Community Rights

Media discrimination campaign against the german minority in Romania

17.07.2019  |  Romania  |  Submitted by: Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania

Since 2007, the Romanian press has conducted a slander campaign against the German minority, according to which the umbrella organization of associations of Romanian citizens of German descent, the Democratic Forum of the Germans in Romania ("DFDR"), is presented as the successor of a National Socialist organization of the interwar period. Since the beginning of 2017, this has developed into a fierce concerted campaign against the German minority. Daily newspapers, television stations and websites have taken up the topic and continued it, whereby the imagination of journalists no longer knew any boundaries and ultimately led to fines and injunctions against some journalists and media.

BACKGROUND 

The historical background of the media action can be summarized as follows: In 1940, by decree of Marshal Antonescu, leader of the Romanian state and close ally of Adolf Hitler, the "German Ethnic Group in Romania" ("DVR") was founded. At the same time as the DVR was established, all German associations, some of which had always existed in Romania came into being under pressure from the German Reich, were dissolved and their (partly centuries-old) property transferred to the newly founded DVR.

The social, economic and cultural life of the German minority now only took place within the new organisation, which had the status of a corporate body. As an offspring of the NSDAP in Romania, the DVR pursued the Nazi policy of the Third Reich.

In 1944 the existence of the DVR was ended by decree of the Romanian king. This corresponded to the provisions of the armistice agreement signed by Romania and the Allied Powers at the end of the Second World War, which asked, among other things, for the dissolution of all fascist and National Socialist organizations. The real estate of the DVR was nationalized by the dissolution decree, since the armistice agreement contained no statements about the property of these organizations.

Finally, in 1999 the Romanian state passed a special law on the restitution of property illegally nationalised and taken from national minorities. According to this urgent order of the government, such real estate can be returned to a minority organization if it can prove that it serves interests of the respective minority of the dissolved organization whose real estate was nationalized.

If it cannot prove that it is a successor organisation, a court has the right to judge on the basis of the provisions of the urgent decree mentioned here to obtain real estate.

BEGINNING OF THE SLANDER AND DISCRIMINATION CAMPAIGN 

In 2007, the Democratic Forum of the Germans in Sibiu, a local association of the German minority, asked the court to recognise it as the successor to the DVR in order to apply for the return of the real estate expropriated in 1940 from the German organization. The court accepted the request because, according to the grounds, the Hermannstädter Forum proved that it was the recognised representative of the German minority at the local level. Since this minority was included in DVR (until its dissolution), the Sibiu Forum is entitled to obtain the nationalised properties of the German minority.

The final judgement of a Romanian court, issued on the basis of a domestic legal regulation, has since been interpreted by parts of the Romanian press as a violation of the ceasefire agreement and the subsequent peace treaty. At the same time, the DFDR, the representative of the German minority in Romania, is described as a continuation of the DVR or simply as a National Socialist organisation.[1]

What originally began as a marginal phenomenon of the Romanian media landscape has since the beginning of 2017 intensified into a fierce concerted campaign against the German minority. Daily newspapers, television stations and Internet sites have taken up the topic and continued it, with journalists claiming untruths without reflection.

The first article that launched the slander campaign appeared in the newspaper „Cotidianul“ on February 15, 2017, in which journalist Cornel Nistorescu[2] and self-proclaimed economist Radu Golban[3] portrayed the DFDR as the successor organization to the Nazis, which had enriched itself with unlawful returns. It talked about 88,000 properties and rental income in the billions. It was also not differentiated that the listed properties belonged to the Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox Church. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the historian Prof. Dr. Ioan Scurtu, who in some circles was highly respected, presented the DFDR in a "scientific" expert opinion as a turned-down Nazi organization or new foundation of the German ethnic group.

The same accusations by the same people were recorded on the B1TV television channel at prime time in a political talk show moderated by journalist Silviu Mânăstire . Furthermore, the press has raised the issue that the court's decision violated or even endangered the international legal order after the Second World War.

JURISPRUDENCE OF THE COMPETENT REGULATORY BODIES 

The Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania ("DFDR") called the Anti-Discrimination Authority and the Media Inspectorate (CNA), and also went to court.

As a result, Scurtu, Golban, Nistorescu and Mânăstire were each sentenced to 2000 RON by the National Anti-Discrimination Authority, and the National Media Authority sentenced B1TV to 50,000 RON.

Ioan Scurtu was ordered by the Bucharest District Court to pay 6000 RON and omission (final)[4], Golban, Mânăstire and Nistorescu were ordered by the Bucharest District Court to pay 25 000 RON each and omission (not yet final).[5]

The same accusations by moderator Ionuț Cristache, Cornel Nistorescu and Doru Bușcu. were also made at prime time on the public TV channel TVR1 (programme "România 9"). The complaints have been filed with the National Discrimination Authority and the District Court of Bucharest, but the judgement is still pending.

Even in a major Israeli newspaper (The Jerusalem Post)[6], Radu Golban has published an advertorial article in which he speaks in conjunction with the court ruling on the rehabilitation of a pro-Hitler group („the rehabilitation of a pro-Hitler group”).

This would have serious consequences, not only for the rule of law in Romania, but also for the international legal order based on the peace treaties after the Second World War.

(„may bring about particularly serious consequences, not only for the rule of law in Romania but also for the international legal order, which is founded upon the treaties that brought the global conflagration to an end“).

MINORITY MONITOR RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The Democratic Forum of the Germans in Romania (DFDR) strongly condemns the defamation campaign of some media and some representatives of the ruling coalition and calls on the Romanian authorities to oppose this campaign decisively and unequivocally.

  2. In this case, the discriminatory violations are not committed by state authorities, but by private media companies and politicians of the ruling party. „To date, we have been supported by the national authorities (the media inspectorate with some reservations)“.

  3. DFDR would only turn to international institutions or courts (ECtHR) if domestic administrative and legal channels did not allow compensation for the damage to their image.

  4. In Theo opinion of the DFDR these developments and defamations against the German minority in Romania are very worrying and deeply to be condemned. The DFDR was collectively referred to as a Nazi organisation.

[1] https://inpolitics.ro/ce-dimensiuni-are-tunul-lui-klaus-iohannis_18435680.html, http://www.justitiarul.ro/11367-2/, https://www.ancheteonline.ro/2017/02/tunul-imobiliar-de-la-sibiu-cum-a-fost-retrocedat-muzeul-brukenthal-catre-biserica-evanghelica/. The list can be extended. In the meantime  the number of articles  has increased.

[2] https://www.cotidianul.ro/duplicitatea-lui-klaus-iohannis/, https://www.cotidianul.ro/klaus-iohannis-beneficiar-de-case-si-proprietati-naziste/.

[3] The article of Golban was only published in printed edition.It also can be found on his own homepage: https://radugolban.ro/articole/noua-casa-verde.

[4] http://portal.just.ro/303/SitePages/Dosar.aspx?id_dosar=30300000000301030&id_inst=303

http://portal.just.ro/3/SitePages/Dosar.aspx?id_dosar=30300000000301030&id_inst=3.

[5] http://portal.just.ro/299/SitePages/Dosar.aspx?id_dosar=29900000000746162&id_inst=299.

[6] https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Why-is-Romanias-president-refusing-to-relocate-the-embassy-to-Jerusalem-552769.

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