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Current situation of Roma people in Romanian society as reflected in the local media.

Any type of society creates spiritual and material values throughout history, all giving rise to a specific culture. Traditions, customs, art, music, poetry, folklore are evident in all cultures. The most important aspects of a society are transformed into closed-form traditions, representing everything that comes from time's past. Normative nature of tradition is the force that ensures the perpetuation of a society over time. Legitimacy is based on the traditions of the past values, as such, and on the "eternal authority of yesterday" that is enshrined in the validity of their immemorial customs and ingrained habit to respect them. In traditional societies, given past values does not imply that the practice submitted to them remains immutable, because tradition is not a mere reproduction. No society could survive without adapting objects, beliefs or models from the past submitted to the present realities.

By the late nineteenth century, Roma people from Romania were described as "a people set apart from the world, really gentle and romantic," whose "moral features consist of an odd mixture of arrogance and meanness, seriousness and frivolity, with an almost total lack of power of law and wisdom, accompanied by a candid cunningness and slyness, the regular companions of ignorance." "These" individuals are ragged and dirty "practicing their ancient traditions," even if they seem to be the bearers of a "genial indifference." But this is reflected in relations with the local population. Within communities, the rules, be them unwritten, are respected. Conduct codes differ from nation to nation, but not much. To understand what distinguishes them, one must observe some general characteristics. They are divided into three main categories: settled-down Roma people, rudari and nomads.

Overall living conditions are poor for Roma people from Romania. Housing has a special value, being unkempt, dilapidated, degraded, with doors and windows that do not close properly. Generally, a century ago, houses were made of mud, earth, poles, rods and other cheap materials; they were characterized by unfinished exteriors, dark rooms, minimal furniture and odd, makeshift beds and tables. In summer, they do not live in the house, but sleep on beds placed outdoors under the tent. There is the impression that what characterizes the traditional way of life is a somewhat indifferent attitude towards the quality of housing conditions. Lower importance given to them is likely to decrease motivation to invest effort in housing with a high degree of comfort.

Another important aspect, and probably the most obvious, is the clothing. Favorite colors are green, yellow and red. Women wear long skirts bought from fairs, preferring red. They do not dress in black. They have metal braid drilled coins at their neck. A girl wears money in her hair until she marries. While she is getting old she starts wearing earrings and rings. A bag-shaped pocket always hangs on their hip, very useful in teaching riddle. Men have beards and long hair (a reminder of Jesus' and Abraham's garments), purchased all from fairs (clothes, boots, leather bags in which they probably carry money).

Roma people from Romania have always given the impression of a carefree nature, upon which life passes without making changes in their internal structure or affecting them in any way, this attitude being reflected in the way they live. The psychological type assigned to them is a natural one. Roma people are settled or self-employed blacksmiths, musicians, day laborers, flower sellers, whitewashers, etc. They are the category that has most interfered with other populations. Many of them do not speak Romanian. They are known to carry out illegal operations. They seem inclined to idleness and theft.

There is a specific category of people, the so called rudari, baiesii or blidarii (who are workers in wood), who are very different from Roma people. They live in huts and adopt the dressing style of the peasants in the area where they have settled. The Roma people marry only among themselves, rejecting other populations. They generally live in tents, but some of them move to stable housing, while retaining their specificity. They wear clothes bought from fairs and preserve their language. Unfortunately, their cultural identity was equated with the Roma people's. They try to keep intact the art of wood carving.

The Roma corturari preserve the tradition faithfully. From the habits related to birth to the preparations for funerals, they preserve the basic worshiping elements. Romanian Gypsy women withdraw into the tent as soon as the birth labors begin. Once the child is born, the young mother is immediately covered with any type of clothing belonging to her husband, and a fire is made in front of the tent in order to take bad fairies away from the baby because they are believed to intend to kidnap the new-born from its mother and turn it to a vampire. Once the post-partum mother can leave the place, the child is baptized with the name chosen by the parents. If they cannot agree on the name, the oldest man in camp drips water from a boat choosing the name that coincides with a drop remained in suspension. This is the name given to the child, because, putting the wrong name would bring death.

