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Journalist sues Council of Ministers over refusal to disclose information

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 20 April 2010 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East and Central Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is alarmed at the political pressure being exercised on media in both Romania and Bulgaria.

According to information received by SEEMO, on 13 April 2010 in Romania's Senate, Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc grabbed the microphone of a journalist working for the private network Realitatea TV and then publicly accused Realitatea TV of causing disorder through biased and misinformed broadcasting. Boc claimed to be disturbed by the fact that a government spokeswoman had not been allowed to reply to critical reports on Realitatea TV.

Networks Antena 2 and Antena 3 have also come under fire from Boc in the past. Antena 3 has even been sanctioned by the National Council of the Audience (CNA), and now Realitatea TV faces the same possibility. Romania's ruling political party (PDL) announced that all its members should immediately cease communicating with Realitatea TV and Antena 3.

It is cause for alarm that pressure is being exerted through a call for politicians to boycott certain media outlets. The political pressure is preventing journalists and media executives from carrying out their work professionally and independently.

SEEMO supports The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European network of The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in their statement on this matter.

Meanwhile, SEEMO expressed concern that Pavlina Trifonova, a Bulgarian journalist working with the daily newspaper 24 Hours, had to file a lawsuit against the Bulgarian Council of Ministers in April 2010 in order to receive information she had requested.

Trifonova filed a lawsuit over the refusal of the Bulgarian Council of Ministers to provide information on expenses during trips abroad by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

Trifonova requested information on the number of business trips, the locations they involved, and the expenses incurred. The Council of Ministers simply informed Trifonova that Borisov pays his own costs.

After Trifonova filed the lawsuit against the Council of Ministers, all of the requested information was provided to her.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said: "SEEMO is alarmed about these cases, all of which involve political pressure on journalists and the principle of freedom of expression. It is vital that journalists be able to report freely on current affairs and matters of public concern. Any attempts to influence media independence are unacceptable. The exercise of media independence is fundamental to the credibility of a media organisation, and for governments to seek ways to undermine this principle is appalling in countries that are members of the European Union."

He added: "SEEMO calls upon Romanian and Bulgarian state officials, and officials of the political parties, to express any dissatisfaction towards journalists in another, democratic way instead of blocking communication. They must keep in mind that in a democratic society critical reporting is vital."

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