By Elif Kayi
The short-listed candidates for the 2010 edition of the Anna Lindh Journalist Award will be presented to the International Jury in Monaco on 14th October. Among the candidates for the online category is EMAJ Reporter Luciana Grosu. Her article “Is Romania a home for immigrants” was published on the website of the German Foundation Heinrich-Bölle-Stiftung.
EMAJMagazine talked with the 22-year Romanian journalist about her work, her ideas and her dreams.
– Dear Luciana, we recently got informed that you were among the three finalists for the online category of the Anna Lindh Journalism Prize. Was it the first time you took part to an international competition?
– Actually, it is not the first time. As a young journalist I try to enter as many international competitions as possible. I struggle to get my name among the “European young journalists map”. I need this because in my country, Romania, I do not get the chance to report about the subjects I am interested in: Human rights, democracy, social change. I try therefore to work with with European or other foreign magazines. I am hopeful that the organization Anna Lindh will give me the opportunity to meet new people and start concrete projects. I think I have many ideas and I would like to be given the chance to put them in practice.
– What was the subject of your article about?
– My article was about migration, a “trendy” topic now in Europe, but at the same time a serious issue that affects all countries. “Is Romania a home for immigrants” was a journalistic study about foreigners who come to live in Romania, mostly people of Arab and Asian origin. It was not easy to talk to immigrants because they were often reluctant to speak and were afraid to be criticized. Unfortunately nobody offered me to publish the article in a Romanian publication. So the article was published on the German Heinrich Boll’s Foundation website.
– Since a few months, you started to write for EMAJ Magazine. How did you hear of the magazine?
– I first learnt about EMAJ when I applied for the Euro-Mediterranean Young Journalists Academy in Netherlands in 2009. Unfortunately I was not selected but now I do not regret anything, since I can write for and be published in EMAJ! I truly hope this collaboration will continue.
– Can you tell us a bit about your work. Do you work as a freelance? Are you still studying as well?
– Well, I like to call myself “a volunteer freelancer”, because most of my collaborations with international publications are unpaid. In Romania, as a young journalist, I could certainly work for a glossy magazine or an online news website, but I want to do something different. So I keep searching for a journalistic job that would allow me to write about the topics that matter for me. I hope the fact that I can write in English will be an advantage. Though sometimes I wonder whether I should not learn an African or Asian language in order to really “go global”! I am now studying for my MA degree. I got used to the idea that young people need to study until they grow old.
– You now live in Romania. What do you think are the big challenges for journalists in this country?
– Journalists have to face political and economical pressures. Press freedom is seriously threatened. Sometimes one realizes democracy could be just a big illusion. Many media are only interested in reporting on superficial issues, VIPs , crimes, scandals. Few media promote investigative journalism for example. Young people are disappointed and want to leave the country for good. Young journalists, in particular, have no right to choose the topics they want to write about. They are often exploited or rather convinced to give more than they can give because salaries are really small. There is generalized corruption and it’s very hard to get a decent job. Unfortunately, the media is not strong enough to defend citizens and their rights.
– You said that young people want to live Romania because of the difficulties. What about you?
– Being an immigrant is not easy, no matter the country you come from and no matter the country you go to live in. There are rights one gains and rights one loses whenever leaving one’s home country. I must first know what I will work on if I decide to leave. I will definitely not choose a country, leave Romania and then try to find a job there. I think this is the wrong way to do things. I am waiting to find a job, a group of open-minded people, a space to express myself, maybe an NGO to collaborate with. Only then I can think of a geographical location.
– You usually write for online media. Which are the reasons for you to chose to focus on online publication?
– The greater openness and flexibility of the virtual space. First of all, the fact that I can express myself freely and even self-publish. Secondly, the fact that I can meet online new people, and establish collaborations. Thirdly, the fact there are almost no barriers: neither geographical nor financial . I am totally against the governments that apply internet censorship. The world wide-web is truly “the last frontier” of those who fight for freedom.
– Do you think opinion journalism is a form of activism?
– Certainly. The majority of international journalism competitions reward articles that focus on raising awareness about different social issues. Personally, I would love to join an international movement for human rights and participate as an activist. Unfortunately, at the moment, I am not a member of any NGO. Maybe I will be given this chance later. Still, I believe words have great power, that is why I am happy if I have the chance to write about today’s world challenges.
– You are also writing books and poetry. Could you tell us a bit about this as well?
– Thank you for asking this. I think there is still a strong cultural tradition in Romania and it’s worth struggling to keep it alive. I am really grateful for the Romanian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association for supporting me with the EURCON encouragement prize. I have published two fantasy novels, “Impossible Reality” (Humanitas, 2004) and “Letter without letters” (Paralela 45, 2007), and two poetry books. I am passionate about fantastic worlds and the way stories can actually change reality. I write in order to change reality, to bring it closer to the magic inner world we all keep inside, but don’t even dare dreaming of.