Romania | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Romania

Romania

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 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 has become increasingly respectful of these rights. A law passed in 2006 decriminalized defamation and similar offenses, meaning journalists would no longer face jail time if convicted. However, the Constitutional Court overturned the measure in early 2007 because it deemed the legislation to be unconstitutional, effectively reinstating defamation and libel in the penal code. Freedom of information legislation now applies to state-owned enterprises as well as to government institutions, but implementation remains problematic. The president and the parliament still appoint the National Council of Broadcasting and the boards of the public television and radio operators, leaving them vulnerable to political influence.

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 for political reasons also appears to have decreased. However, the government can be sensitive to media criticism, and journalists risk arrest or harassment when working on issues associated with national security. Ongoing political rifts between the president, the prime minister, and their respective allies in parliament may be contributing to the trend toward less government control over the media. In October, public broadcaster Romanian Television aired a video recording of Agriculture Minister Decebai Traian Remes allegedly accepting a bribe, leading to his resignation the next day. The justice minister later suggested that the video could have been leaked by the presidential administration.

In a more pervasive problem, reporters, cameramen, and photographers frequently face minor assaults in the course of their work, at the hands of both state and nonstate actors. In one such instance, members of the Mafia severely beat a television journalist and destroyed his equipment while he was attempting to film them. President Basescu, who has a history of verbally abusing journalists, seized the mobile telephone of a female reporter who attempted to film and interview him in a supermarket in May 2007 on the day of a referendum concerning his removal from office. The phone then recorded him making sexist and racist remarks about the reporter in a conversation with his wife. In February, the mayor of Bacau beat two journalists who had been filming his car while he was stopped by traffic police.

Television is the most popular form of news consumption for most Romanians, and public broadcasters are forced to compete with several large private channels and a multitude of smaller stations. The number of media outlets and news sources has increased in recent years, driven partly by politicians and wealthy businessmen seeking to establish their own press vehicles. At the same time, a small number of major owners have stepped up concentration, acquiring television, radio, and print outlets. The proliferation of media is not supported by the market, and many outlets are not profitable, encouraging self-censorship to please owners and advertisers. The political influence of state advertising is less of a problem than in previous years, and private media do not receive state subsidies. Access to the internet is increasing, with few reports of government interference. More than 30 percent of the population used the new medium in 2007, and Romania is considered a regional leader in high-speed broadband connections.