The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is urging Romanian authorities to stop harassing journalists reporting on corruption and not to pursue criminal cases against them.
According to the daily newspaper Libertatea and the weekly magazine Newsweek Romania, four of their employees have been questioned by prosecutors at the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism since May 20 over the outlets’ coverage of alleged corruption in public works contracting.
“It is essential for journalists to be able to freely report on the use of public funds without fear of being harassed by law enforcement agencies,” Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in a statement on June 3.
She urged Romanian authorities to stop their investigation into the Libertatea and Newsweek Romania staffs, and called on public officials to “withstand scrutiny from the press rather than harass journalists for doing their jobs.”
Libertatea Editor in Chief Dan Duca and Newsweek Romania Editor in Chief Sabin Orcan told the CPJ that prosecutors interrogated the four employees in relation to a criminal complaint filed by Daniel Baluta, the mayor of Bucharest’s Section 4 district, who oversaw the public contract that the outlets suspect was tainted with corruption.
According to them, Baluta accused the four of establishing an “organized criminal group” to blackmail him into changing the contracting decision in favor of a company with the promise of “financial gain.”
Orcan called the accusations “totally absurd,” while Duca told the CPJ they constituted “a serious form of intimidation.”
Under Romania’s Criminal Code, blackmail and establishing an organized crime group are each punishable by up to five years in prison.