Freedom of the Press

Romania

Romania

Freedom of the Press 2015

2015 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

Press freedom is protected by the constitution but weakened in practice by financial insecurity and overriding political and business interests.

 

Legal Environment

Speech that is deemed to insult state symbols or religion, or that promotes fascist or racist ideologies, is forbidden by law, and relatively small fines are sometimes imposed in practice. Cases in 2014 included a fine against then president Traian Basescu for a racist remark about Roma at a 2010 news conference. In another instance, a Facebook user who had posted a Nazi slogan on his page was fined in December after the comment was quoted by a local newspaper. Following a lengthy period of legal ambiguity, defamation was effectively decriminalized by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, but a 2013 Constitutional Court decision overturned that judgment. Civil defamation suits remain relatively common among public figures and journalists.

Journalists use Romania’s freedom of information law with decreasing frequency as cash-strapped outlets’ commitment to investigative journalism dwindles. Officials sometimes obstruct access to information on corruption or other sensitive topics.

Appointments to the National Audiovisual Council (CNA) are politicized, and its capacity is inadequate, resulting in biased decision making and ineffective regulation.

 

Political Environment

A presidential election was held in November 2014, leading to biased coverage based on the political agendas of media owners and sponsors. The parliamentary majority generally changes the leadership of the public broadcaster after each election, ensuring a progovernment bias to its reporting. The private media sector is dominated by Romanian businessmen with political ties or holdings in other industries, and these interests typically determine an outlet’s editorial line. In July 2014, the news station Digi TV, owned by Romanian cable and satellite giant RCS-RDS, fired reporter Cristi Citre after he harshly criticized Prime Minister Victor Ponta on his personal Facebook page. Also during the year, news outlets controlled by jailed politician and media mogul Dan Voiculescu repeatedly attacked the country’s chief anticorruption prosecutor, who was pursuing graft charges against him. In September, television and radio host Robert Turcescu admitted that he was an undercover agent for the military intelligence service, raising concerns about possible media interference by the country’s spy agencies.

Reporters in Romania face verbal abuse, intimidation, and occasional physical aggression in the course of their work. In November 2014, reporter Stefan Mako of the online news site Casa Jurnalistului was detained and beaten by police in Bucharest after he recorded them arresting another man. In August, protesters attacked three journalists during their coverage of a rally.

 

Economic Environment

A large number of private broadcast and print outlets operate in Romania. However, the print sector has suffered severely since the economic downturn of late 2008, and the television industry is also facing contraction. More than 50 percent of the population used the internet in 2014. Although access is widely available, with no reports of government interference, online news outlets often lack the revenue needed to conduct original reporting. Very few media firms are profitable, increasing reliance on public advertising. With presidential elections taking place in 2014, public advertising became increasingly politicized, and distribution of advertising funds from the European Union—the main buyer of advertising in Romania—was nontransparent. Romania’s leading television stations include Pro TV, owned by the Bermuda-based Central European Media Enterprises (CME), and Antena 1, owned by the daughter of media mogul Voiculescu. Actual ownership is often obscured through intermediaries. Foreign media conglomerates maintain a presence in the country, though some have withdrawn due to the difficult economic environment. At the end of 2014, CME was preparing to sell its local radio holdings to RCS-RDS.

Individual journalists suffer from low pay and job insecurity, and are susceptible to various forms of financial and editorial pressure from owners and advertisers. Delays in salary payments are not unusual, and in early 2014, collective labor contracts for mass media expired.