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Population: 19 million
Internet penetration: 78%
17th June 2024

At the beginning of the busiest electoral year ever, Romanian newsrooms face high levels of distrust and significant concerns about press freedom. In the last year, parliamentary parties have tried to limit the independence of the press, prosecutors refused to pursue two cases against an investigative journalist, and a foreign media investor fired its investigative team.

In December 2023, journalists took to the streets for the first time in more than two decades. They joined with human rights activists to protest outside the General Prosecutor Office, in support of Emilia Șercan, a journalist who uncovered plagiarism in the doctoral thesis of prime minister Nicolae Ciucă (2021–3). After publishing her investigation in 2022, she was threatened by unknown people and caught in a kompromat campaign involving the police. In 2023, the prosecutors working on these cases closed both of them, as a threat against a journalist was considered ‘not of public interest’, and the acts in the kompromat case either ‘did not exist’ or ‘were not provided for in criminal law’.

Newspapers Libertatea (generalist) and Gazeta Sporturilor (sports), both owned by Swiss-based Ringier, caught public attention with the firing of key staff in a dispute between journalists and management over editorial independence and ethics standards. In the summer of 2023, Mihnea Vasiliu, the CEO of Ringier Romania, left to be replaced by an interim CEO. During the autumn, several editors from Gazeta Sporturilor were removed by the interim CEO and then, in December, the renowned Libertatea investigative team, led by Cătălin Tolontan, and the editors of Libertatea were fired.

Journalists documented the whole process in Libertatea, exposing, for example, gambling companies’ attempts to control the editorial content of Gazeta Sporturilor. 'For its part, Ringier said that the dispute with its former editors was due to strategic and operational differences that had been building up for some time. The company also pointed to ‘falling print sales’ – down by 27% since 2018 – and rising newsprint costs leading to necessary restructuring including the closure of Gazeta Sporturilor's print edition. The company has since re-focused efforts on its digital portal Gazeta Sporturilor led the way in publishing an online edition, almost two decades ago, replicating its print edition, without a paywall – a model followed by most print newspapers. After the 2008 economic crisis, as audiences moved online, newspapers closed their print editions one by one, leaving Ringier with some of the last print titles.

The total advertising market has grown from €601m in 2021 to €657m in 2022 and €683m in 2023.1 However, most of this growth has been fuelled by increased spending on digital advertising (which now accounts for 37% of the total) where it is estimated that €9 out of every €10 spent on digital advertising goes to search and social platforms. Meanwhile traditional media’s share is also declining offline, TV for example had 51% of total advertising spend in 2023, down from 64% in 2019.

Political pressure on the media has increased, ahead of the busy 2024 electoral year, with local, parliamentary, presidential, and EU elections, and with the fourth largest parliamentary party, the far-right AUR party (The Alliance for the Union of Romanians) forecast to make gains. Almost half of the €45m public funds given to parliamentary parties last year was designated for ‘media and propaganda’.2 A recent EU report on the rule of law in Romania highlighted secret contracts between parties and media for political coverage, and called for their publication. The ‘media and propaganda’ funds may only represent about 3% of the total estimated advertising market, but can still have a powerful impact. Commentators complain that some coverage of the two main parties, now in coalition, is so positive it looks like political advertising, and that negative coverage is sometimes part of smear campaigns against political opponents, paid for by public funds.3

The EU report also warned further about risks to the independence of public service radio and TV. The governing boards of both institutions mainly comprise parliamentary parties’ representatives, in proportion to their seats in parliament. The state budget provides most of their annual income (around €83m each for radio and TV). The public media services law requires 1% of total broadcast time to be devoted to parliamentary parties, but this is fulfilled by broadcasting speeches either in their entirety (radio) or only partially moderated (TV).

In the case of independent journalists and newsrooms, the use of intimidating actions and SLAPPs, by politicians and other individuals, who are subject to media investigations, is widespread.

Raluca-Nicoleta Radu
University of Bucharest

Methodology note

We introduced education quotas in 2023 to make data more representative of national populations. Part of the declines in reach in the sources chart between 2022 and 2023 will be because there are more people with lower levels of education in our sample now, who typically have lower interest in news.

Pay for online news



Trust in news overall



Trust in the news overall is amongst the lowest in our survey. Despite this, some of the most used brands are trusted by over half our sample, including commercial and public mainstream media, that strive for moderation and balance in their news coverage. ProTV, with its flagship investigative programme Romania, I love you, remains the most used and trusted brand for news of those surveyed.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 68.45

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at

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1 Initiative, Media Factbook. Romania 2023.

2 Expert Forum, Subvențiile partidelor politice în 2023: Noi recorduri. 2024.

3 ActiveWatch, Political Parties, Money and the Media: A Toxic Relationship. 2023.

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