The National Liberal Party (PNL) challenged on Tuesday to the Constitutional Court (CCR) the amendments brought at the end of June to the Law on the Romanian Television Company and to the Law on the Romanian Radio Company, about which they say that will irremediably compromise the statute, the organizing and the functioning of the two autonomous public services of national interest, which are also regulated by the Constitution.
“Considering a large number of constitutional and legal arguments, PNL is asking CCR to decide that this law is entirely unconstitutional, since, in PNL’s opinion, it will irremediably compromise the statute, the organizing and the functioning of the two autonomous public services of national interest, which are also regulated by the fundamental law of Romania” PNL claims in a press release.
In the notification to CCR, PNL showed that the Senate, as the decisional Chamber, adopted the legislative proposal (the Law no263/2016) in the session of June 20, 2017, but with a significantly changed content compared to the form that was debated and adopted by the first notified chamber (the Deputies’ Chamber), thus breaching the principle of the bicameralism.
“On the merits, the legislative proposal, as it was adopted, breaches constitutional principles and rights and does not clarify the legal status of SRR and SRTv as a result of changing the financing modality introduced by the Law no.1 since January 6, 2017 on the removal of certain fees and tariffs, as well as on amending and supplementing certain normative acts” reads the notification submitted by Liberals to CCR.
PNL also explained in the notification addressed to CCR that the Romanian Government sent its negative opinion on the criticized legislative proposal in March, this year, to the Senate, and the Budget, Finance, Banking Activity and Capital Market Committee of the Senate also issued a negative opinion on June 14, 2016.
Thus, PNL notified CCR that the law in question breaches fundamental constitutional rights and allows unlawful interference of the state authorities over the right of association, which “do not comply with the established principle of proportionality related to the rigorousness of the requirements indicated by the European Court of Human Rights and by the Venice Commission”.
“The current SRR and SRTV Law is a defiance and a breach of the rights of the Romanian citizens abroad, which rights are recognized to them since 1994, when the original law was adopted” Liberals also claim.
In the notification to CCR, PNL has pointed out that the new law actually abolishes the constitutional obligation of the Romanian state to support the strengthening of the relations with the Romanian people abroad in terms of identity, ethnicity, culture, language or religion. Thus, according to PNL, the new law has totally abolished the stipulation (art.42) which was providing the financing of producing and broadcasting radio and TV shows addressed to the people abroad, thus blocking the activity of Radio Romania International and of TVR International. In turn, they claim, the shows held in the languages of the national minorities will also be financed by the funds allocated to the two companies from the state budget. According to PNL, the new law excludes the financing for purchasing licenses, producing and broadcasting major cultural, artistic and sports events, whether they are domestic or international (such as international sports competitions, national and international contests and festivals), thus significantly bringing a prejudice to the right of being informed of the Romanian citizens.
“We appreciate that the law amending the SRR and SRTV law is not only unconstitutional, but there is a real risk that this law, once it will be in force, will cause irremediable damages to the two autonomous public media services of national interest. The law does not comply with the principle of bicameralism, and many provisions are breaching fundamental rights recognized to the Romanian citizens. I appreciate that abolishing certain legal provisions breaching and restraining the rights of the Romanian people from abroad related to the support of their connection with the country, is a very serious matter. There are many examples within EU and in the entire world, showing that this kind of politicizing, populist actions caused by personal ambitions and related to a general common interest of the society, have led, over the time, to compromising the activity of certain public radio or TV channels. Moreover, this law will take SRR and SRTV executive leadership out of the Parliament’s control, and will place it into an arbitrary area, under political influences. We appreciate that the entire law is unconstitutional” stated Senator Iulia SCANTEI, Deputy Speaker of the Senate, who is also a member in the Culture and Media Committee of the Senate.
Liberals also claim that by separating the positions of the President and General Manager, PSD is actually aiming to take the executive position out of the Parliament’s control, placing it on the responsibility of a General Manager who will have most of the executive attributions, free of any liability towards the Parliament, while the Board of Directors will have a purely decorative role.
“The draft law also aimed, in 2017, to change the structure of the SRR and SRTV Boards of Directors, so they will not be able to end their term, but to end their activity much earlier, and to have a comfortable majority, according to the political algorithm established by the parliamentary elections of December 11, 2016” PNL also shows in the notification submitted to CCR.
At the end of June, the Senate, as the decisional chamber, adopted a number of amendments on the TVR Law and the Public Radio Law, one of the most important amendments being the separation of the position of the President from the one of the General Manager of the two institutions.