Social Democrat Party (PSD) President Liviu Dragnea is not giving up on the defamation law even though the Lower Chamber plenum has decided, against the backdrop of civil society criticism, to send it back to the commissions.
In recent days, the PSD President has faced a wave of criticism on his Facebook page. Dragnea chose to delete most of the critical postings, keeping the positive ones.
On Saturday, he responded to those who criticized him for allegedly deleting from his Facebook page over 3,000 negative comments about the law.
“It is very difficult to answer 3,000 comments. I believe it is much more important to present what the reality actually is. I don’t want to give up on this law. If anyone believes that promoting human dignity is a communist attitude it means that person does not have any kind of idea what happened in communism. The communication wasn’t good enough. I take responsibility for this. This is what we are trying to do in the following period.”
Liviu Dragnea stated on Saturday that the draft law on defamation “sparked a wave of abuse against me” and that he is “a bit saddened” because “nobody had the patience to read the new modifications to the law.”
“The law on supporting tolerance has prompted a wave of abuse against me. For several days, the voice of reason was heard with great difficulty. It’s not my duty to investigate how much of that was incitement, diversion, manipulation, and how much honest reaction. Others should do it. However, I am a bit saddened that nobody had the patience to read the new modifications to the law, and almost all those who insulted me did it by running with false information about freedom of expression,” the PSD President wrote on Facebook.
Dragnea stated that right-wing parties launched some false information and that some press institutions “simply ignored reality and entered the elections campaign logic.”
The PSD President thanked those who supported the draft law “at the risk of exposing themselves to the wave of abuse” and considers that political prejudice “such as that according to which
Liviu Dragnea or PSD are the defenders of communism, inevitably leads to misinterpretations and painful mistakes.”
“I thank all those who expressed their opinions, as each could, about this law. It is proof that Romanian society is preoccupied with liberty and freedom to a healthy extent. From time to time, society tests its limits of expression and tolerance. And this law, after all, helps us become more tolerant,” Liviu Dragnea said.
The anti-defamation law was criticized on the grounds that it limits freedom of expression. Nevertheless, Social Democrat Liviu Dragnea, the initiator of the law, stated last week within the Parliament’s plenum meeting that nothing is farther from the truth and it does not prevent journalists from criticizing politicians.
The draft law stipulates that those who resort to public calumny, including in the press and on the internet, risk fines ranging from RON 1,000 to RON 30,000. When the target of defamation is a social group, the sanctions go as high as RON 100,000.
IPP’s Moraru: Dragnea banned those who dared comment on his Facebook page
Adrian Moraru, deputy director of the Institute for Public Policies (IPP), stated on Saturday that PSD President Liviu Dragnea deleted thousands of comments and blocked Facebook users who commented on the defamation law topic on his page.
“Liviu Dragnea is far more aggressive in combating any opinion contrary to his, even compared to Victor Ponta. Let me explain myself: not only did he delete thousands and thousands of comments to his posting about that absurd law, but also he banned all those who dared comment. As you can see, I am no longer able to post on his page, or to like a comment. This didn’t happen with Victor Ponta despite the fact that in his case the comments were far more uncomfortable,” Moraru wrote on his Facebook page.
According to IPP’s deputy director, the comment for which he was banned from the PSD President’s Facebook page was: “Politics is hard in Bucharest. Not comparable to the one in lixandria.”
Monica Macovei: Liviu Dragnea wants to muzzle the press
“The draft law comes from time immemorial, just like Dragnea and PSD. Let’s muzzle the press. Freedom of expression also entails the fact that politicians will be criticized. I hope it will be rejected. It’s a bad joke. We fought for so many years not to have a law for the press, precisely in order not to muzzle it. We do not want a press law, we do not want a muzzle for the press, we do not want jailed journalists, we resort to individual actions in court,” Monica Macovei stated on Digi24.
Referring to the fact that politicians are inconvenienced by social network postings that mock, criticize or even insult them, Monica Macovei emphasised that Liviu Dragnea is trying to stop people from writing that he was sentenced in the court of first instance for electoral fraud.
“The problem with those who post without you knowing where they’re from. Many pages boomed with likes from people with no identity. However, Dragnea’s law cannot manage this. He is trying to defend himself from me writing that he is convicted for electoral fraud,” Monica Macovei pointed out.
She pointed out that she too is the target of insults on the internet. “I too am called names. Some of the ugliest. It depends on how serious the swearing is,” the former Justice Minister said.
PSD discovers “material error” in defamation law. PNL: A ruse
PSD claims that the Judiciary Commission’s report has a material error for which the administrative staff is to blame, the situation leading to “groundless public accusations,” while the Liberals claim that the Social Democrats are resorting to “a ruse in order to minimize PR losses.”
They claim that this material error will be addressed during the plenum meeting in which the defamation law will be discussed “in order to clarify the situation and put a stop to the groundless accusations that have appeared in the public space in recent days.”
The PSD MPs are asking for “an urgent administrative inquiry in order to identify the persons that are responsible for these inadmissible mistakes and to prevent other similar incidents.”
In reply, PNL Co-President Alina Gorghiu underscored that PSD is trying to hide the law’s real problems behind this “material error.”
“PSD will look for any ruse in order to minimize the public relations losses they register by attempting censorship and the muzzling of Romanian society. The Judiciary Commission’s leadership, its bureau and most members belong to PSD and to the majority created by PSD. Seeing how the public opinion was inflamed because of this odious, typically communist censorship, they want to cut some of their losses,” Gorghiu added for Mediafax.
Gorghiu about Dragnea: I know of no other party president with such great abilities as chief censor
National Liberal Party (PNL) co-chair Alina Gorghiu stated on Friday in Cluj-Napoca, at a press conference, that she is asking all parliamentary parties in the Lower Chamber “to be responsible” and to vote against the draft defamation law.
“Liviu Dragnea insists with his draft law and I notice he is telling us that we are wrong and he is right. I was surprised that his only reaction to the criticism brought by internet users was to censor the comments. I know no other party president in Romania that has such great abilities as chief censor. The discussion on the draft defamation law will resume on Monday in Parliament; I am asking all leaders of parliamentary parties in the Lower Chamber to be responsible and to vote against this project. Doing so is necessary in a state in which the silencing policy practiced by PSD for 26 years should not exist,” Gorghiu said.
Alina Gorghiu attended on Friday, alongside Vasile Blaga and other PNL leaders, an internal party meeting in which PNL Cluj’s candidates for the local elections were presented.