Council of Europe asks Romania to declassify contracts through which parties give money to media institutions, to amend justice laws

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The Council of Europe asked Romania to declassify the contracts based on which parties give money to media institutions. At the same time, it requested that the justice laws be amended in accordance with the opinions of the Venice Commission and GRECO.

The Council of Europe’s report said that Romania has made important progress in terms of the judicial system and the fight against corruption. However, in the Monitoring Report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the institution expresses its concern that the justice laws, which should be debated in this period in the Romanian Parliament, do not comply with the opinion of the Venice Commission and GRECO (Group of States Against Corruption). He thus asked the Romanian lawmakers to take into account the recommendations of the European institutions in this regard when adopting new amendments to the justice laws.

The report also refers to the freedom of the press in Romania. It was published on the very day that a Recorder investigation showed that certain Romanian political parties had invented a system by which they promote themselves on television news, with public money going to the accounts of the trusts through media agencies.

These million-euro contracts are secret, and thus, the commission from the European Council states that “the use of public funds by political parties to finance the media and influence their content on the basis of secret contracts represents the greatest concern”, having the possibility to affect editorial independence.

The report warns that this practice undermines the freedom of the press and the proper functioning of democracy. Thus, the Council requests the introduction of laws that compel the disclosure of secret contracts between political parties and the press, based on which public funds are transferred to the mass media.

“As far as the independence of the judiciary is concerned, the abolition of the Criminal Investigation Section of the Judiciary marked an important step and should be welcomed”, the Council also conveys. Regarding the anti-corruption fight, the COE demands that Romania “address the problem of the lack of human resources within the National Anti-Corruption Directorate”.

Council of Europe also asked Romania “to ensure the inclusive character of the legislative process, to carry out meaningful consultations with all interested parties and to try to take into account the different opinions”.

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