Civil society development
Romania has grown into a mature democracy through different stages and civil society development has mirrored this process: from the ‘import’ of international organisations, foreign aid and volunteers in the early ‘90s, to their subsequent gradual withdrawal once Romania became an EU member. Local NGOs, strengthened by EU pre-accession and cohesion funding, stepped in to take on the responsibility, but also the challenges (shrinking funding sources, political pressure, insufficient experience, lack of cooperation from the government). Most recently, grassroots movements and citizens are increasingly organising themselves spontaneously around major issues/events or setting up permanent platforms which are remarkably capable of bringing together citizens, individual donors, the private sector, young IT aficionados and more experienced NGOs to work on or advocate together for various community-based or large scale civic initiatives. A hugely diversified though also hugely controversial media sector is going through similarly dynamic challenges to its role in informing public opinion and holding decision-makers accountable.
Over a space of almost three decades, the Romanian civil society landscape has shifted from being initially driven mostly by a wide range of international organisations, to the strong local and national civic organisations and NGOs which are nowadays instrumental in democracy and public administration development and citizen engagement. Romanian civil society has flourished in areas such as equal rights, community development and social inclusion, to name only a few. Associative networks, like the Civil Society Development Foundation, have been able to lend better support to the gradual expansion of the non-government sector, both at central and local level.
In addition to the consolidation of civil society as a watchdog for democracy and good governance, the media landscape has also exploded and diversified, after the seemingly endless decades of state-run propaganda channels before 1989. The numbers of private media channels have skyrocketed (today there are over 600 private radio channels and about 750 private television channels). With such impressive development there came a flurry of challenges: owners are often corrupt moguls using these outlets to buy political influence; underpaid journalists fall short of ethical standards; audio-visual content is supervised by the National Audio-Visual Council (CNA), an institution which is perceived by many as politicised and inefficient. Media watchdog associations have been trying to fill the gap, while recently, a growing concern among the wider society for fact-checking and anti-disinformation is adding up to the roles and responsibilities of investigative journalism and free media.
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Civil society development
Mass media development