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Journalists' safety endangered by president's "abusive and offensive behaviour," says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 22 May 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Romanian President after "Abusive and Offensive" Comments to Reporter

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today accused Romanian President Traian Basescu of "abusive and offensive behaviour" after he snatched a reporter's mobile telephone and used sexist and racist language in response to her questions.

Romanian President Traian Basescu apologised yesterday for calling journalist Andreea Pana a "stinky Gypsy." He had been approached in a Bucharest supermarket on Saturday as Romanians were voting on whether to impeach him for alleged constitutional abuses. He overwhelmingly won the vote.

The reporter tried to ask him about the ballot and filmed him with a cell phone. Basescu snatched the phone from her, but it continued to record a conversation between Basescu and his wife in which he made offensive remarks. The telephone was later returned to the journalist and audio portions of the clip, which also included a reference to "aggressive pussy," were broadcast on Romanian TV stations.

"Such abusive and grossly offensive behaviour from a head of state is intolerable," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "There is no excuse for such actions which only reinforce concern over the dangers journalists face when they are doing their job."

The IFJ affiliated organisation in Romania MediaSind today condemned the President and noted that he has a record of attacking reporters in an offensive manner, calling one journalist a "faggot", another "stupid" and inviting a woman television reporter onto his table to show her his skills in resuscitation.

"This is no isolated incident," said White. "His hostility to reporters and the media is well known. His disgusting behaviour endangers the safety of anyone who is unlucky enough to get close to him. Our colleagues are right to be furious and to demand that action should be taken."

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide.

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