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IFJ backs journalists in row over prime minister's attack on media

(IFJ/IFEX) - 13 April 2010 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European network of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), today accused Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc of "intolerance" over the ruling party's call for an official boycott of media in a dispute over coverage of his government's work.

The dispute is focused on the work of two networks -- Realitatea TV and Antena 3 -- which the Prime Minister has accused of not giving the government an opportunity to reply to critical reports.

"The actions of the Prime Minister illustrate a degree of intolerance that is chilling for press freedom," said EFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "Romania is supposed to follow European standards and must not get itself caught up in actions that try to limit the freedom of the media to investigate and criticise government. Journalists are entitled and required to monitor politicians whether they like it or not."

According to reports, Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc wrestled the microphone from a reporter working for the private network Realitatea TV and then publicly accused the network of "misinforming and distorting Romanian reality." He also claimed that both Realitatea TV and a second network, Antena 3, failed to take account of official statements in their reporting on many government departments. He said he had been "disturbed" by the fact that the government's spokeswoman was not allowed to exercise a right of reply.

Shortly after this incident, the ruling party (PDL) announced that no member of the party should participate in Realitatea TV or Antena 3 programmes anymore.

The EFJ has joined its Romanian affiliate, the Federation of Romanian Journalists MediaSind, in deploring the stance of the Prime Minister. "This official boycott amounts to censorship, which is unacceptable under democratic rule," added White. "It also bodes ill for pluralism in Romanian media."

The IFJ, which receives funding for humanitarian aid to victims of violence against journalists from the Brussels-based Vintu Foundation, established by the owners of Realitatea TV, says that the Prime Minister should make his complaints about coverage in a formal and professional manner and not get involved in physical confrontations with reporters.

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