Council of Europe concerned over press and judicial freedom in Romania
The Council of Europe (CoE) expressed in a new report its concern over the way in which Romanian political parties pay news stations to promote them. It also noted worries regarding the new justice laws presently being debated in the Romanian Parliament, which do not comply with previous recommendations and opinions by the Venice Commission and the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO).
The report, cited by Biziday, welcomes the abolition of the Criminal Investigation Section of the Judiciary (SIIJ), but demands that Romania “address the problem of the lack of human resources within the National Anti-Corruption Directorate.” The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stresses in its Monitoring Report that the Romanian legislative should take into account recommendations of the European institutions when they modify the justice laws.
The report was released on the same day as an investigation into parties’ payments to press institutions by independent journalists at Recorder. The nearly 50-minute-long video investigation argues that politicians have devised a system in which the largest parties in the country, but also the smaller ones, spend massive amounts of public money to secure the favor of major news stations and websites.
These million-euro payments are secret, being siphoned through different channels in order to mask their end-point. The independent investigators argue that the governing social democrats (PSD) and liberals (PNL) also draw up contracts with media trusts for fictional services, attempting to cover what the payments actually are – bribes.
According to the CoE report, the use of public funds by political parties to finance the media and influence their content on the basis of secret contracts represents the greatest concern, as it effectively allows political parties to direct editorial policy. The payments system transforms the watchdogs of democracy into party loudspeakers, all in secret, thus allowing the same journalists to claim total independence before their audience.
The Council requests that laws be introduced obliging the disclosure of contracts between political parties and the press.
The Council of Europe is an international organization focused on human rights, democracy, and rule of law in Europe. Virtually all European states, aside from Belarus and Russia, are part of the organization headquartered in Strasbourg.