The signatory organizations condemn the anti-democratic practices adopted and exercised by the current parliamentary majority and publicly ask the Romanian President not to promulgate the law through which, surreptitiously, the offenses of libel and insult were reintroduced in the Criminal Code.
In 2006, the Parliament decided to repeal the offenses of insult and libel. In 2007, the Constitutional Court ruled that the offenses of libel and insult are not repealed, then, in 2010, the High Court of Cassation and Justice has ruled that the offenses of insult and libel are abolished, and in 2013 the Constitutional Court ruled again that the offenses of libel and insult are not repealed.

OSCE congratulated Romania after insult and libel were decriminalized. This decriminalization also increased the rating of the country in relevant international rankings, such as those of Reporters Without Borders.

An old bill 2011 (Pl-x 680/2011) 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.

We remind politicians that the decisions of the Constitutional Court quoted as a pretext for introducing the offenses of insult and libel in the Criminal Code must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the ECHR - which have the force of law in Romania. 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.

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. According to the jurisprudence of the ECHR (see case Dalban v. Romania, for example), those who make a statement, even false / exaggerated, cannot be penalized in any way if they prove the existence of a reasonable factual basis for their statement.

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.
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.


Contact: 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

 

Update

OSCE media freedom representative calls on Romania not to re-criminalize free speech (December 12, 2013):
“Criminalizing speech can stifle debate and be used to protect public officials from criticism. Fear of criminal charges might lead to self-censorship and can ultimately have a chilling effect on investigative journalism". Find out more.

Guardian published and article talking abt. the recent events in Romania, and using our press releases as a source (December 13, 2013):

"Just yesterday, Romania's parliament voted to reintroduce prison sentences for libel and insult, to the despair of the country's civil rights groups. The European Commission hasn't helped. In January it suggested that Romania should protect reputation better, to the bewilderment of Romanian NGOs". Find out more.

Index on Censorship published our press release on their web-site (December 13, 2013). Find out more.

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