Romania

Protests over COVID-19 measures, debates about new legislation on whistleblowers

Newly introduced lockdown restrictions sparked a number of protests throughout the country under the aegis of "Freedom", starting on 29th March 2021. Some of these protests have turned violent, with 12 policemen being injured by the demonstrators and some of them taken to the hospital. No evidence of using disproportionate force by the police was reported. Healthcare workers also staged demonstrations in front of the Parliament on the threshold of the debate over the draft law for the state budget 2021. Romanian Ministry of Justice launched a public debate for the draft “Law on the protection of whistleblowers in the public interest”. While the current Romanian Whistleblower's Law is famous for being the first of its kind adopted in Europe, it fails to provide sufficient protection for whistleblowers. Read more

Protests over COVID-19 measures, debates about new legislation on whistleblowers

Positive developments: New law protects Roma people against hate crimes; gender studies ban annulled

During this period, there were a number of positive developments. In November 2020, the Chamber of Deputies adopted amendments to the law concerning the functioning of NGOs in Romania (“Government Ordinance no. 26/2000 regarding Associations and Foundations”). After much advocacy, the amendments simplify NGOs’ bureaucratic procedures. On 4th January 2021 the “Law on measures for preventing and combating antigypsyism” entered into force. This law criminalises hate crimes perpetrated against the Roma community with imprisonment from three months up to ten years. A new law which sought to ban gender studies in schools and universities was annulled by the Constitutional Court, after President Klaus Iohannis sent the law for review. Read more

Positive developments: New law protects Roma people against hate crimes; gender studies ban annulled

Concerns over limiting freedom of information

Due to the pandemic, firms and other commercial entities have been exempted from declaring their beneficiaries. NGOs, however, were not. This has placed a significant burden on NGOs, especially for smaller organisations with a small budget. While the current government has not run a smear campaign against NGOs, they are not very NGO-friendly either. Discriminatory laws, such as the law on preventing and combating money laundering and terrorist financing, are in place. In a seperate concern, there are plans to limit freedom of information permanently. According to a proposal of the General Secretariat of government for changes to the application norms of Law 544/2001, public authorities and institutions would need to provide information only in formats they already have. If the institutions do not possess the information in the format that an external actor has requested, they have no obligation to provide any information. NGOs have condemned proposed limitations to freedom of information.

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Concerns over limiting freedom of information

Press freedom a grave concern during pandemic; attempts to ban gender studies in education

Despite recent political changes, press freedom remains a grave concern in Romania, even more so during COVID-19. As an attempt to counter the spread of coronavirus-related “fake news” online, articles and even entire websites were taken down. Media freedom in the country has declined since the introduction of the state of emergency in mid-March 2020 in the following ways: First, the response time for freedom of information (FOI) requests doubled from a maximum of 30 days to 60 days. Second, it was decided that all official COVID-19-related information would be released from the capital and thus limiting local journalists’ ability to verify any information outside of Bucharest. Third, the government threatened doctors and public servants with criminal charges for releasing any information on the pandemic to the media. However, after press watchdog bodies raised concerns, more information on COVID-19 has been released since. In a separate development a new law has been approved by both houses of the Romanian parliament banning gender identity studies—or “gender ideology”, as termed by right-wing populists—in schools and universities.


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Press freedom a grave concern during pandemic; attempts to ban gender studies in education

New government shows positive signs towards civil society, but right to protest remains a concern

Since the collapse of the Social-Democratic Party (PSD) government, after it lost a no-confidence vote, there have been some positive signs from the new government in Romania. However, the right to protest remains a concern due to current laws which allow for abusive practices. Press freedom continues to remain a concern. Read more

New government shows positive signs towards civil society, but right to protest remains a concern

Ten NGOs called on the Senate to reject the legislative change (L 169/2019) to the NGO Law

In early June 2019, several civil society organisations issued a statement calling on the Senate to reject the proposed legislative change (L 169/2019) to the NGO Law (the Government Ordinance no. 26/2000 on associations and foundations) initiated by Liviu Pleșoianu. Read more

Ten NGOs called on the Senate to reject the legislative change (L 169/2019) to the NGO Law

Anti-corruption activists targeted with death threats and judicial persecution in Romania

Romanian authorities tried to undermine the candidature of former chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Kövesi for the European Public Prosecutor by taking judicial action against her. Laura Kovesi has successful convicted many high level politicians and in March 2019 was prohibited from leaving the country and speaking to media, after being charged with some criminal offences. Separately, in May 2019, the rector and the pro-rector of the Police Academy were charged for issuing death threat against journalist Emilia Șercan investigating corruption.
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Anti-corruption activists targeted with death threats and judicial persecution in Romania

Journalists ordered to reveal sources in corruption probe

In November 2018, a Romanian authority ordered the RISE project to reveal their sources in an investigation into corruption. Read more

Journalists ordered to reveal sources in corruption probe

Police charged for unjustified use of violence, as Romanian politicians blame protestors

In late September, Romanian prosecutors charged a number of senior police officers over the use of violence during a protest in Bucharest on 10th August. Read more

Police charged for unjustified use of violence, as Romanian politicians blame protestors

Reports suggest man died following tear gas inhalation at anti-corruption protest

Following large-scale anti-corruption protests in Bucharest on 10th August, during which police beat protestors and fired tear gas and water cannon, a man died on 19th August reportedly from complications related to tear gas inhalation. Read more

Reports suggest man died following tear gas inhalation at anti-corruption protest