The Romanian Gypsy mothers have a strong love connection with their children till old age. Corturar youngsters are kicked out by parents from the tent at the age of eight. Now they have to live on their own and can do everything they want. Girls, however, remain in the care of parents until they marry having the right to house their lovers in the tent as soon as possible if they are to get married.

The young corturar has to buy two red handkerchiefs which he hangs on his coat buttons and when he falls in love, he takes a handkerchief off and ties the other on the girl's tent as a sign of the future wedding. The girl will not talk to her parents about the marriage, which is seen as a specific ethnic group survival. For them, a personal family problem becomes a public one. A week before the wedding, at night, the bride goes to wash herself in the nearest water, putting ashore two lit candles to symbolize the union of fire with water. This union is said to bring about marriage fertility. The groom will then go with the musicians from tent to tent, having a bottle of spirits in his hand, inviting all members to the wedding. As soon as the sun goes up, the guests gather in the bride's tent and present their gifts. Then, the bride and the groom go to church for the marriage ceremony. While returning to camp, they are sprayed with water and rubbed with a furry weasel to be protected from bad luck. The young family withdraws into their tent and throws out old shoes to increase fruitfulness of marriage. The party resumes, lasting until the supplies are over.

Spouses work and earn their living separately. The man saves a part of his earnings for the cold season and the wife takes care of children. In winter, the woman earns money for the family by foretelling, casting spells, etc. It often happens that the spouses do not share table and bed, but they rarely argue. Reconciliation is done most often at St George, when the gypsy women bake flavored pound cakes which they share with friends and enemies. Whoever eats them must reconcile with the one from whom he has received them. Old women enjoy prestige and power within the tribe. If one does not meet the wishes of the matron, he commits a mortal sin.

In case of adultery or violence, the guilty ones are dishonored by being forced to walk alone for a long time as they are expelled from the tribe. This banishment usually lasts until the perpetrator regains his position through a gift (usually a considerable amount of brandy), which is then received with solemnity by the tribe. Marriages with widows are not recommended, they are even considered nonsensical. When it comes to death, most are terrified by the idea that the soul will return to take revenge on the living. When a corturar was dying, his belongings used to be taken out so that the soul could take flight and not crash into something and get revenge. If the agony was prolonged too much, relatives brought a white dog to lick the dying person in order to entice the soul to leave the body.

By 1950, if a person died in the tent, his things without value were burnt. The body was then washed with salt water (it had cleansing power) and brought out through the back entrance of the tent in order to prevent the dead from returning. Outside, the body was clothed and lain on the ground with his head before a hair stuck in the dirt. The dead man would be brought food and drink and the feast began. Under the influence of alcohol, women would dance around the deceased. Men and their children would dance too until they were fatigued. This ceremony took two to three days, and was designed to prevent the return of the soul to the body before burial. Then, the deceased was buried at the edge of the cemetery; the grave marked by a kind of hair-nail.

There is a legend that says that when Jesus was crucified, a Gypsy was asked to make the nails. The gypsies had three of them made and then refused to make the fourth one; that is why Jesus was crucified with three nails. Gypsies believe in immortality of the soul and passes through a thousand adventures to be saved.

In respect to Gypsies and the settled "rudari," they assimilated the patterns of the majority population in terms of baptism and burial. Regarding marriage, parents usually choose spouses for their daughters. Also, when debating future plans of the groups, including plans about marriage and dowry, they establish a tacit pact, which later becomes public. As, by tradition, the bride follows her husband, compensation is paid for her in the form of small amount of money, jewelry and gold necklaces. If the bride is more gifted (for dance and music), the presents are more generous. After marriage, the whole family gathers at a rich and noisy banquet and the bride goes to her husband's house. The tasks of cooking and childcare belong to a woman. In case of divorce, children remain in the house with the husband and the wife lives with her parents in some cases. These cases are rare because the family ties are strong, but also due to active intervention of the leaders of Romanian Gypsies groups. The debate involves only men; women can be heard only as witnesses. The jury is chosen from old and wise people and the decisions are final.

