Freedom of expression in Romania: the case of whistle-blower Constantin Bucur

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Background

At a press conference in May 1996, Constantin Bucur publicly revealed abuses of power by the Romanian intelligence service, placing both his career and his liberty in jeopardy. For many years, the Romania authorities had been illicitly intercepting the phone calls of journalists, politicians and members of civil society. The response by the Llascu government was to place Constantin on trial for the disclosure of secret material, leading to two years imprisonment.

Judgment from the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Constantin’s right to freedom of expression had been violated. At the material time, no procedure existed in Romanian law allowing for whistle blowers like Constantin to safely disclose information that had been within the public interest. 

Country Situation

Although the conviction against the late intelligence officer has since been erased, the shortcomings in protections for whistle-blowers have yet to be rectified. In 2016, the Committee of Ministers noted that further efforts were necessary to bring Romanian legislation fully in-line with Strasbourg case law.

There continue to be allegations of surveillance on NGOs, journalists and political opponents. As late as 2016, Romania’s Constitutional Court ruled that the legislation allowing for intelligence services to conduct technical surveillance was imprecise, unclear and unpredictable.

Useful links to the Bucur and Toma v Romania case (Application No 40238/02)