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Romania9 November 2004

Local authorities again target the daily Ziarul de Vrancea

A journalist covering presidential elections for a local daily in Focsani, north-east of the capital Bucharest was subjected to harassment by three separate political and official figures in the space of a few hours on 6 November 2004.

Reporters Without Borders and Romania’s Media Monitoring Agency (MMA) expressed alarm at attempts to intimidate Sebastian Oancea, of the Ziarul de Vrancea (The Vrancea newspaper) while covering the campaign of the ruling Social Democratic Party in alliance with the Romanian Humanist Party (PSD-PUR Union).

The two press freedom organisations recalled that journalists on the same newspaper have previously been subjected to official local harassment. Representatives of the local authority have launched a total of 160 legal actions against the paper.

In this first incident, George Baesu, former prefect and PSD parliamentary candidate, told Oancea: "You deserve to be beaten for what you have written!"

In a second incident Oancea approached the president of the municipal authority, Marian Oprisan, to take his photo. The official then told journalists present at a press conference that they should "stay within a special area for journalists, like in the civilised world".

Journalists are ordered to maintain a distance of three metres to film or photograph Marian Oprisan.

Finally, Oancea asked local police chief Silviu Crin Grosu, "Mr Grosu, did you know that the Ministry of Administration and Interior has banned local police officials from participating in the election campaign?" The police chief replied: "Mr Oancea, unless I am mistaken, your mother works for us at the inspector’s office, doesn’t she? "And what does that have to do with my question?" the journalist asked. "There could very well be a connection," the police chief replied.

The municipal authorities in 2002 blocked sales of the newspaper by bringing in cranes to demolish half a dozen kiosks selling the paper. The kiosks had become the sole sales outlet after the public distribution company Rodipet broke its contract with the newspaper.

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