Coronavirus state of emergency: Romanian authorities can close outlets spreading false information
The Romanian authorities can close media outlets disseminating false information about the Covid-19 pandemic or the protection and prevention measures, and can block users’ access to such information, according to the measures stipulated by the decree that establishes a state of emergency in the country.
On Monday, March 16, president Klaus Iohannis officially declared the state of emergency in Romania for a period of 30 days because of the Covid-19 situation.
The measure does not target established media outlets, with a known identity but “disinformation activities carried out with the purpose of spreading panic through publications without an identity or which systematically publish baseless information,” the Strategic Communication Group of the Interior Affairs Ministry (MAI) explained, quoted by News.ro.
The Strategic Communication Group will perform an analysis of the publications that systematically and deliberately spread false information, and will have a dialogue with the representatives of each publication. The Communication Authority ANCOM will implement the MAI decisions.
Human rights NGO ActiveWatch has warned that the measure “establishes the possibility of censorship.” It said “the Government should never have the power to establish the truth of any information. Only dictatorships have this power.”
“The Government has the option of asking all media outlets to report the official information, leaving the citizens the liberty to evaluate the truth. […] We should not forget that this is an electoral year and that those who will apply these measures are political actors interested in the result of the elections,” ActiveWatch said.
It also called on the authorities to focus exclusively on informing the public in a correct and transparent manner and not make use of the provisions related to counteracting false information.
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