Romanian journalists call for action after facing threats and intimidation – POLITICO

Two prominent Romanian journalists say they have faced threats and intimidation for publishing stories criticizing powerful public figures, raising the specter of new rule of law problems in the country.

Emilia Şercan, an investigative reporter who has written extensively on allegations of academic plagiarism by top officials, told POLITICO that last September, while investigating allegations that Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă had plagiarized a large part of his doctoral thesis, photos of one of them were stolen Her computers appeared on foreign adult websites in what she called “a clear attempt to intimidate me.”

Şercan, who is also a lecturer in journalism at the University of Bucharest, said that after her investigation was published in January this year, she received a threatening message on her mobile phone referring to the images. She recorded the message and forwarded it to local police as part of a criminal complaint. But then her message to the police themselves was leaked online, which Şercan says led them to suspect institutional insiders were part of the attempt to frame her.

She then filed a separate complaint, but Şercan said she felt the police didn’t take it seriously, especially those whose bosses had been the subject of their investigations over the years.

The Interior Ministry called In response, she issued a public statement condemning attempts to intimidate journalists and had “confidence that the institutions responsible for investigating criminal cases” will resolve the journalist’s complaint.

Şercan went public with her account last week, strike what she called a “Kompromat-style” campaign against her, pointing to the complicity of police officers.

She told POLITICO that the European Union should “closely monitor how the institutions designed to ensure the protection of citizens work and how the Romanian government guarantees or does not guarantee freedom of expression”.

The European Commission has supervised Romania on corruption, judicial reform and organized crime since joining the EU in 2007, and the EU executive’s last rule of law report last summer praised Bucharest’s reform efforts in recent years.

Cristian Pantazi, the editor of the Romanian news website, said he was recently after the publication of a article Criticism of conspiracy theories circulating on social media about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by a professor at the country’s state military academy.

Pantazi said he gave the academic time to respond to the allegations before publication, as usual, but then Pantazi’s wife was contacted by an institution worker, who urged her to prevent her husband from publishing the article. Pantazi published another article detailing the academy employee’s threats.

In a response to Pantazi’s account of the professor, the military academy said its staffers’ posts on social media are their individual responsibility. The academy employee also apologized and said he had no intention of threatening the reporter’s wife.

NGOs like ActiveWatch and the Committee to Protect Journalists have done so spoken to defend himself both Pantazi and Şercan. The Council of Europe published a Explanation on his website, which details what happened to Şercan and says she is a “victim of [a] hate campaign.”

Prime Minister Ciucă told local media through a spokesman that he denies plagiarizing his academic work and calls for a swift investigation into journalists’ reports of intimidation.

“The Romanian government fully supports freedom of the press. Romania is a democratic country where the right to information and freedom of expression are sacred,” said the Prime Minister’s spokesman called. “Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă demands that the relevant authorities investigate any form of intimidation of journalists and that those responsible are held accountable.”

Regarding Pantazi’s complaints, spokesmen for Ciucă, a senior retired general, told local media the prime minister condemned the intimidation of journalists and called for investigations to establish the perpetrators’ guilt.

“Attempted intimidation by a representative of a military institution is extremely serious, especially when it is directed at a journalist’s family. It’s a symptom of the impunity these military cadres feel they enjoy for having gotten away with similar cases with no consequences,” Pantazi said.

A government spokesman declined to comment further when approached by POLITICO.

Şercan said the prime minister should respond more forcefully, arguing that not putting more pressure on law enforcement to investigate properly would make him, at least indirectly, an “accomplice”.

“The time that has already elapsed has given those involved an opportunity to cover their tracks,” she said. “Leaders need a strong political message.”

Şercan expressed concern that her case may already make other investigative journalists in the country think twice about tackling sensitive issues.

“The Romanian press is being prevented from doing its job, also because of this case,” she said. “I think other journalists have interpreted this case as if something similar could happen to them.” Romanian journalists call for action after facing threats and intimidation - POLITICO

Fry Electronics Team

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