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What Manipulation Actually Is?

Breton Philippe says in his work “Manipulation of the word” that “Manipulation is to break-in in someone's mind to form an opinion or to cause a behavior, without him/her knowing that the break-in occurred. Unlike physical violence, which establishes an explicit interaction, psychological or cognitive violence that manipulation involves, owes its whole effectiveness to its concealment. And technical mechanisms constituting a manipulating message reveal a double concern: to identify the resistance that would be opposed to them and to mask the endeavor itself”.
In the age of communication, when we face a real inflation in information, it's much easier to use the word in the desired meaning.
Michel Montaigne, a Renaissance essayist, said in the “Essais”: “The word is half of the one who utters it and half of that one who listens to it.”
Slander, insinuation remain in people's mind when the place is prepared beforehand.
“Slander, criticize, insinuate, there will always remain something in people's heads! To persuade means nothing but to always introduce some inaccurate facts in brains very well prepared beforehand. The indicated proportion: 90-95% of truth vs. 5-10% of lie. More would be inefficient; less would be too obvious, it is the fundamental principle of the strange alchemy of lie”, Remi Kauffer says.
Another aspect to be taken into account in analyzing the state of the press in Romania is the degree of freedom of journalists.
The importance and the need to respect the freedom of expression is summed up in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
But what is the state of the press in Romania?

“If we were to define with a single word the state of the media sector in 2014, fear would be the most appropriate word. Fear of journalist that tomorrow he/she might not have a job, fear of the end of month, when he/she does not know whether he/she will be paid the wage, fear of the employer, politicians, authorities. Fear of managers who try to survive in a market in freefall and where the rules of the competition game are often violated, fear that publicity could disappear, fear of state institutions, which could come at any time to carry out abusively prolonged checks.
And, why not, fear of those who violated laws that the state control mechanisms begin to operate. The watchdog of democracy seems more fearsome than ever”, the Centre for Independent Journalism states in its report: “The state of the media in Romania 2014 - Vulnerabilities and possible solutions”.
This is not the single report that reveals this state. Other two organizations trigger an alarm about what is happening in the media in Romania.
Freedom House points out that Romanian press is only partially free. In the world ranking we are ranked 84 out of 199, after countries such as Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Namibia and Hungary.

And the report “FreeEx Press Freedom in Romania 2014 – 2015” of “ActiveWatch” shows that the press in Romania is politicized, corrupt, poorly funded and aggressive.
More than half of Romanians (52%) said that Romanian press is “rather dependent” or “dependent”. One in five Romanians thinks that the press is free (“completely independent” or “rather independent”), while 24% of Romanians believe that the press is “neither independent, nor dependent”, according to the survey “Public confidence in Romanian media”, released in February 2014 and conducted by “Kas & Market Links” for “Konrad Adenauer Stiftung” Foundation, on a sample of 1,000 people from urban and rural areas nationwide.

“Transformation of the media in a political propaganda tool was more visible than ever, especially in the context of an election year. The election campaign was marked by open partisanship of news television channels, accompanied by manipulations, misinformation, attacks against person and exploitation of national and religious sensitivities”, the “FreeEx” report issued by “ActiveWatch” adds.

One of the reasons why we got here is the economic crisis. Owners of media institutions invested heavily to support their political campaigns or campaigns denigrating opponents. Journalists who tried to do their job honestly and complying with the basic rules of the profession were slowly pushed aside. Razvan Martin, “FreeEx” Programme Coordinator, says: “A less paid, more subjected to internal pressures journalist is more likely to accept editorial compromises. There is also a form of self-censorship. Sometimes taboo subjects shall not be even articulated; journalists imagine them and act accordingly. Many good journalists left the system and poor professionalism is more than visible”.

The lack of a strong guild entity causes division of journalists. “Guild is divided because of political division”. Neither common values, nor economic interests unite journalists, although they should protect their remuneration right. Trade unions are also unable to make them more resistant to employers. Most of them do not understand the importance of being united”, Razvan Martin adds complementing the “FreeEx” report.

Andrei Cornea also makes an analysis of the freedom of Romanian press in “Revista 22”, who states that: “Many people made great illusions in the past years about the ability of the online media (online press, blogs, social networks) to increase freedom. The working apparently never happened. The online press, like the other one, easily lies and manipulates; the money paid encourages creating a false public opinion, and the endless stream of online information confuses and limits the possibility to provide synthetic and correct information. The mere fact that at any time of day or night, we freely access countless news websites – whether good and bad - dilutes the idea of serious, honest information. Indeed, since we do not pay directly for information (while we pay for the newspaper), we are to pay indirectly for it (because in this world nothing is free), i.e. we pay, in very many cases, by swallowing disguised, manipulative and, however, poor quality (even commercial) propaganda.
In short, freedom of press and, in general, freedom remain exceptions, increasingly minority phenomena even in today's world, being nonexistent, by law or in fact, in most of the world, and weak in the recent time even in “free world” to which we still belong. It is, perhaps, another reason to appreciate them more and defend them for power.”
In this context, manipulation of journalist and public by means of media product is extremely easy.

Cristina LIBERIS,
journalist, former special correspondent at TVR, Romania

 This material is published within the project "Freedom of expression and media development in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and South Caucasus", implemented by CIJ during the period May-September 2015, supported by Deutsche Welle Akademie and financed by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The opinions expressed in this material belong to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the financer’s opinion.