Attacks on freedom of expression in Romania: Insult and libel recriminalized

An old bill 2011 proposed the repeal of a single article of the Criminal Code, namely Article 74/1. Under very suspicious circumstances, this bill was radically changed the night before being adopted by the Chamber of Deputies during the plenum of 10 December 2013 (“The International Human Rights Day”) by introducing, among other provisions, the offenses of libel and insult.

This decision, taken without any public consultation made useless ten years of efforts made by the society for the decriminalization of insult and libel. It eliminates Romania from the democracies who reject the idea that a man can be imprisoned for his words.

On the other hand, due to the haste with which the amendments to the Criminal Code were adopted, another obsolete article was passed, namely Article 207 – burden of proof. This article is in manifest contradiction with ECHR jurisprudence, demanding those who make a statement to prove the absolute truth of the facts narrated, proof impossible in many situations, especially when it comes to journalistic investigations in complex cases.

It is imperative that Articles 205-207, which recriminalize insult and libel be removed from the Criminal Code. The current form of the law is a serious assault on press freedom and freedom of expression in general. Imposing an obligation on defamation to be criminally sanctioned is not supported by any article of the European Convention on Human Rights and of any judgment by the European Court of Human Rights.

That’s why the signatory organizations ask the Romanian President not to promulgate this law through which, clandestinely, the offenses of libel and insult were reintroduced in the Criminal Code. Media Initiative supports their request and will follow the next developments.

Contacts

Niki Andreescu:  nandreescu@apador.org

Mircea Toma: mircea@activewatch.ro

Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania – the Helsinki Committee
ActiveWatch
Association for Technology and Internet
Center for Independent Journalism