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Fact check: Photo of massive protest in Romania is four years old and unrelated to COVID-19 restrictions

Flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat the online spread of misinformation, posts claim that an image of a massive crowd in Bucharest, Romania shows a recent protest against COVID-19 restrictions. This photo has been mislabeled, as it is from 2017 and shows protests in Bucharest against the Social Democrat government’s efforts to weaken a crackdown on corruption.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples of posts making this claim can be found here , here and here .  

On Feb. 5, 2017, geopolitical analyst and author Koert Debeuf tweeted the image with the caption: “Wow. Bucharest, Romania tonight. The people ask the government to leave” (here). Twelve minutes later, political scientist Ian Bremmer also tweeted the image with the caption, “Having won on anti-corruption, the Romanian people aren't backing down, want the government out. Bucharest now: (image)” (here). 

While the source of the image in question is unclear, it was circulating on social media nearly three years before the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in January 2020 (here).  

On Jan. 31, 2017, the one-month-old cabinet of Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu enraged voters when it approved an emergency decree that would have decriminalized several graft offenses (here).  

The decree, which was widely criticized in Romania and by its Western allies, prompted the largest display of popular anger since the fall of communism in 1989, with at least half a million people taking to the streets on Feb. 5, 2017.

Similar to the recirculating image, Reuters photos of protesters gathered in front of the government building during a Feb. 5, 2017 protest in Victorei Square in the capital city of Bucharest can be found here and here .  

As reported here by Vice News, Bucharest did witness protests against COVID-19 lockdown measures in the same location, Victorei Square, in July 2020. The scale of these protests, however, was nowhere close to the anti-government protests of 2017.  

VERDICT

Mislabeled. This image of a massive crowd in Bucharest does not show a protest against COVID-19 restrictions but a demonstration against the government’s efforts to decriminalize certain corruption offenses in 2017.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here  .  

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