As an active and well-established think-tank, the Romanian Academic Society has begun working on a current issue – populist agenda in the public space. Although extreme populism has not ascended to the heights that it reached in neighboring countries, there is a certain trend that needs to be kept under watch. A relevant example is the relative success that the People’s Party – Dan Diaconescu (PP-DD) enjoyed in the last Romanian parliamentary elections, a success based on media propagated populism. Following up on the success of the White Charter of Good Governance and the Coalition for a Clean Romania, the Romanian Academic Society has launched another project designed to draw attention to the increasing threat of populism and to increase citizen involvement in public debate.
The Romanian Academic Society aims to tackle the spread of populist discourse by three different avenues. Firstly, the project will target the media, an instrument by which populism is propagated. A reason for this is the increasing bias present in media, caused by the alignment to the point of identification of broadcasting groups owned by actors on different sides of the debate with various political interests. Secondly, with regard to the policy environment, RAS plans to focus on relevant issues for the public, such as the pension system, encouraging citizens to engage in debates. Thirdly, after the consultative stage, RAS aims for a greater public participation in order to formulate legal amendments.
The work packages are divided into three main areas:
1. Highlighting media capture, reversing the trend and creating alternatives – the purpose of the work package is to identify the patrimonialization of agenda-setting in mass media and challenge it by means of: (a) formulating specific policy recommendations for media regulation; (b) promoting monitoring and self-regulation in journalism; (c) setting up and consolidating a coalition for Clean Media; (d) maintenance of the Alliance for Clean Romania Platform; (e) development of an interactive “Fact Check” section.
2. Rationalization and democratization of policy formulation with the aim of increasing the visibility of the debate on public reforms. The activities will be focused on: (a) policy analyses in the fields of health, regionalization and EU fund absorption, education ( analyzing school financing and performance) energy; (b) organizing four research-to-policy workshops; (c) promotion of the Green Papers issued on the four above-mentioned fields of interest; (d) development and maintenance of a new section to the existing online platform, entitled “Your story on”.
3. Anchoring the public and its interest in the policy process which will be conducted through: (a) research on primary and secondary data on electoral, political and civic participation, followed by a publication of a report; (b) conducting legal analyses of public participation in the consultations for policy formulation; (c) improving the legal framework for evidence-based policy making; (d) increasing the number of topics on the RAS online platform and also increasing the number of people participating; (e) organizing competitions for local bloggers.
Funded by: Open Society Foundation – Think Tank Fund
Implementation period: November 2013 – April 2015