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BUCHAREST (Romania), April 18 (SeeNews) - Romania has fallen three places to 47th spot in the latest freedom of press ranking of Reporters Without Borders as the country's media landscape is marked by lack of government consideration for journalism, growing political censorship and increasing self-censorship, the non-governmental organisation said on Thursday.
"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," RSF said in its 2019 World Press Freedom Index report.
The section on Romania in the report is titled 'Welcome to the 1990s!"
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 the judicial system and courts, RSF noted.
The ruling coalition in Romania has replaced part of the public broadcaster’s management and has made it dependent on funding from the state budget, whereas the National Broadcasting Council does not really fulfil its regulatory role and does not condemn abuses, RSF said.
Around 10 media owners are currently the target of criminal proceedings by the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office or by the prosecutor-general’s office.
The Romanian authorities are constantly pressuring journalists to reveal their sources and try to silence any criticism of the system, RSF pointed out. 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 criticise 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, RSF said.
Slovenia is the highest ranked country in Southeast Europe in 2019 World Press Freedom Index report - at 34rd spot, followed by Romania (47th), Bosnia (63rd), Croatia (64th), Greece (65th), Kosovo (58th), Albania (82nd),Serbia (90th), Moldova (91st), North Macedonia (95th), Montenegro (104th) and Bulgaria (111th).
Published by RSF annually since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries using the following criteria – pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative environment, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses.