17 January 2007
Journalists Protest over “Disturbing” Comments of Romanian Justice Minister
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is backing the Romanian media’s protests over “disturbing and inappropriate” comments made by Romanian Justice Minister Monica Macovei, which they say violate the rights of one of the country’s leading journalists by publicly questioning his newspaper’s right to criticise her.
Following comments by Justice Minister Macovei, veteran journalist Sorin Rosca Stanescu, director of the newspaper ZIUA, lodged a complaint accusing her of abusing her authority.
His action follows public comments by the minister that suggested Stanescu and his newspaper have no right to criticise her ministry while he is a defendant in a court case in which he is accused of having used confidential information.
“A journalist facing trial has the right to expect the assumption of innocence until his case is dealt with, particularly from the Minister of Justice” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “When such a high-ranking official appears to undermine this principle it is both disturbing and inappropriate.”
White said that the IFJ and its European regional group, the European Federation of Journalists, were supporting their Romanian affiliate MediaSind, which has described this as “another case” of abuse of journalists’ rights by justice officials.
The minister sparked the controversy when she made public comments which have been widely reported. She mentioned the ongoing trial against ZIUA Director Stanescu, suggesting that he and his newspaper’s journalists should ease their pressure on the Ministry of Justice, because of his own “trouble with justice.”
This perceived interference has angered many observers who believe it implies Stanescu is guilty in advance of his trial and could be interpreted as pressure on the judges who will hear the case. The judges handling the case are appointed by the Justice Minister.
Stanescu has submitted petitions asking the Senate House and to the Chamber of Deputies to take action against the minister. He has also lodged a court action against her.
“This is a moment when a minister should remain silent in the interests of justice,” said White. “Neither justice nor press freedom is served by trying to use this case to avoid legitimate press scrutiny.”
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide