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RFE/RL To Launch News Services In Romania, Bulgaria

People participate in a protest in front of the prime minister's office in Bucharest on June 20.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has announced plans to return to Romania and Bulgaria amid growing concern about a reversal in democratic gains and attacks on the rule of law and the judiciary in the two EU and NATO members.

The U.S. Congress-funded station will launch news services in the two Southeastern European countries starting in December.

RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said in a July 18 press release that he hoped the move would "help the growth of a free press, promote democratic values and institutions, and inform discussion in both countries of their place in NATO, the EU, and other Western organizations."

The RFE/RL press release also said that "government officials, civil society representatives, and journalists in both countries have expressed concern that disinformation, corruption, and social division are undermining their political systems."

Romania and Bulgaria, who joined the European Union in 2007, have been constantly rated among the most corrupt members of the bloc.

The recent dismissal of Romania's chief anticorruption prosecutor by the Constitutional Court, after years of investigations that resulted in multiple convictions of current and former officials, has sparked outrage among Romanians, who took to the streets in Bucharest and many other cities.

"Beginning in December 2018, RFE/RL will provide multimedia reporting and analysis in Bulgarian and Romanian and partner with local media to amplify existing projects that promote public accountability and debunk false news," the press release said.

RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service ended in 2004 while its Romanian counterpart ended in 2008.

During the Cold War, many Romanians and Bulgarians listened to RFE/RL. Listening to RFE/RL was considered a criminal offense in many communist countries.