European Commission spokesperson Mark Gray has for the first time spoken on the official stance in Brussels towards Romania's proposed changes to a series of judicial codes, including the Civil Code and Penal Code. These were recently adopted by the Government and forwarded for Parliament approval in a manner and substance which harshly criticized by Romanian media and media organizations. Also on Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders spoke up on the issue.

Mark Gray:"In its most recent report, the Commission stressed that an impact assessment of the Codes and a meaningful consultation process must take place. It is important that the new Codes are thoroughly discussed in society and among practitioners. The Commission will closely follow this process and believes that Romania must take its responsibility to ensure that the adoption of the new codes will further the judicial reform process in line with the commitments made by Romania at the time of accession".

Reporters Without Borders press release

Government tries to rush through civil and criminal codes reform curtailing

right to information

Reporters Without Borders and its partner organisation, the Media Monitoring Agency, condemn the restrictions on the right to information contained in a proposed reform of the criminal and civil codes which the government agreed on the 25th of February to submit to parliament on 11 March.

“Articles in title II, section 3 of the proposed draft civil code, and article 225 in the draft criminal code regarding the right to privacy would significantly restrict research and investigation and a legitimate right to information," Reporters Without Borders and the Media Monitoring Agency said. "Everyone agrees on the need to protect privacy, but the terms and limits in this proposed reform would give free rein to the most restrictive interpretations".

"As it stands, the draft civil code would reduce the work of the press to just putting out information and statements that have been explicitly approved by those that produce them. The right of reply is part of journalistic practice but it cannot acquire the automatic character envisaged by this bill. The proposed reform’s requirements in the articles referring to data protection would also seriously undermine the right to the protection of sources that is the basis of all investigative journalism."

"Like all European Union members, Romania has a duty to set an example when drafting laws affecting news and information, both as regards the substance of these laws and the way they are drafted. The interventionist nature of this reform in some ways recalls the June 2008 bill that would have forced national radio and TV stations to broadcast ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ news in equal measure."

"Amendments to the criminal and civil codes are needed for Romania to conform to European media standards but they cannot be adopted without consulting with all of the actors involved. As it already did as regards digital broadcasting last November, the government prefers to act in haste and without any kind of consultative process although the basic principles of a modern democracy are at stake."

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said: "We encourage all possible measures that help to combat the corruption that undermines the state’s ability to function properly, but it is absurd to try to attack corruption by restricting the freedom of investigative journalists to operate."

The press freedom organisation added: "Citing European Commission demands in order to justify the haste and the procedural methods used is unacceptable. We urge parliament to reject these bills and to demand a debate with all the actors involved. The subjects concerned are too important to reach a decision with such precipitation."