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50 PERCENT OF NEWS MUST BE POSITIVE, SAYS DRAFT LAW

Apparently, no news is not enough good news in Romania. Last week, the Romanian Senate adopted a law that forces radio and television stations to air positive and negative news "in an equal proportion," report the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Romania's Media Monitoring Agency (MMA).

On 25 June, the Romanian Senate unanimously passed the bill, initiated by Greater Romania Party (PRM) Senator Gheorghe Funar and National Liberal Party (PNL) Deputy Ioan Ghise. According to the bill, news should be broadcast "equally" in a positive and negative way "to improve the general climate and to offer the chance to the public to have a balanced view of everyday life, psychologically and emotionally."

The law does not make any mention of criteria for classifying news into positive or negative categories.

"One can hardly think about a more absurd proposal than a 'good news and bad news' law," says the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), a regional group of IFJ. "This is obvious political interference in the editorial work of journalists. We cannot understand the motivation of this law and we call on the President of Romania to veto it."

RSF has also criticised the proposal, comparing it to similar laws in authoritarian regimes such as North Korea and China.

According to MMA, a partner of RSF, the bill infringes the European Convention of Human Rights - of which Romania is a signatory. The convention provides everyone with the right to receive and impart information and ideas "without interference of public authorities."

Romanian journalists have been subject to continuous and serious pressures in recent months, says EFJ, from verbal attacks on journalists by politicians and plans to jail journalists who release video or audio recordings without the subject's approval, to the recriminalisation of defamation and libel and attempts to repeal access to information laws. That's the bad news. And the good news is...

Visit these links:
- IFJ/EFJ: http://tinyurl.com/6syxp6
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=27655
- MMA: http://www.mma.ro/
- IFEX Romania page: http://tinyurl.com/5r8ckq
(2 July 2008)

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