Romania can boast of a diverse, relatively pluralistic media landscape that produces hard-hitting public interest investigations. Pressure from owners, lack of transparency in financing or market difficulties, however, hamper the reliability of the information.
Large European groups (Ringier, PPT Group or Dogan Media International) are present on the market alongside large and small local players (Intact Media Group, RCS&RDS, Hotnews, G4Media, Recorder, Rise Project or PressOne). The Romanian media landscape mirrors global trends: the number of print media outlets is decreasing, while online media outlets, and radio and television channels are booming. Editorial choices are often subordinated to the interests of owners, transforming the press into an instrument of propaganda.
In Romania, the media lack independence and suffer from attempts at interference, especially when nominating the heads of public radio and television, as well as those of the National Audiovisual Council. The latter has blocked information on the ownership of audiovisual media, under the pretext of protecting personal data. The aggressive political discourse against journalists has been revived by the new populist-nationalist party AUR, the fourth political force in the Romanian Parliament.
Legislation protecting freedom of expression and the press is insufficiently enforced, although it is aligned with European standards, including at the constitutional level. Prosecutors’ interference with journalistic work amounts to harassment and raises serious concerns. The judiciary system is increasingly trying to push the media to reveal their sources. The number of abusive lawsuits (SLAPPs) has been growing, while court decisions do not always respect press freedom standards.
Media funding mechanisms are often opaque or even corrupt. While the largest media companies manage to be self-sufficient, the majority of them depend on external sources of funding, including subsidies. Using public funds to buy positive media coverage is a widespread political practice.
Public interest journalism faces competition from disinformation campaigns led by certain media and politicians, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Certain groups of the population are prone to believe this disinformation, which fuels their distrust of quality media.
Attacks against reporters and citizen journalists are alarmingly increasing. A journalist, a documentary maker and an environmental activist were severely beaten in September 2021 while investigating illegal logging. Surveillance remains an issue, with parliament passing a legal provision – currently being considered by the constitutional court – which would extend the scope of the electronic communications interception, including by intelligence services.