By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
Romanian daily newspaper Adevarul (The Truth) rose eyebrows when it decided to reveal the source of a piece of news which angered the Romanian PM Victor Ponta and who rushed to call the journalists “liars”, an unprecedented decision in the post-communist Romanian media but which the newspaper defends as a last resort means to protect its credibility.
It all started on Sunday when the reporters of the newspaper published a news item saying PM Ponta was flying from Craiova, a city in SW Romania where he had paid a short visit, to Satu Mare, in NW Romania, on board of a military plane, citing sources among local officials in Craiova.
Ponta was quick to report. “I have read on Adevarul website that I had been flown here aboard a military plane. Daily Adevarul is a lie as you have probably realized. We are civilians, we move about by what civilians move about” Ponta reacted after landing in Satu Mare.
In return, Adevarul decided to disclose the name of the source who had revealed Ponta was flying on a military plane. “To correctly inform the readers of daily Adevarul on the information presented over the day and to let them know that the article, which says from the very title it is quoting sources, had a research in accordance with the journalistic ethics, daily Adevarul decided to disclose the quoted sources” the newspaper read in an add publish on Sunday evening.
Adevarul recounts that a local source in Craiova had told its reporters PM Ponta had left Craiova by a military plane, but the director of the Craiova airport had dismissed the accuracy of this report. Following this and later Ponta’s reaction, Adevarul called its source and asked for written proof or an official point of view which shall sustain the information Ponta had flown a military plane. The newspaper also says it had warned its source that but for this evidence it would have to disclose the source so it proves it is not part of a political game.
The source turned out to be the spokesman of the Dolj County Police (Craiova is the county capital city) who alleged he had got this piece of information about Ponta aboard a military plane from an employee of the city airport. Adevarul alleges it had agreed with the spokesman to disclose his name “after the credibility of daily Adevarul was on the line”. The newspaper says it had decided to publish the news without an official source quoted in it pending confirmation of the information this sources had provided.
The happening is without precedent in post-communist media and comes amid the electoral campaign for the Euro-elections on 25 May set to be won by Ponta’s social-democratic party and a cluster of small parties grouped around it. Ponta is very sensitive about anything that might damage his image since he is the front-runner for November’s presidential elections which will close a decade long two consecutive term office of President Traian Basescu, Ponta’s political arch-rival.