Usually, the decision applies only to tips for reconciliation, but fines can also be given to be paid jointly by all members of the guilty party. In case of disobedience, the guilt is declared a "size", i.e. dirty, meaning the exclusion from the tribe's social life, those who would try to keep in touch with him also becoming "size."

Today, the Gypsies have learned many aspects of Romanian customs, which were incorporated into the present tradition, resulting in a modernized tradition. Regarding the birth, the fates or midwives have disappeared. When young mothers return from maternity leave, they must not prepare food or work hard. She is visited by an aide and neighbor, bringing a bottle of brandy, diapers, dresses, etc. The father asks the godparents to baptize the child, and if they refuse, he goes to friends, neighbors or relatives. The name is given after the child's grandparents, godparents and parents.

Baptism is at church, followed by the bathing in the bath, where the godparents put silver or metal money, a red ribbon, and a multitude of herbs. The party is entertained by musicians, lasting from half a day to a whole day and night. The guests sit by the baby's cradle exchanging money and gifts. Now grandparents make substantial gifts.

Marriage is still practiced today in some communities by buying the bride. In some families, children are married from 5-6 years, but until they can raise a family (16-18 years), remain within the family. At the wedding, the girls are given a dowry. Arvunirea is done in front of witnesses and with parents' consent and the wedding and banquet is paid by the groom. The daughter's dowry consists of money and clothing for five to ten years, and cups of silver, plated in gold.

Men who practice adultery are condemned to arm fracture, and women are marked on their cheek. Up to six years, children have no obligations and are under the supervision of the father, but as they grow, they will contribute to the family budget by being sent out to beg.

The child is prepared for life through a particular ritual. Father invites his son to a place where he will be insulted and manhandled by a gypsy couple. He will be slapped, while the father encourages his offspring to resist these forms of violence. Resistance is considered a defense of morality, so the boy will have the right to enter into society.

For the majority of Roma settled in the collectivity, the burial is done by the local custom so the funeral carriage is followed by relatives, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and musical ensembles (orchestra, band). Three days after the funeral, a family member goes to the cemetery to light a candle and pray for the forgiveness of the deceased. In general, there are festivals in commemoration of the dead, but memorial services are just like for the native population. Even if the Gypsy culture has elements borrowed from Romanian traditions and customs, (baptism, the star Plugusorul, sorcova etc. and popular games such as Serbian, duck, spin, etc.), their culture is far from being monopolized by the local population or other populations.

This research aims to identify the image of Romanian Gypsies, as it is presented in the local newspapers Curierul Zilei and Argesul Liber in Arges County. Curierul Zilei was the first newspaper that appeared on the postcommunist Argesan market (1992), and represented a standard for writing other articles in other papers. It is aimed at audiences with a medium level of education and records the largest circulation in the local market. Argesul Liber contains in its pages a style characterized by fine irony, which made it known on the media market as a serious and traditionalist publication.

The monitorization was conducted over the period January 1, 2011 to April 15, 2011. 222 articles on Romanian Gypsies were identified, of which 126 were in Curierul Zilei and 96 in Argesul Liber. Of these, 166 are pieces of news (80 below 50 cm2, 89 between 50-101 cm2), 47 are reports (28 from 101-200 cm2, 19 more than 200 cm2), five surveys, a survey and three interviews. Most of the subjects are related to violence, poverty, theft, and programs to improve the condition of Romanian Gypsies, or integration into Romanian society through traditional occupations (e.g. foretelling).

As shown, theft and violence are the main topics in the news articles, maintaining the stereotype that Romanian Gypsies are the "black sheep" of society. Regarding conflicts with the authorities, they are generally generated from the last, so raids on gypsies' households and confiscation of property "acquired through theft" are quite common. These are considered legitimate, and there is no article to discuss the issue of private property from a legal point of view: "Private property is guaranteed and protected by law equally, regardless of ownership," "property designed, used, or the proceeds of crime or offense may be confiscated only under the law."

