In a notable step forward for press freedom, libel is no longer a crime under criminal code amendments that took effect in June. Slander, while still a felony, is no longer punishable by prison.

Journalists in the capital, Bucharest, strongly criticized the government in January for the widespread practice of wiretapping journalists' phones. The scandal emerged after security officials confirmed they had sought permission to wiretap the AM Press and Mediafax news agencies to identify a supposed media source in the Interior Ministry. Officials also acknowledged tapping the phones of two Romanian journalists working for foreign media, according to international press reports.

A government ethics panel confirmed in January that managers for TVR state television and SRR state radio censored news reports and tried to discredit an opposition candidate during the November 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections, according to international news reports. Romania's new president, Traian Basescu, promised greater respect for press freedom, but he was criticized in February for seeking to replace TVR's director, an appointment ordinarily handled by Parliament.

In May, the government adopted reforms to make its secretive advertising distribution more transparent and less political. The new law is a first step toward preventing bureaucrats from channeling state advertising revenue to politically loyal media outlets.

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