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THE PRESS IN THE COMMUNIST YEARS 09/03/2009
(2009-03-09)
Last updated: 2009-03-09 14:42 EET
Karl Max and his followers identified power with the state institutions while seizing power was an essential part of putting the communist experiment into practice. Nevertheless, not seizing power, but preserving it seemed to be the most important issue of the communist party. The ineffective coups staged by the proletariat at the end of the WW I made the Bolsheviks regard the press as a basic means for drawing the attention of the population to their suggestions. Marx, like all the other theoreticians of Socialism, had pursued a career in journalism and believed in the power of the written word. However, without an insurrection aimed at seizing power, the written word had no value. So the state power and the press lived together in perfect harmony.

During the communist regime, the press had also an informative role. But that was more of an exception. The press was part of the propaganda, just like the censorship. The institution in charge of controlling the press and filtering information was the General Directorate for Press and Printings. Official mouthpieces of the Romanian Communist Party, the newspapers Scanteia and Romania Libera became active in the late 1940s, together with other pro-Communist papers set up by collaborationist journalists and intellectuals. The Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation became a key instrument of the propaganda. The press was supposed to report on the new regime's accomplishments and on the actions of the Communist Party’s political opponents, to praise the new man and stigmatise the bourgeois behaviour. Gheorge Angelescu, former journalist with the newspaper Scanteia Tineretului, recounts in an interview with Radio Romania’s Oral History Centre in 1997, the rules according to which articles had to be written:

"Everything had to be eulogising. Criticism, if any, could only be levelled at a young man for instance, who failed to do one thing or another. We were not allowed to say anything negative about a factory or the Working Youth Union, we could only criticise individuals. So a number of regular features were published, about some young people who were wasting their time drinking or who failed to show up to work for about three days, for which reason they were punished with a salary cut. I myself wrote an item on Vasile Stan, who was working for the Bearings Factory in Barlad, on how much he had to lose for not going to work for three days, and I also calculated the loss he incurred: if he didn’t go to work three days per month, in a year time that would cost him several suits, several pairs of shoes and so on. These were the so-called ‘critical’ reports we used to write. Perhaps it was precisely this more accessible style of the articles carried by Scanteia Tineretului that drew so many talented young people towards this paper. Some of those who wrote for the paper were future writers such as Teodor Mazilu, Ion Baiesu, Nicolae Tic, Vasile Baran, Radu Cosasu and Eugen Mandric. Others occupied leading positions within the state institutions.”

There were also journalists who tried to adjust the party rules and directives.

“During the 1956 events in Hungary, some of the special reporters of the time were asked to take a stand and write on what was happening there. Two of them Cosasu and Tic, refused to take a stand saying that it was not the right time to write on the events. But there were others who did it. And the price was paid much later. I mentioned just earlier about this trend of rendering the absolute truth. In keeping with it, several articles were written by Tic and Cosasu in the spring of 1958. I am sure that the then editor in chief, Dumitru Popescu, was familiar with the content of the articles. But on the day they were supposed to be released, he left Bucharest. The articles were published and the Propaganda and Press Department with the Communist Party Central Committee ordered Tic’s and Cosasu’s dismissal.”

Gheorghe Angelescu has also told us about his contacts with censorship:

"As long as I did not hold a leading position, I didn’t have to deal with censorship, because decisions related to it were made at top level and we would only receive an order, without knowing where it came from. I was faced with censorship however, when I started working with for radio and each tape had to be signed by a censor. Nothing was ever aired without a censor’s approval. Censorship was obvious at the radio. But it was different with the newspapers. The articles, ready to be printed, were sent to be checked during the night and then brought back with certain corrections. The team on duty and the person in charge of that certain edition had to make the changes in the texts, sometimes remove an entire article and replace it with another and that was it. That’s why I said I didn’t have to deal with censorship much”.

Only those who had the experience of censorship can realise the great value of a free press. The press in the communist regime is a very extensive subject, open to long debates, which may be revealing about who kept a clean consciousness in troubled times and who didn’t.
 
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