Romania

TransIndex staff resign citing political pressure; Senate approves anti-LGBTQI+ law

On 15th February 2022, after 23 years of operation, the entire editorial staff of the Hungarian minority media platform Transindex in Romania resigned, on grounds of facing suffocating political pressure on their journalistic work. Following this it was reported that the staff of Transindex would be launching a new media project with the Hungarian independent news outlet Telex, named Transtelex. Separately, several attacks against journalists were documented, including against journalist Emilia Sercan who filed a police report after being threatened online and discovering that old private photographs had been stolen from her hard drive and put on porn sites. In another concerning development, the Romanian Senate, the parliament’s upper house, approved an anti-LGBTQI+ legislative draft which mirrors Hungary's law on on disseminating LGBTQI+-related information. Read more

TransIndex staff resign citing political pressure; Senate approves anti-LGBTQI+ law

Far-right party starts smear campaign to “blacklist” critical media

After months of political crisis, the Romanian parliament has agreed to a new grand coalition. On 25th November 2021, Romanian MPs voted to approve a coalition consisting of two of the largest parties in parliament, the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Social Democrat Party (PSD). Also included in the coalition is the ethnic Hungarian party UDMR. The right-wing nationalist party Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR), which has 13 representatives in the 136-member Romanian Senate and 30 in the 330-member Chamber of Deputies, has been criticised for starting a public campaign on social media against Romanian media outlets critical of its worldview. The party posed a message on its Facebook page asking followers to draw up a list of “toxic and false media” and made a few suggestions. Separately, the AUR party held a protest, with the participation of hundreds of supporters, against the possible introduction of mandatory vaccination/testing/recovery certificates ("Green Pass") in the workplace Read more

Far-right party starts smear campaign to “blacklist” critical media

Filmmakers documenting illegal logging brutally beaten

On 16th September 2021, three filmmakers were brutally beaten in the northeast of Romania while filming a documentary related to illegal logging. Mihai Dragolea, Radu Constantin Mocanu and Tiberiu Bosutar were confronted by 20 men who were armed with sticks and axes. All their equipment was destroyed and footage was deleted. The three men were transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police have questioned and identified 12 people who were allegedly involved in the attack. Four of the men will be brought before court. Read more

Filmmakers documenting illegal logging brutally beaten

Journalists questioned over report; concerns remain over draft law on whistleblowers’ protection

Since 20th May 2021, employees of the daily newspaper Libertatea and the weekly magazine Newsweek Romania have been questioned by prosecutors at the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) over their coverage of alleged corruption in public works contracting. According to experts, this is an attempt to silence journalists reporting critically on the use of public funds. In an independent development, the Ministry of Justice did not adopt most of the proposals submitted by APADOR-CH and other non-governmental organisations, which were aimed at improving the draft law on whistleblowers’ protection. Significant issues with the draft law which NGOs raised were disregarded. Read more

Journalists questioned over report; concerns remain over draft law on whistleblowers’ protection

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