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A Romanian man holds aloft a sign reading "All for justice" during a demonstration against planned changes in the law.

Hundreds of judges and prosecutors have protested across Romania against planned changes in the legal system that they say will hamper prosecutions and endanger public safety.

The protests on December 18 were staged outside courts in the capital, Bucharest, and other large cities such as Cluj, Galati, Brasov, and Constanta.

The magistrates' protests came a day after thousands of Romanians nationwide demonstrated in freezing weather against the ruling Social Democrats' drive to amend judicial legislation.

Changes proposed by the leftist parliamentary majority include banning public statements about investigations and trials and allowing suspects to be present when witnesses are giving testimony.

Prosecutors say that could mean, for example, the victim of a pedophile being obliged to give evidence in front of the suspected abuser.

An agency charged with prosecuting organized crime and terrorism said last week that 1,200 drug-trafficking cases would be halted if the amendments became law.

Under another proposed change, video footage of alleged offenses could no longer be shown in court.

On December 17, some 4,000 protesters marched from government headquarters to parliament in Bucharest, and thousands more staged similar demonstrations in other cities.

Centrist President Klaus Iohannis, the European Commission, and the U.S. State Department have criticized the proposed changes to judicial legislation, saying they could derail the rule of law.

The drive to change anticorruption legislation started in January, and comes as both speakers of parliament’s lower house and senate are currently on trial in separate corruption cases.

Based on reporting by,, AP, and Reuters
Journalist Mykola Semena

The top court in Ukraine's Russia-controlled Crimea region has upheld a separatism conviction against journalist Mykola Semena in a case that has been criticized by media freedom advocates and Western governments.

The court, which Russia calls the Supreme Court of Crimea, left the conviction and suspended 2 1/2-year sentence in place in its ruling on December 18.

At the same time, it shortened -- from three years to two -- the period of time during which Semena is prohibited from working as a journalist.

Semena, an RFE/RL contributor, was sentenced in a case described by rights groups and Western governments as politically motivated.

RFE/RL President Tom Kent condemned the verdict and sentence when they were imposed in September, describing them as "part of an orchestrated effort by Russian authorities in Crimea to silence independent voices."

A contributor to RFE/RL's Krym.Realii (Crimea Realities), Semena was arrested by the Russia-imposed authorities in April 2016 and charged with acting against the “territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.’’

Semena says the accusation was politically motivated and violated fundamental freedoms and that Russian authorities based their case on an inaccurate translation of one of his stories from Ukrainian into Russian.

The United States, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and international media watchdogs have all condemned the trial and verdict.

Human rights advocates say Russia and the authorities Moscow has installed in Crimea conduct a persistent campaign of oppression that targets opponents of Crimea's annexation, including many among the region's indigenous Crimean Tatars, independent media outlets, and journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's government moved swiftly to seize control over Crimea after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power in Kyiv.

Russia sent troops without insignia to the Black Sea peninsula, orchestrated a takeover of government bodies, and staged a referendum that was widely considered illegitimate by the international community.

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About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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