Press Freedom In Romania Worsening
The brutal beating of a journalist in Romania last week, amidst ongoing intimidation of the media there, is the latest evidence of a deterioration of press freedom in the country, Freedom House said today.
As Romania prepares for elections in 2004, the further erosion of press freedom will result in unbalanced campaign coverage and a misinformed electorate, threatening prospects for an open and transparent voting process, Freedom House warned.
On December 3, journalist Ino Ardelean was savagely beaten in Timisoara, Romania. Mr. Ardelean, a journalist for the local newspaper "Evenimentul Zilei", was attacked on his way home and beaten unconscious. He suffered a fractured jaw and other head injuries. Mr. Ardelean had written articles critical of local officials, and had reported on alleged corruption among local leaders of the ruling Social Democratic Party.
Mr. Ardelean is the fourteenth journalist to be physically attacked in Romania this year, a growing trend that underscores the increasing pressures faced by Romanian journalists.
Seemingly politically motivated fines against journalists and media organizations, and official attempts to deny critical media outlets their advertising bases, have further undermined media freedom in Romania.
"Freedom House calls for a prompt and thorough investigation of the attack against Mr. Ardelean and urges Romania's political parties and media owners to remove the economic and legal impediments to increased media freedom," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor.
Freedom of expression in Romania also suffers from a lack of amendments to the country's penal code regarding libel, calumny and insult. Excessive penalties against media organizations also hamper press freedom.
Another problem is the lack of editorial independence at many privately owned media outlets, which advance the personal, political and business interests of owners, rather than the pursuit of journalistic excellence.
Freedom House maintains an office in Bucharest and has actively worked to support independent media in the country for more than ten years. Romania was ranked Partly Free in the 2003 edition of Freedom House's global survey of media independence, Freedom of the Press, which can be found online.
Other Freedom House reports on Romania are also available:
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.