hadareni incidents, there weretenuous references to vindictive actions on the part of the majority group,but such references were absent from the coverage of the later Bacu andTanganu incidents. For the majority group and the Roma to live together wasportrayed as difficult, if not impossible. In the first two incidents, thiswas attributed to the inability of the system to absorb the "marginalized"Roma; in the last two, it was not the system that was at fault but ratherthe Roma themselves, apparently because of their "complacency."
Sources of Information
In the 1991 coverage, many of the articles were of a theoretical nature,with themes such as "the image of the government," "the social integrationof the Roma," and the inefficiency of the legal system. Other articles werewritten locally or dealt with police investigations. However, the use ofpress agencies or of police press releases was uncommon.
By the time of the second incident, at Hadareni, more than one-third of thearticles used materials and interpretations from the county and generalpolice press releases. In the last two incidents, a large majority of thearticles were based on sources and documentation from the localities.Particularly noticeable was the verbatim use of official expressions, suchas "Gypsy, without occupation," "with (or without) penal antecedents," and"with (or without) legal domicile in the locality."
Portrayal of Group Differences
Except for some of the 1991 articles, coverage of the incidents was markedby an emphasis on the differences between the Roma and the majoritypopulation. These differences seemed to serve as a kind of "interpretivescheme" in which the reactions of the majority were treated withunderstanding and compassion, even when they went beyond the bounds of thenormal, in contrast to the "shameless" conduct of the Roma. The portrayal ofthese differences persisted even when the articles referred to "the Gypsies,whom the Romanians have nothing against."
Summary of Findings
A certain increase in the level of journalistic professionalism could beobserved over the six-year period covered by this study. News articlesbecame somewhat less like editorials. Nevertheless, the study also showedthat whether an incident involved organized actions, large numbers ofpeople, or isolated individuals, the stereotypes of the Roma were the same,and they supported the perception that the ethnic group as a whole wasculpable.
List of Workshop Participants
Mainstream Romanian media
Gabriela Adamesteanu, 22
Marian Chirion, Press Bureau of the General Inspectorate of Police
Patrick Andre de Hillerin, Academia Catavencu
Laszlo Kallai, Ziua
Camelia Popa, Romania Libera
Razvan Popescu, Romania Television, TVR
Monica Radoi, AR Press
Andrei Ion Remus, PRO TV
Dumitru Secrieru, Press Bureau, Bucharest Police Department
Andrei Zamfirescu, Antenna 1
Luminita Cioaba, Neodrom
Florin Cioaba, Neodrom
Ivan Gheorghe, Asul de Trefla
Paun Ialomiteanu, Satra
Vasile Ionescu, Aven Amentza
Konstanty Gebert, Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland
William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, PER Council for Ethnic Accord,USA
Carmen Vasile, Rromani CRISS
Nicolae Gheorghe, Rromani CRISS, PER Council for Ethnic Accord
Gyorgy Gyongyver, Department for the Protection of National MinoritiesRomanian Government
Gabriel Micu, Department for the Protection of National Minorities, RomanianGovernment
Ion-Andrei Popescu, ESOP OMEGA
Rumyan Russinov, Human Rights Project, Bulgaria
Jennifer Tanaka, Rromani CRISS
Gyorgy Tokay, Department for the Protection of National Minorities, RomanianGovernment
Project on Ethnic Relations
Livia Plaks, USA
Elena Cruceru, Romania
Andrzej Mirga, Romani Advisory Council, Project on Ethnic Relations
Dan Pavel, Romania