The declaration of a state of emergency in Romania due to COVID-19 has brought with it a first for the country – the authorities have started to close down news sites for promoting false information related to the pandemic.
The first victim of the decree was the stiridemoment.ro website on 18 March. An article wrongly stated that supermarket chains Kaufland, Auchan, Metro, Carrefour and Lidl were closed because of the pandemic.
On March 17, the same website published an article entitled “The government is secretly preparing a mega-operation to bring Romanians from abroad to the country.”
The Ministry of Interior citing both stories to request closure of the website. Both were widely reproduced on social networks.
On 26 March, one month after the detection of the first case of COVID-19 in Romania, another website, bpnews.ro, was closed on the grounds that it was spreading information whose veracity has been refuted by the authorities. The article in question claims that Polidin, a Romanian vaccine “kills the coronavirus”.
Also on 26 March, a similar decision was taken to silence the breackingnews.xyz website. However, created on a Russian platform, the website was still operational after the request for its closure, despite the Government’s request of the authorities for its total blocking.
On 7 April, the website cohortaurbana.ro was also shut down for publishing articles such as “SARS, Bioterrorism and the Media,” published on 28 March, and “Russia is concerned about the proximity of American biological laboratories near its borders, on 30 March.
On 10 April, it was the turn of the site blacktopics.wordpress.com for several articles linking COVID-19 to 5G technology.
On 14 April 14, the r.news-romania24.xyz and news-romania24.xyz websites were also closed. According to the authorities, an article such as “It’s official! Italy, Germany, France close their borders for two years” misinformed Romanians abroad that they could not return to the country. Another article published on these websites is titled: “Russia comes to Romania’s aid. The Russian army will fight the coronavirus in Romania”.
The list of closed websites is longer, but the general impression is that no websites have been targeted unfairly by the authorities and It is not clear if the decisions will be challenged in court.
(Georgi Gotev | EURACTIV.com, Sebastian Rotaru | EURACTIV.ro)