It really seems that the specific problems of the Romanian gypsies pass barely noticed by local media, poverty and unemployment being problems that do not belong to this population. It is possible that the media either believe that such articles do not bring information to get reader's attention, or do not consider it important, as most readers are of Romanian origin and the Romanian gypsies that it would address, are actually educated people who have no connection to these issues. The most common events in which the Romanian gypsies participated are of legal / criminal, social, political, cultural and economic matter. Events can explain the existing stereotypes in Arges society and journalists tend to focus on these in the written materials.

In social terms, the articles are either on poverty issues presented in a few of them ("23 people in a house") or begging, and foretelling. In this respect, Curierul Zilei has even a column which is not present in every issue, but it appears often in the paper. In these articles, ranging from 50-101 cm2, different "witches" guess the future of different Arges politicians or members of local football teams, or make predictions for the following period of the year. Another parameter used in the analysis is the nature of the event, resulting in conflictual events involving one or more players who are Romanian gypsies and events of non-conflictual situations connected to the people who participated in the event reported. The two newspapers present mostly non-confrontational events. Regarding the conflictual ones, the participants are Romanian gypsies on one side and on the other, police (its raids at the "gypsies"--16 items), local authorities or the majority of population. Another actor who has a high frequency in newspaper articles (9 items) is Mares Marian, adviser for the community, who either participates in political meetings ("Rromani leaders will come to Arges for two days"), or persuades gypsies to change their life.

As for the report conflictual-non-confrontation events, the balance is in favor of the latter, it highlights the balance of journalistic reports on actions involving Romanian gypsies. Romanian gypsies' behavior was treated from the following perspectives: 1) sources of aggression / aggressive behavior, 2) neutral behavior, 3) targets of aggression. Their behavior reveals the sources that lead to the outbreak of conflict, which can be both verbal and physical. During the monitoring period, during the majority of reported events, the Roma had a neutral behavior (which proves once again that nature is peaceful, even careless).

The negative events present in the articles are thefts, illegal trade, criminal acts and violence. In their coverage of positive actions, the press gave 20% less attention to them concentrating particularly on sporting events ("Romanian gypsies go the Falcons Costesti world"), issues relating to the increased access to education (Romanian gypsies language teachers), Romanian gypsies' desire to work in society ("He wants to work in community service") and improving their relationship with local authorities ("A new collaborative project: The gendarmes will dance with the Gypsies").

In terms of journalistic commentary, three categories have been identified: positive style--the article has a favorable attitude towards the gypsy, neutral style--articles containing positive information, and negative style the article is hostile towards the Romanian gypsies. The bias was identifies in the published articles by isolating the presence of verbal phrases that convey the attitude towards players and of specific words used by journalists in stories about the Roma, such as "the panhandle," "Curses," "Witchcraft" (e.g. "Cops threatened with charms," Curierul Zilei).

Compared to the total number of items monitored in the two newspapers, the articles from Curierul Zilei have a higher percentage of negative aspects against Romanian gypsies. "Argesul Liber" is 10.8% less aggressive, but the irony of certain actions against Romanian gypsies is more common. For example, an accident of a Romanian gypsy child is presented under the title "Flying Rudar."

The photos attached to the articles are very important. Thus, a total of 115 photos (three of which are neutral), mostly black and white (only 19 of 111 photos are in color), tend to involve discrimination. In Argesul Liber the balance between discriminative-non-discriminative photographs is of 21to 26 photos, which shows a desire to introduce more than Romanian gypsies' identifiers in the text of the press. Regarding the newspaper Curierul Zilei the percentage is 9.3%. As the pictures complete the mental image of gypsies, by attaching them to a text, a certain approach is reinforced. In just two articles where ethnicity was not mentioned, the photos explained it. In general, in Arges county the press is eager to mention the ethnic origin of the actors, even if it brings no additional information.

Another problem is related to the words used in the monitored articles. Given that the term 'gypsy' is sometimes used pejoratively, its frequency was considered, in relation to the term 'Romanian gypsies' in the pages of two publications:

As shown in the table above, newspapers tend to maintain equality of terms, and even tend to accept the term used today--"Romanian gypsies". Thus, the press cannot be accused of any type of discriminatory attitudes against Romanian gypsies because the choice of terms can be argued as a way to avoid repetition of word. Stereotypes: fortune telling gypsies, delinquents, poor and dirty gypsies, thieves, violent gypsies, lazy gypsies, gypsies--the black sheep of society.

