Freedom of the Press

Romania

Romania

Freedom of the Press 2007

2007 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

42

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

15

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

15

The constitution protects freedom of the press, and the government has become increasingly respectful of these rights. In June, the Parliament passed a measure that decriminalized defamation and similar offenses, meaning journalists would no longer face jail time if convicted. Lawmakers had initially removed the infractions from the criminal code in 2005, but the changes were subsequently suspended. In February 2006, several journalists were drawn into the case of a former soldier, Ionel Popa, who had allegedly leaked classified information about Romanian forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to a number of news organizations. While the information was reportedly not sensitive enough to endanger the troops, many media outlets declined to publish it and in some cases voluntarily handed it over to the authorities. Nevertheless, one reporter, Marian Garleanu of the Romania Libera daily, was arrested for possessing state secrets and jailed for two days. Sebastian Oancea of the privately owned Ziua daily was also charged; both men face up to seven years in prison if convicted. Recent progress toward implementing freedom of information legislation has been difficult, and the government still appoints the boards of the public television and radio operators.

The 2004 election of President Traian Basescu brought substantial improvements in the political environment for the press as he has proven to be less controlling and manipulative of the media than his predecessors. Self-censorship also appears to have decreased. However, the government and state institutions remain sensitive to media criticism. Media tycoon and Conservative Party leader Dan Voiculescu withdrew his candidacy for deputy prime minister after an official body tasked with studying the Communist-era secret police archives revealed that he had been a collaborator. The media had often aired unproven claims that various public figures had worked with the security services, but none had previously been confirmed officially. Voiculescu maintained that he had merely provided security officials with obligatory reports on his trade-related activities abroad. There were a few attacks on journalists in Romania in 2006, although they were all minor and not directly politically motivated. Two such incidents occurred when a businessman spat on a reporter and when a member of a rock group tried to take a camera from a photographer after having his picture taken.

The number of media outlets and news sources has increased in recent years, and they are becoming more active and self-sufficient. There are five private television stations and one public station. Four main private radio stations also compete with a single state-owned station, which operates both national and regional networks. Many media outlets still face significant economic pressure owing to ownership concentration, lack of revenue, and a limited advertising market. Most media rely on government-funded advertising. The situation is worse for smaller newspapers outside of Bucharest, where the advertising market is less developed and local officials own many media outlets. 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 abroad to avoid disclosing ownership structures.

Usage of the internet is increasing, but rural areas suffer from inadequate infrastructure; about 25 percent of the population is able to gain access, with few reports of government interference. However, interference did take place in June, when the Foreign Ministry convinced a private internet service provider (ISP) to shut down a website created by two Ziua reporters intended to parody the ministry’s own site. The ISP agreed to hand over the journalists’ personal information in an apparent violation of Romanian privacy law.