Threats to the Independence of the Romanian Public Broadcaster (TVR)

Update: 03 May 2018 State replied
Year 15 Mar 2016 Country Romania Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , AEJ Alert level Level 2
15 Mar 2016 Romania Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , AEJ Level 2

Romanian public broadcaster TVR is facing financial collapse caused by a chaotic management and the government’s decision to freeze the TV tax at the level of 2003 (4 Romanian lei, which is the lowest rate in Europe). A package of proposed amendments to the Romanian Public Broadcaster Law (41/1994), which has been announced by several politicians, will make possible for the TVR to be declared insolvent. The Romanian union of journalists, MediaSind, fears this procedure could legitimise the government’s control on public broadcasting. MediaSind called on Romanian authorities to protect TVR from political interference, including by refraining from imposing restrictions on public broadcasting funding.

Updates

03 May 2018 : On 3 May 2018, the Romanian President Klaus Yohannis asked the national Parliament to review its proposed amendments to Article 19 of the Romanian Public Broadcaster Law (no. 41/1994), on ground that they contain unclear provisions.
15 Jan 2018 : On 18 December 2017, the Romanian President Klaus Iohannis asked the national Parliament to rewiew its proposed amendments to the Romanian Public Broadcaster Law (41/1994), on ground that they contain unclear provisions which are likely to jeopardise the proper functionsing of the Romanian public broadcaster.
01 Feb 2017 : On 6 January 2017, the President of Romania promulgated the bill on the elimination of over 100 non-fiscal taxes, including the radio-TV licence tax. The law entered into force on 1 February 2017.

Follow-ups

13 May 2016 : The Secretary General writes to the Prime Minister of Romania.

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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