Are you feeling patriotic? Romanian legislators are considering a new addition to the criminal code that could mean jail time for disrespecting a host of national symbols and offices. The bill, being pushed through by the majority, would even target cartoonists and musicians.
'Group of 36'
The Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania - the Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) and five other Romanian NGOs are protesting the initiative of 36 MPs of the majority coalition, PSD-UNPR, to reintroduce in the criminal code the crime of "Offenses against some symbols" (renamed "Offenses against some national symbols"), a crime that was only just removed with the adoption of the new criminal code.
According to the legislative proposal initiated by the "Group of the 36," in Romania a punishment of up to three years in prison will be applied to authors and distributors of speeches, chants, articles, films, songs, drawings and cartoons that express disrespect towards the country's flag, the national anthem, and the emblems or insignia used by public authorities.
This could mean jail time for such things as disrespecting the badge of the National Agency of Fiscal Administration, insulting the coats of arms of counties and municipalities, or mocking judges' robes.
The majority's motive
Currently, disrespect for the anthem and the flag are sanctioned, through special regulations, by fines (GD no. 1157/2001). Sanctioning disrespect for these national symbols with a fine is more than sufficient; applying a criminal sentence to such acts, which would mean a criminal investigation, criminal prosecution and the risk of imprisonment, can only be proof of the fact that the MPs from the majority coalition want to prevent the public expression of attitudes and opinions critical of national authorities.
The signatories remind lawmakers that instead of arbitrarily restricting freedom of expression, a much more credible manner to express patriotism would be to initiate draft laws for the full transparency of public authorities in order to prevent corruption and the discretionary spending of public funds.
The organizations call on lawmakers to reject this "patriotism bill." They also call on the president of Romania not to promulgate this law if MPs will not resist the temptation to pose, for populist reasons, as staunch patriots.