Changes to the Penal Code and Penal Procedure Code in Romania herald grim times for journalists and good news for criminals.

The latter will be informed in due time that prosecutors are about to tap their phones or search their homes, while journalists may risk up to five or seven years in prison for broadcasting footage such as the one that led to the dismissal of Agriculture minister Decebal Traian Remes earlier this month.

So sound the changes applied to the two key pieces of criminal law by Mps from the Judicial Commission who modified and passed a previously rejected ordinance on Tuesday.

The changes have been submitted for President's approval. The head of state has the possibility to sent the bill back to the House of Deputies.

The changes, through a series of vague formulae, would have journalists risk up to seven years in prison for broadcasting video footage included as evidence in a criminal file. That was the case of Romanian public television TVR1 which earlier this month broadcast such footage, depicting Agriculture minister Decebal Traian Remes allegedly taking bribe.

Other such footage was put on the Internet after TVR failed to continue broadcasting the “series”. Decebal Traian Remes, charged with corruption, was forced to step down following the TVR broadcast.

Other potentially abusive changes to the two bills say:

• Tapping suspects' phone calls can only be done once the criminal inquiry is launched - and the suspect is informed about it.

• Home searches would only be allowed if the suspect is first informed and explained about the need of such searches.

• Severe sentences would only be applied to deeds resulting in losses of over 10 million euro.