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May 26, 2022

Lower Chamber MPs want higher fines for social defamation : Green light for “Dragnea’s Law” which censures Facebook or Twitter postings

The members of the Lower Chamber’s Judiciary Commission and Human Rights Commission adopted on Tuesday the “Defamation Law” initiated by PSD President Liviu Dragnea. Likewise, at the PSD President’s proposal, the fines against those who damage the image of a group or community were hiked to RON 100,000.

The draft law has passed the Senate and is about to be put up for vote within the Lower Chamber, which is the decisive Chamber.

Within the Commission, the fines were modified, the fine for defamation against a social group being hiked from RON 60,000 to RON 100,000. Thus, the version adopted by the Senate stipulated that social defamation could result in a fine of RON 1,000-30,000 if the defamation targets a physical person, and RON 2,000-100,000 if it targets a social group or community. These fines will be issued in the case of any public defamation, including those that appear in the press or on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

PSD President Liviu Dragnea announced last October that within the Lower Chamber he would eliminate from the law the defamation based on political membership and wealth, in order to eliminate the risks of “misinterpretation,” and that he would lower the size of the fines.

Back then, Dragnea claimed that he carefully followed all observations that appeared in the public space and pointed out that “this law was not thought-out as a means of censorship,” but as a legal means for “human dignity.” The law was adopted by the Lower Chamber’s Joint Commissions with 17 votes in favour and 5 against, Mediafax informs.

PNL MPs voted against the law, deeming it to represent “the gagging of Romanian journalists.” “We consider this is an excessive regulation. There are sufficient regulations in force, especially in the Civil Code, which give those who consider themselves offended the possibility of filing an action with a competent court; such an over-regulation was not necessary. Moreover, this law, if it becomes a law, can be seen as the regulation of censorship on Facebook and the gagging of Romanian journalists,” PNL Lower Chamber lawmaker Gabriel Andronache stated.
According to the draft law adopted by the Senate, those who consider themselves offended can file a request asking the court for the payment of damages and the reestablishment of the situation that existed prior to the defamation, or the cancelling of the situation created through discrimination, within a period of three years from the date the crime was committed or “the date the person concerned found out about it,” the draft law shows.

The draft law seeks to establish a special department within the National Council for Combating Discrimination, but also to introduce the obligation for the public radio and television stations to broadcast programmes promoting tolerance, for teachers to offer classes on this topic and for learning institutions to adopt “an annual plan for the implementation of anti-discrimination actions.” County Councils and the Bucharest Municipality’s General Council would have to devise an annual plan on respecting human rights, combating discrimination and promoting human dignity and tolerance toward group differences.

The draft law does not concern public institutions alone. Thus, any employer with at least 50 employees would have to include within its regulations a set of rules on respecting human rights, combating discrimination and promoting human dignity and tolerance for group differences.
Several NGOs have asked the Lower Chamber to reject the draft law on social defamation.

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