Although the Arges press tends not to attack this ethnic group in particular, it is still much focused on the sensational element and uses gypsies to attract attention. Taking advantage of the fact those Romanian gypsies are in a period of "rediscovery," media outstretches this subject. Also, even if the articles are not necessarily negative, and reporters treat them like any other people, they still maintain the population's stereotypes. Publications tend to mock certain aspects of life in the Romanian gypsies' community in general; stories are short and neutral related to the cultural aspect of this ethnic group, focusing, however, on the exploitation of policy conflicts, while high level meetings are quite brief, leaving room for interpretation.

Attitudes of disapproval, "crime" committed by Romanian gypsies, as well as their tendency to find ways of obtaining income have also been observed. In general, there was an acceptance of their lifestyle. In this respect, the press believes that theft, fortune telling, deception, illegal trade are somehow connected to the "culture of Romanian gypsies," no longer needing disapproval of these activities, because they can be understood as such: "the Romanian people's tolerance towards this ethnic element finds its explanation in the lack of clarity regarding the idea of home and social dependence of both populations."

Note: The situation presented in this article does not represent the authors' position or opinion concerning Roma people.


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GEORGIANA POPESCU University of Pitesti

DELIA DUMINICA University of Pitesti

Georgiana Popescu is a Lecturer with the Department of Journalism and Philosophy at the Faculty of Socio-Humanistic Sciences, the University of Pitesti, Romania. She completed her MA degree in Public Administration in the Context of European Integration at the University of Pitesti and in Political Management. She received her Ph.D. in Philology from the University of Pitesti in 2010. She worked in the media and as a Local Assistant for the European Parliament and for the Chamber of Deputies. She is the co-author of Woman--Leader in International Politics and Politics and Image in Romanian Immigration Issue. She is interested in Political Studies, Public relations, New media, Press History, Non-verbal Communication.

Delia Duminica is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Journalism and Philosophy at the Faculty of Socio-Humanistic Sciences at the University of Pitesti, Romania. She completed her MA degree in Public Relations and Advertising at the University of Bucharest. She is a Ph.D. Student at the Faculty of Letters at the University of Pitesti. She is the co-author of Woman--Leader in International Politics and Politics and Image in Romanian Immigration Issue. She has written extensively on the impact of the media in the society, politics and culture. She is interested in New media, Public relations, Leadership, Press History. She worked in the media and as a Local Assistant for the Chamber of Deputies.
Dominant Themes          Curierul   Argesul   Total no. of   %
                         Zilei      Liber     articles

Political meetings       15         10        25             16,4
Violence                 12         12        24             15,8
Theft                    17         7         24             15,8
Improving education      15         8         23             15,1
  and quality of life
Conflicts with the       9          11        20             13,1
  authorities  and
  majority population
Arges important people   12         2         14             9,2
  visiting the fortune
Poverty                  6          6         12             7,6
Begging                  2          4         6              3,9
Fortune telling          3          1         4              2,6

Event       Curierul   Argesul   Total      %
            Zilei      Liber     articles

Legal       48         37        85         38,3
Social      45         29        74         33,3
Political   19         17        36         16,3
Cultural    7          8         15         6,7
Economic    7          5         12         5,4

Event             Curierul   Argesul   Total      %
                  Zilei      Liber     articles

Non-conflictual   66         47        113        50.9
Conflictual       60         49        109        49,1

Publication      Positive   %      Neutral          Negative   %
                 style             style            style

Curierul Zilei   43         34,1   47        37.3   36         28,6
Argesul Liber    30         31,3   37        38.5   29         30,2
Total articles   73         32,8   84        37,8   65         29,4

Publication      Number of     Gypsy   Roma

Curierul Zilei   153           74      79
Argesul Liber    122           30      92
Total            275           104     171
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Author:Popescu, Georgiana; Duminica, Delia
Publication:Journal of Research in Gender Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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