By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
A reader of a local news website was fined by the police in the town of Dej for a critical commentary aimed at the law enforcing institution posted on the website’s forum section, the chief-editor of the website announced, pointing out this is a first in post-communist Romania.
“A reader of Dejeanul.ro has been fined 1000 lei (about 240 Euros) after posting a critical comment against the Dej Police. On what basis? Based on law 61, namely antisocial acts in the public, according to the minute”, Alex Prunean, the chief-editor of the website said in an article posted on his blog. If confirmed, this is the first such case in post-communist Romania when a reader is fined for his comments expressed on a forum.
Prunean also says he tried to contact the reader in order to make the case public because it is a sheer violation of freedom of speech, but the latter preferred to pay the fine and avoid further problems. “I don’t condemn him. As things work at the Dej Police, as I said before, problems could come up where you expected the least. In order to avoid that others be in the same situation to pay dearly because in a democratic country, an EU member state, they had the courage to freely express their opinion while disturbing some people who had the feeling they are tied to the leadership chairs, I preferred to censor the comment” Prunean added.
He also mentioned similar cases when the Dej Police committed abuses, such as the one when a 13 years old school girl was taken to the station after her uncle had posted a critical comment against the local police on her Facebook page. Prunean also said he and his colleagues from the local media had received repeated threats and had been under various forms of intimidation, such as being brought to the local police station in order to be interrogated over articles they had written.
He published an open letter on his blog in which he calls on the chief of Dej Police to observe the freedom of speech and start cooperating with the local media whose access to public information the police has entirely blocked. “I am asking you, those leading the Dej Police whom I know are media readers, don’t you think it is more important that information reaches the public in a correct manner, instead of us publishing lies and suppositions?” Prunean asked himself rhetorically.
Romania is ranked 45 in the latest top of media freedom done by Reporter Without Borders. Bulgaria is the lowest ranked among the EU member states, placed on the 100th position.