Romania boasts of a diverse and pluralistic media landscape, providing fertile ground for hard-hitting public interest investigations. However, the lack of transparency of media financing, especially from public funds, as well as market difficulties undermining the reliability of information and the trust in the media.
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. Diverting public funds to the media, in a non-transparent manner, is a widespread political practice, distorting both the market and the watchdog function of the media.
Public interest journalism has faced competition from misleading narratives and fake news promoted by certain media outlets and politicians, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and, more recently, the war in Ukraine. Some population groups tend to trust the false information, which sometimes converges with Russian propaganda and fuels their distrust in the media.
The safety of journalists remains a concern, as they are often the target of attacks, threats, and intimidation. Large-scale smear campaigns involving political actors aim to discredit independent journalists. Surveillance remains an issue, with the intelligence services attempting to gain more power and influence in the context of the war in Ukraine.