The European Commission has included Romania in the high risk group

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The Romanian press is in the highest risk category regarding freedom of expression, according to the report on the observance of the rule of law in the EU made public on Wednesday by the European Commission.

Thus, for the first time, Media Pluralism Monitor introduced a general ranking of Member States grouped into five levels of risk, in which Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovenia are considered high-risk countries, according to the report cited by G4Media.

Other findings of the report:

There is not enough transparency regarding the dissemination of content paid for by political parties outside election campaigns, and journalists’ access to information remains poor. Cases of threats, harassment and physical violence against journalists are more worrying than last year. Frequent changes in legislation, regular use of emergency ordinances and the limited practice of public consultations continue to be a cause for concern. and the prosecution of crimes in the judiciary persists. The process of appointing “appointed prosecutors” (to investigate corruption in the judiciary) does not provide for a competitive procedure based on meritocratic criteria and does not involve the prosecutors’ section of the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM). This is contrary to the recommendations of the Venice Commission. Concerns about the functioning and budget of the National Audiovisual Council (NAC) persist. Romania has not yet transposed the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, as revised by Directive 2018/1808, and this has delayed important changes needed to improve the functioning and effectiveness of the media authority. One year after the election of the NAC members, the regulator does not yet have a president. Comprehensive protection of integrity warnings is still lacking. The bill was adopted by the Senate in April 2022 and by the Chamber of Deputies with amendments in June 2022. Some amendments have raised concerns, especially from the European Chief Prosecutor, and the government has expressed its intention to adjust the bill, whereas the legislative process is still ongoing. The transparency of political party funding and the implementation of related rules are limited. There is not enough transparency regarding audiovisual media and elections. Although political competitors have guaranteed and equitable access to airtime in audiovisual media during election campaigns, television channels are not required to clearly explain the distinction between the different types of content produced during campaigns – especially between their own editorial content. and airtime purchased by parties – and signal who pays for content. In addition, there is not enough transparency about the amounts paid by various parties to which channels and for what content. Attempts by journalists to investigate how these funds were used by the media to broadcast political content have met with resistance from some political parties. CNA is competent to monitor the broadcast content. The situation regarding threats, harassment and violence against journalists is more worrying compared to last year. In September 2021, two journalists and an environmental activist were attacked while filming a documentary about illegal deforestation. All their records were deleted and the equipment was destroyed by the attackers. While the then prime minister condemned the attack and launched an investigation, a public petition calling for the prosecutor general to take over the investigation was not accepted. In September 2021, two journalists were attacked at a congress of the National Liberal Party by party members (these are journalists Mădălina Mihalache and Iulia Gârbacea). The Council of Europe has two active alerts on the intimidation of Romanian journalists (the cases of Emilia Șercan and Alin Cristea). which calls for swift and independent investigations, recalling a context of unjustified pressure on journalists and media workers in Romania, exerted by politicians, prosecutors, police and the military. There are no specific safeguards or cooperation mechanisms between the various stakeholders to protect journalists from such attacks. On June 15, 2021, the Bucharest Tribunal rejected the strategic lawsuit against public participation mentioned in the last Report

The Media Pluralism Monitor assesses the risks to media freedom and pluralism in all Member States, focusing on four areas – basic protection of media freedom, market plurality, political independence and social inclusion of the media. The latest results of the Monitor (MPM 2022) show that there have been no major changes in these areas since 2021, although there have been some variations in the specific indicators within these general areas.

The concentration of the press maintains its very high level of risk throughout the continent, while no progress has been made in terms of political independence, which remains at a medium level of risk, the quoted report shows.

European Commission Recommendations for Romania (source):

– ensure that the revision of the laws of the judiciary strengthens the guarantees of the independence of the judiciary, including by reforming the disciplinary regime for magistrates, and take steps to address remaining concerns about the investigation and prosecution of crimes in the judiciary, taking into account European standards; the relevant opinions of the Venice Commission.

– introduce rules on lobbying for Members of Parliament.

– address the operational challenges of the National Anticorruption Directorate, including the recruitment of prosecutors, and closely monitor the impact of this measure on the new system of investigation and prosecution of corruption offenses in the judiciary.

– strengthen the rules and mechanisms for strengthening the independent governance and editorial independence of public media services, taking into account European standards for public media services.

– to ensure an efficient public consultation before the adoption of the draft laws.

– Continue efforts to establish a national human rights institution, taking into account the UN principles in Paris.

Read here the full report of the European Commission on Romania.