Romania | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Romania

Romania

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

44

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

16

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

15

The constitution protects freedom of the press, and the government is increasingly respectful of these rights. The Parliament adopted a new criminal code in June, under which libel is no longer a felony and slander is still considered a criminal offense but is no longer punishable with imprisonment. However, the new code has yet to be enacted. In October, the justice minister proposed further amendments to completely decriminalize slander. Meanwhile, in June an opposition party member sued a journalist for his article alleging that the official had engaged in corrupt activities. Although a lower court ordered the journalist to pay a fine, a higher court reversed the ruling. Progress toward implementing freedom of information legislation has been difficult. In a positive transformation, the government has adopted reforms to make its process of distributing advertising more transparent. Nonetheless, the Law on Public Radio and Television remains unreformed-the government still appoints the boards of the public operators, and in July changes were unexpectedly adopted without consultation with media groups that reinforced government control over public broadcasting. In February, media organizations criticized President Traian Basescu for attempting to replace the director of TVR, the state-run television broadcaster.

The political environment for media improved drastically during 2005. President Basescu, elected in late 2004, pledged greater respect for press freedom and has proven to be less controlling and manipulative of the media. Self-censorship also appears to have decreased. Nevertheless, local organizations reported several instances of journalists being verbally and physically assaulted while trying to carry out their work. Although violence and intimidation of journalists has decreased substantially, there were few developments regarding the prosecution of cases from previous years. Despite positive changes in government attitude, a culture of secrecy prevails over many Romanian institutions. In January, following media criticism, the government acknowledged having tapped the phones of Romanian journalists working for foreign media. In February, a Targu Mures court withdrew the accreditation of a journalist with the daily newspaper Romania Liberia because of articles criticizing local courts. The court was forced to reverse its decision following protests from media organizations. In August, the mayor of Ploiesti withdrew the accreditation of a journalist with Informatia Prahovei after the journalist criticized the mayor. Media observers remained skeptical about the independence of the licensing process enforced by the national Council of Broadcasting, 11 of whose members are appointed by the government.

The number of media outlets and news sources increased in 2005, and media are becoming more active and self-sufficient. But media still face significant economic pressure thanks to ownership concentration, lack of revenue, and a limited advertising market. Most media rely on government-funded advertising. In May, in consultation with media groups, the government adopted reforms to make advertising allocation more transparent, a move intended to prevent officials from distributing advertising to favored media outlets. Concentration and lack of transparency of media ownership remain serious concerns. Western European media groups Ringier and WAZ own the three highest-circulating dailies, and journalists report that the owners are increasingly toning down critical coverage. According to a 2005 European Union study, media outlets are frequently registering under out-of-country jurisdiction to avoid disclosing ownership structures. Funding remains a problem and most newspapers are highly dependent on sales. The situation is worse for smaller newspapers outside of Bucharest, where the advertising market is less developed and local officials own many media outlets. In October, an Evenimentul Zilei journalist reported that a businessman attempted to bribe him not to write about his corrupt activities. Usage of the internet is increasing; 25 percent of the population was able to gain access in 2005 with no reported government interference.