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December 3, 2022

Judiciary Commission amends Dragnea’s Law:Defamation disappears from “defamation law”

The defamation law, Liviu Dragnea’s controversial initiative, is no more. The defamation and the fines have disappeared, but a legislative act remains. A kind of practical guide, as the head of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) now puts it. Liviu Dragnea (photo) states that he will not give up on his desire to promote tolerance and human dignity through education, through the educational system and through administration.

Meeting on Monday evening, the members of the Lower Chamber’s Judiciary Commission and Human Rights Commission amended the Defamation Law, eliminating from the draft law the definition of “defamation” and the stipulations that concerned fines.

In its new form, the law no longer stipulates any sanctions. Likewise, all paragraphs that contained the term “defamation” were eliminated, the term “tolerance” being maintained on the other hand.

Liviu Dragnea, the initiator of the law, said that the law was meant to educate young people in the spirit of tolerance.
“The final form of the draft no longer includes any stipulations concerning sanctions. The fines have been eliminated. So, how could this department, part of the Council, censure some offences? I am starting to say with patience and a spirit of tolerance; this law did not have a censuring character, we’ve also eliminated the defamation term, sanctions are ruled out. It’s about promoting and guaranteeing tolerance through 3 means – education for children, they should be educated in the spirit of tolerance, the public administration system and the press through public media,” Liviu Dragnea said.

In the last two weeks, the defamation law took on a spectacular course. After it went through the commissions, a very heated public debate started, many voices disputing the advisability and need of a so-called internet police. Before today’s decision, the law stipulated harsh sanctions consisting of fines running into tens of thousands of RON for the defamation of social groups. And the groups were defined in terms of political membership and wealth too.

The changes brought to the law come after Liviu Dragnea’s law was harshly criticized in recent days, including by the US Embassy in Bucharest.

The law initiated by Liviu Dragnea had went through the Senate and had been approved by the Lower Chamber’s commissions. The law is now waiting for the final vote in the plenum. In the form adopted by Senators, the draft law was stipulating that social defamation could result in fines of RON 1,000-30,000 if it targets a physical person and RON 2,000-60,000 if it targets a social group. Now none of this exists anymore, according to Liviu Dragnea.

“You can still swear on TV, on Facebook and through any communication system,” the Social Democrat leader states.

In the initial form, the Dragnea Law was stipulating that a Department for the Promotion of Human Dignity and Tolerance was to be established within the National Council for Combating Discrimination, having the role to prevent and censure social defamation, the latter being defined as “the deed or statement through which a person is placed in a situation of inferiority based on affiliation to a social group.”

The members of the Lower Chamber’s Judiciary Commission had decided that the sanctions enforceable by this Department should have been those stipulated in Government Ordinance no.137/2000, adopting an amendment filed by Liviu Dragnea himself. The sanctions varied from a fine of RON 1,000-30,000, if the discrimination targeted a physical person, to RON 2,000-100,000 if the discrimination targeted a group of persons or a community.”

Apart from the setting up of the department, the law was stipulating that public radio and television stations should broadcast programmes promoting tolerance, teachers should take courses on this topic and educational establishments should adopt “an annual plan for the implementation of actions on combating discrimination.”
County councils and the Bucharest Municipal General Council were tasked to annually draft a plan on respecting human rights, combating discrimination and promoting human dignity and tolerance toward group difference at the level of local public administration.

The draft does not concern public institutions alone. Thus, any employer with at least 50 employees should include in its statutes a set of rules concerning the respect for human rights.

Last week, the members of the Commission had modified the title of the law too, recalling it “law promoting human dignity and tolerance of group differences.”

PNL announced that it would vote against the draft law even if amended. The plenum will decide the draft law’s fate on Wednesday, the Lower Chamber being the decisional body.

UDMR President on defamation law: It’s possible for one to write such a draft if one has no other business

Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) will vote against the defamation law or will abstain, depending on the Judiciary Commission’s report, and “will certainly not” vote in favour of the draft, UDMR President Kelemen Hunor stated on Monday evening.

“Some said this (the defamation law – editor’s note) could be to the benefit of the Hungarian community too, because we are permanently insulted on Facebook, online too, but not only there if you take a look at several private television shows. (…) The important thing is that this is a wrong approach, we will vote against it or will abstain, depending on the report, but we will certainly not vote in favour of this draft law,” the UDMR President stated on TVR.

He added that he cannot comment on the new form of the draft law before reading the Judiciary Commission’s report in order to see “what the nuances are,” however he clearly rejected the possibility that UDMR would support the draft, irrespective of its final form.

“With the educational part we can agree, but there is no need for such a law for this. Of course, it’s possible for one to write such a draft if one has no other business,” the UDMR President said.

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