MAE asks Senate for explanations on elimination of radio-TV licence tax, after alert posted on the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism

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Foreign Affairs Minister Lazar Comanescu asked the Senate for a point of view on the elimination of the radio-TV licence tax, in order to forward it in reaction to an alert posted on the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism.

The Foreign Minister pointed out that an alert concerning the Romanian Parliament’s ongoing (at the time) debates on eliminating the radio-TV tax was posted, on October 21, on the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists.

“The alert was posted at the request of four media freedom NGOs, in whose opinion the elimination of the radio-TV tax would affect the independence of the public radio and television broadcasters and would render them vulnerable to political meddling,” reads the letter lodged with the Senate’s leadership, signed by Minister Comanescu.

The document points out that “Romanian authorities have the possibility to react to this alert, their answer set to be posted on the Platform and brought to the knowledge of those who pointed out the problem.”

“At the level of the Council of Europe these is already a custom to respond to these alerts, the member states concerned offering clarifications about the cases concerned,” the Foreign Minister points out, reminding that Romania was previously mentioned in an alert posted on the Platform back in March. The topic of that alert was the public television broadcaster’s risk of going bankrupt.

The Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists is a Council of Europe project whose goal is to monitor infringements of freedom of speech and media independence, as well as threats to the safety of journalists. “In the Foreign Ministry’s assessment, the presence for the second time on the Council of Europe’s website that monitors media freedom is liable to put Romania in an uncomfortable position that contravenes both our country’s position on human rights and fundamental freedoms but also the current praxis of respect for democratic principles and the rule of law,” reads the document remitted to the Senate.

The Foreign Ministry (MAE) points out that the Romanian side must come up with an answer to the alert posted on the Council of Europe’s website.

“Considering that the public radio and television broadcasters carry out their activity under the oversight of the Romanian Parliament, and considering Parliament’s recent decision to eliminate the radio-TV licence tax, we ask you to offer us some elements that formed the basis of Parliament’s decision to eliminate the radio-TV licence tax and the solutions considered to ensure the proper functioning of the public radio and television broadcasters,” the Foreign Minister concluded.

Senate Deputy Speaker Ioan Chelaru stated after the Standing Bureau’s meeting on Monday that the minister’s letter was sent to the Culture Commission.

The Foreign Minister lodged with the Lower Chamber a similar request in March 2016, asking for clarifications in what concerned a legislative amendment that would have seen the public television broadcaster filing for insolvency.

“I want to bring to your attention the fact that an alert referring to the public television broadcaster has recently been posted on the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists. The alert was posted at the request of the International Federation of Journalists and the European Association of Journalists and concerns the package of amendments to law no.41/1994, which could bring the public broadcaster in the situation of filing for insolvency. Thus, in these specialists’ opinion, the bill represents a threat to the independence of the public television broadcaster,” read the Foreign Minister’s letter.

 

President Iohannis to take part in debate on radio-TV licence fee elimination on Thursday

 

President Klaus Iohannis will take part on Thursday, at the National Library of Romania, in the debate titled “The elimination of the radio-TV licence fee – support or threat against the mission of the public radio and public television broadcasters?” the Presidential Administration informs.

According to a Presidency release, the event is organised by ActiveWatch Association, with the support of the Presidential Administration, with the purpose of ensuring a dialogue between the Head of State and journalists, representatives of media organisations and members of the civil society about the situation of the public radio and public television broadcasters, mainly following the adoption of the law on the elimination of some fees and duties, as well as the amendment of some normative acts, a law also aimed at eliminating the radio-TV licence fee.

The debate will take place on Thursday, starting at 16:00.

President Klaus Iohannis last week said that the law on the elimination of the 102 fees is being analysed, showing that it is good to give up on some fees, but a deeper discussion must take place in respect to the radio-TV licence fee.

He announced at that date that he would organise, by 15 November, a debate focusing on the radio-TV licence fee.