By Bogdan

In a totally unexpected move, the Romanian Parliament has decided to
re-criminalise libel and insult offences, that were repealed in 2006.

Although the Parliament was supposed to discuss something else – an old
bill from 2011 that proposed the repeal of a single article of the
Criminal Code, namely Article 74/1 – the bill was suddenly and radically
changed by the Legal Committee during the night before being adopted by
the Chamber of Deputies. The plenum of 10 December 2013 (“The
International Human Rights Day”) adopted the introduction, among other
provisions, of the offences 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.

A quick reaction to the proposal was made by several human rights NGOs,
including EDRi member ApTI, that reminded the Parliament that “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
judgement by the European Court of Human Rights.”

The reaction, that was later supported by other 35 organisations from
around the world, called for the removal of the Articles 205-207, which
re-criminalise insult and libel be removed from the Criminal Code and
considered the new text “a serious assault on press freedom and freedom
of expression in general.”

It is not clear what would be the situation of the new draft law, as in
the next days after the vote, the leaders of several political groups
decided to withdraw their support to the law – but mainly for the
inclusion of other articles that would insure immunity for MPs against
corruption charges.

“The Black Tuesday” of Romanian democracy, as it was called by the
media, was accompanied in the past weeks by two other measures that
could stifle freedom of expression on the Internet.

First, a draft Government Decision on the regulation of the .ro domain
name included the provision to “suspend” a domain name after a simple
prosecutor request.

The second one is a draft law announced by the newly created Office for
Gambling that would force ISPs to block unauthorised gambling websites,
under the conditions when the European Commission has already started
the infringement procedures against Romania for the national gambling
legislation.

It remains to be seen if these projects will also be enforced as such,
or if the Romanian regulators, as it usually happens, would have a
change of mind on the last minute.

Freedom of expression under attack: insult and libel reincriminated
(16.12.2013)
http://activewatch.ro/en/freeex/rapid-response/freedom-of-expression-under-attack-insult-and-libel-reincriminate/

Attacking freedom of expression (only in Romanian, 11.12.2013)
http://apti.ro/calomnie-insulta-in-codul-penal

OSCE media freedom representative calls on Romania not to re-criminalize
free speech (12.12.2013)
http://www.osce.org/fom/109459

The Government set their eyes on a new tax (only in Romanian, 13.12.2013)
http://www.realitatea.net/guvernul-a-pus-ochii-pe-o-noua-categorie-de-platitori-de-taxe_1339365.html

Draft Government decision on .ro domain name administration (only in
Romanian, 5.12.2013)
http://www.mcsi.ro/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?nodeguid=f7de219e-9112-47d7-9d7d-b27104310c1b