Romania – A lack of government consideration for journalism and the media, growing political censorship and an increase in self-censorship are the main features of the current media landscape. The media have gradually been turned into political propaganda tools. They are very politicised, their funding mechanisms are opaque or even corrupt, and their editorial policies are subordinated to owner interests. Such are the disturbing phenomena that have become the norm in Romania.
The chief concern of government politicians meanwhile seems to be to avoid being sentenced to imprisonment by amending the anti-corruption laws and ensuring that they control they judicial system and courts. The ruling coalition has replaced part of the public broadcaster’s management and has made it dependent on funding from the state budget. The National Broadcasting Council does not really fulfill its regulatory role and does not condemn abuses. Around ten media owners are currently the target of criminal proceedings by the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office or by the prosecutor-general’s office.
The authorities are constantly pressuring journalists to reveal their sources and try to silence any criticism of the system. Government agents posing as journalists have recently started infiltrating news organisations. A few independent media outlets manage to survive alongside the big media groups, but they are subjected to arbitrary tax and finance inspections whenever they criticize powerful politicians. The authorities, private sector companies and individuals recently began invoking the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as grounds for denying access to information, or to threaten and prosecute journalists in connection with their investigative reporting.
France – Attacks and harassment targeting news media and journalists increased dangerously in 2018. What with insults, threats, physical attacks and injuries at the hands of protesters or from rounds fired by riot police, journalists encountered an unprecedented level of violence during the “Gilets Jaunes” (Yellow Vest) protests which began in November 2018.
Dissatisfied with the media’s coverage of their protest movement, some Gilets Jaunes groups tried to blockade printing presses in order to prevent the distribution of newspapers.
The law on business secrets adopted in June 2018 has exemptions for journalists, but reporters were denied access to the documents they needed during the “Implant Files” investigation. The Bolloré business group continued to bring abusive lawsuits in a systematic manner against investigative journalists who tried to cover certain aspects of its activities. Also known as SLAPPs, such lawsuits serve to harass and intimidate, even if later abandoned. Criticism of the media is always legitimate but has sometimes been supplanted by “media-bashing” and hate-filled attacks by politicians.