Large-scale anti-graft protests lead to legislative change

Peaceful Assembly

On 31st January 2017, after only a month in office, Romania's new government passed a decree decriminalising some acts of corruption and amending the Criminal Code on abuse of power. This brazen act by the ruling parties Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) sparked the biggest protests Romania had seen since the revolution and fall of communism in 1989. More than half a million citizens took to the streets all over the country, with large crowds gathering in central Bucharest. 

The protests continued for more than five weeks, even after the government had annulled the initial decree by passing another act. Citizens continued to express anger and frustration with the undemocratic way in which the decree had been initially pushed through parliament and approved. The protests were peaceful, for the most part; however, clashes periodically erupted between police and protesters. When demonstrators threw objects at police, the officers responded with tear gas. In the aftermath of one clash in Bucharest, 20 people were arrested and eight injured.    

In March, other protests took place throughout the country. Over a thousand police officers organised a protest over several days to demand higher salaries. Environmental activists blocked a transportation route for timber from the Fagaras Mountains in protest over illegal logging activities. Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency in the city of Brasov went on strike to express their dissatisfaction with their current wage levels. 

Expression

Beyond the anti-government, anti-corruption protests, the use of incendiary language possibly amounting to hate speech was evident during exchanges between all parties. The pro-government voices claimed that protests were artificially created with paid for by protesters and organisers funded by foreign sources. The anti-government voices claimed that pro-government media manipulated viewers and called for the suspension of their operations.