Journalists ordered to reveal sources in corruption probe

Expression

In early November 2018, RISE Project, an award-winning investigative journalism outlet in Romania, was ordered by the Romanian Data Protection Authority (ANSPDCP) to reveal sources in an investigation nicknamed #TeleormanLeaks. This investigation is focused on a corruption scandal related to public procurement in Romania implicating the highest echelons of the Romanian political elite. The journalists believe the Romanian government is trying to use the regulation to quash investigative reporting. On 13th November 2018, CSOs including ActiveWatch, ApTi and APADOR-CH signed an open letter to the Romanian Data Protection Authority stressing the importance of freedom of speech as a fundamental right enshrined in international law. The organisations also expressed their concerns that the Authority was becoming a tool of political control and was being used to block necessary debates in a democratic society.

Association

As the CIVICUS Monitor has previously reported, Romanian civil society organisations have been resisting attempts to impose restrictive legisation for a number of months. This includes a draft law on preventing and combating money laundering and terrorist financing, which was adopted by the Romanian Parliament on 24th October 2018, despite vehement criticism from civil society. The new law obliges non-governmental organisations to report on a monthly basis all recipients of the services offered by them, with the threat of closure for any that fail to meet this reporting requirement. This obligation violates both the rights of the respective beneficiaries (the right to a private life) and of the associations (the right to free association).

In November 2018, 129 civil society organisations, including APADOR-CH, a Romanian human right organisation that actively cooperates with the CIVICUS Monitor, wrote to President Klaus Iohannis, asking him not to promulgate the law and asking for it to either be reviewed or for the Romanian government to seek the opinion of the Venice Commission, a body of the Council of Europe.

In December 2018, a court decision provided Romanian CSOs with a partial win in their fight against the law. Georgiana Gheorghe, executive director of APADOR-CH told the CIVICUS Monitor, that

“on the 5th of December, the Constitutional Court has declared that only one article of this draft law is unconstitutional, namely the one that stipulates that the organisations of the minorities are exempted from this reporting. The law will go back to the Parliament (in next year's parliamentary session) which will give NGOs a new opportunity to make a case against this draft law.”

In a separate development, the Association for Community Relations reported three legislative changes which have significantly undermined financing of the civil society sector. The first two changes arise from official ordinances that increased the threshold under which companies no longer pay tax on profits but tax on total revenues (from EUR 100,000/ year to EUR 1 million/year). As a result, the number of companies that direct 20% of their tax on profits to NGOs has fallen significantly. Another emergency ordinance significantly limited the number of NGOs that can receive donations from micro-enterprises.