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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Romania

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Romania, February 1997, available at: [accessed 22 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The November election of opposition candidate Emil Constantinescu to the presidency had a nearly immediate effect on some Romanian media. About a week after Constantinescu's election, for example, police dropped an ongoing investigation into vague charges against Costel Bobic, a reporter with the independent daily Ziua, who had written about government corruption.

The presidential campaign revealed a thriving media, which provided insightful reporting and analysis about all of the candidates. While the majority of Romanians watch the widely accessible Romanian state television, and half rely on the state station for radio news, private broadcasters' audiences burgeoned during the campaign, especially in the larger cities, thanks to their comprehensive coverage of the candidates' speeches and debates.

In May, threatening to suppress some of these independent news outlets, Adrian Nastase, the president of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, announced that the BBC coverage was unfairly favoring the opposition. Nastase proposed that the National Audiovisual Council "reconsider" the frequency allocations of those FM stations that broadcast the BBC. The threat generated much criticism from the international community, including CPJ, which appealed to Romanian authorities to allow stations to broadcast the BBC, and in the end, none of the stations lost its frequency.

Prior to the election, members of the ruling party had brought libel charges against independent newspapers voicing support for Constantinescu and the opposition party. At the close of the year, libel sentences against four such journalists remained unsettled. Two journalists in the city of Constanta lost their second appeal of libel convictions stemming from suits by former members of the city council. Their seven-month prison sentences and fines remained indefinitely suspended, however. Two other journalists, with Ziua, faced 12- and 14-month prison sentences for libel against former President Ion Iliescu. They are appealing their convictions, but a hearing date has not been set.

In October, after much debate and protest from opposition media, the Romanian Senate and Chamber of Deputies passed four amendments to sections of the Romanian penal code that affect freedom of the press. Articles 205, 206, 238, and 239 of the draft penal code allow for fines and imprisonment for those convicted for libel. After pressure from opposition media and protests from international organizations, including CPJ, the lawmakers dropped early versions of the amendments, which mandated heavy fines for journalists convicted under the legislation. The Constitutional Court of Romania was reviewing the legislation's final draft at press time.

April 12

Bursa, an independent financial weekly known for its groundbreaking coverage of the black market and the emerging Romanian securities market, was threatened with legal action by the National Securities Council (CNVM). The CNVM issued a statement declaring that the "trading [of] shares listed or unlisted on the Bucharest Stock Exchange by unauthorized persons through ads published in the newspaper Bursa could be defined as a violation of Law No. 52/1994, Art. 114." This law forbids offering securities without authorization and is punishable by a fine or a prison term of three months to two years. In November 1995, Bursa published an article critical of the CNVM, leading some observers to conclude that the threat of legal action against the paper was motivated by a desire to suppress such reporting. CPJ wrote a letter to President Ion Iliescu urging him to ensure that the CNVM and other state authorities refrain from attempting to censor or curtail legitimate publishing activity. CPJ pointed out that threats against news outlets covering free markets, whether in news stories or in advertising, signal a clear intention to suppress the independent media. After receiving the letter, a presidential aide visited Bursa and - improbably - asked the editors to help draft Iliescu's reply to CPJ. A second presidential counselor then visited, and legislation was drafted to remove the vagueness in the law that led to the original charges, which have since been suspended.

May 4
Independent radio stations, HARASSED
BBC Romanian service, HARASSED

Adrian Nastase, president of the Chamber of Deputies, announced that the BBC Romanian service was violating Romania's electoral law by "obviously favoring the opposition in its campaign coverage." Nastase called for the National Audiovisual Council to "reconsider" immediately the frequency allocation of those Romanian FM stations that broadcast the BBC program. He added that "the BBC, being a British organization, should broadcast news about England and cover what happens in London, not in Romania." While no radio stations canceled the BBC program, experts feared this would happen. Radio broadcast news is an important source of information in Romania since the vast majority of the country's television news programs are state-run. In a letter to Nastase and Romania's President Ion Iliescu, CPJ urged the government to ensure that Romanian radio stations are able to continue broadcasting independent news.

September 30
Mihai Antoci, Ziua, HARASSED
Razvan Savaliuc, Ziua, HARASSED
Marius Ghilezan, Romania Libera, HARASSED
Dan Preisz, Romania Libera, HARASSED
Flroin Esanu, Romania Libera, HARASSED
Oana Bratu, Radio Contact, HARASSED
Ovidiu Patrascanu, Evenimentul Zilei, HARASSED
Andreea Munteanu, Azi, HARASSED
Mircea Marian, Medifax, HARASSED

Ten reporters from various news outlets were ordered by a member of the local branch of the Party of Social Democracy (PDSR), Romania's ruling party, to give up notes, videotapes, and any other material related to their reporting about an allegedly fraudulent polling station. Earlier that day, the 10 journalists had entered the offices of the polling station, where PDSR members reportedly were using slanted questions to conduct voter polls in an effort to influence the voters in favor of President Ion Iliescu, who was running for re-election Nov. 3. On Oct. 3-4, after the story became public, several of the journalists were summoned by police for questioning, often late at night. CPJ appealed to Iliescu to put a stop to any further harassment of the journalists.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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