Freedom of the Press
You are here
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Despite constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression, there is extensive political and economic control of the media, which has led to self-censorship, lack of pluralism, and decreasing media independence. As Romania moves towards European Union (EU) membership, the European Parliament repeatedly called on Romania in 2004 to guarantee press freedom. A new penal code adopted this year and scheduled to take effect in 2005 removed the libel provision from the code, but it remains a criminal offense subject to very high fines. The EU continues to criticize Romania for political interference and lack of independence of the judiciary. In January, a team of journalists and contributors left one of Romania's most prestigious independent weeklies, Dilema, after the parliament ruled that the government should appoint members of the board running the magazine.
The ruling Democratic Socialist Party (PSD), anxious to make a favorable impression on the EU, did not appreciate criticism from the press and has become less willing to provide information to the media. Romanian National Television (RTV) canceled a show known for its coverage of sensitive topics such as shortcomings in Romania's democracy. In October, the Romanian Senate withdrew the accreditation of Romania Libera, a critical opposition newspaper. The Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism claims that investigative reporting is disappearing in the local press and has declined in the national press. According to the Bucharest-based Media Monitoring Agency, pluralism is lacking and there are frequent attempts to manipulate information within state-owned media, especially the national radio. State-owned broadcasters give little airtime to opposition politicians or critical journalists. In the fall, coverage of the presidential campaign on state-controlled media was manipulated and reports were biased in favor of the PSD. An RTV reporter came forward and accused the station of censorship and conforming to government pressure. In March, a Hungarian journalist known for his right-wing attitude was banned from entering Romania for national security reasons, according to Romanian authorities. In 2003, over a dozen journalists reported being assaulted because of their work, but there were no convictions; instead, threats and physical attacks against journalists continued this year.
Media ownership falls primarily among foreign publishing houses, former politicians, and businessmen, with half of all local television stations being partially owned by ruling party officials and businessmen. Diversity of print media ownership is somewhat better, but individuals with close ties to the PSD control many local newspapers. Journalists at Evenimentul Zilei and Romania Libera, both known to be critical of the government, accused their respective foreign owners, the Swiss Ringier and the German WAZ, of editorial interference after they requested that journalists tone down critical coverage of the government. Ringier and WAZ collectively own three of the top-selling dailies. Foreign publishers say they are pressured to tone down criticisms to secure advertising revenue. Government advertising in the media increased this year to US$8 million, up from US$2 million spent in 2003. The EU issued a critical report in the fall claiming the government writes off debts for some media outlets in return for favorable coverage and uses fear of official audits and punitive taxes as threats against unfavorable coverage. An attempt at a parliamentary motion, introduced without success in October by opposition parties, condemned the government's attempts to control the media. On December 12, Traian Basescu, an outspoken reformer, won the presidential elections and promised to reverse the previous government's treatment of the media and to foster press freedom.