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Romanian football club officials threaten journalists, censor media outlets

Steaua Bucharest's head coach Laurentiu Reghecampf acknowledges the crowd a football match on 7 March 2013. According to ActiveWatch, Reghecampf threatened journalists in August 2012.
Steaua Bucharest's head coach Laurentiu Reghecampf acknowledges the crowd a football match on 7 March 2013. According to ActiveWatch, Reghecampf threatened journalists in August 2012.

REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

The following is a letter from Răzvan Martin, Coordinator of the FreeEx Program at ActiveWatch, to the The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Attention: The Media Committee
Subject: FC Steaua behaviour towards journalists

ActiveWatch, a Romanian human rights NGO concerned with freedom of expression and press freedom, expresses its outrage towards the unacceptable behaviour by Steaua Football Club officials against journalists and media outlets.

On 22 June, in Skopje, Macedonia, the manager of the Steaua Football Club, Meme Stoica, the press officer, Cătălin Făinişi and several bodyguards contracted by the club assaulted journalist Alexandra Tănăsescu and cameraman Viorel Molan, from Pro TV television, before the game against Vardar Skopje, a Macedonian team.

The aggressors did not allow the journalists to attend the official training of the team. Alexandra Tănăsescu and Viorel Molan were suddenly stricken, cursed and kicked off the grounds by Meme Stoica and the press officer. Subsequently, Tănăsescu required doctors to bandage her arm. Moreover, the journalist was immobilized and had her phone confiscated by the club's press officer, who deleted the recording of the incident. The Pro TV operator managed to capture the incident on camera and hand it to the police.
The Skopje Tribunal fined Mihai Stoica 400 euros for his deeds on 23 July.

ActiveWatch wants to inform the UEFA that this is not an isolated incident, but part of a long series of threats, insults, harassment and physical aggressions committed by Steaua officials against journalists, who are often prevented from accessing the team's actions (details in the Annex below). Most of the time, these actions come in response to the critical way in which journalists report on the behavior of those who run the club. So far, the club has expressed no regrets for the deeds of its employees, nor has it shown any signs that its attitude towards journalists is improving. On the contrary, things are getting worse by the day.

Such incidents have no place in football and therefore we call on the international football authorities to intervene in order to sanction and discourage those responsible.

ActiveWatch is a human rights organization in Romania that militates for free communication in the public interest. Our organization is part of the international networks Reporters without Borders and IFEX.

Răzvan Martin
Coordinator of the FreeEx Program, ActiveWatch


Here is a list of the most serious situations which took place over the past years:

1. TV show stopped due to pressure from Steaua's owner

In January 2011, the online TV channel stopped airing its show, "Seriously." The producers of the show, Mihai Mironică and Radu Banciu, often mocked Gigi Becali, the owner of the Steaua football team. Because of the show, Becali prohibited access to the Pro TV and channels at all events organized by the club, such as interviews, trainings and press conferences. The channel ended the show, despite the fact that it had one of the best performances of the channel, with 147,862 viewers.

2. Laurențiu Reghecampf and Mihai Stoica threaten and insult journalists

Laurențiu Reghecampf, coach of the Steaua București football team, threatened journalists. On 9 August 2012, when he was exiting the hotel in which he stayed for his team's training camp in Austria, the technician told them to stop taking pictures. The journalists did not stop. "I'll break your cameras and then I'll kick the shit out of all of you", he shouted, calling the Antena1 operator "an idiot", after which he left . The Steaua coach has had such outbursts in the past.

Beginning on 30 June, the Steaua București football team, along with its new coach, Laurențiu Reghecampf, was at a training camp in Austria for over a week. Several Romanian journalists from sports publications had also been sent to Kaprun, the city in which the training was being conducted.

Gazeta Sporturilor sent reporter Ionuț Răureanu and Prosport sent Daniel Vlad. On July 2, one of them was taking some pictures during a training and the players told him him that he would be sued by the club if he published the pictures. In the evening, manager Mihai Stoica called them at the hotel, in order to discuss the collaboration between Steaua and the journalists during the junket. "I don't respect you. I can see it in your eyes that you do not respect me either", Stoica's speech began. Răureanu interrupted him: "MM, we did not come here so that you can psychoanalyze us", and at that point, coach Reghecampf intervened, saying: "You're a bit impertinent, a bit cheeky. You got a little bit too much nerve, I'll talk to your boss!", and he told the journalist that he could call anybody, but his call would have no effect. "I'll prove to you that if I don't want you to write something, you won't write it. I'll call your superiors and I'll prove it to you", added Reghecampf, but the GSP journalist claimed again that at his publication, that was impossible. At that point, Steaua's coach raised his voice, going towards the journalist: "You really are a bozo, you're a moron! Get out of here, before I kick your ass". Mihai Stoica put himself in front of the coach, telling him to stop .

After the incident, when he was called on the phone for an intervention in a sports show, Laurențiu Reghecampf confirmed the dialogue, but added: "I did not threaten him and I did not want to beat him up. It was only a discussion between two men." After the Steaua-Spartak Trnava friendly game on 2 August, 2012, when he was called on the phone, on live TV, during the "The exact time in sports", Mihai Stoica had a nervous outburst, insulting journalist Alin Buzarin, who was on the set. "I advise you to mind your own business and say whatever you want, but don't you tell me ... don't you recommend to me what I have to say. You cheeky bastard, you notorious imbecile! If you're not interested, stop calling me. You retard! If you're not interested, stop calling me", Stoica said and then he hung up.

3. The Steaua club causes victimizes journalists

On January 22, 2013, the management of the Evenimentul zilei daily demoted journalist Daniel Conțescu from his position as head of the Sports section, after he published an article about the Steaua club under the ownership of Gigi Becali. Simona Ionescu, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, made the decision by invoking the fact that "the article did not reflect what we had discussed in the briefing”. Instead, the journalist accused them of editorial pressures and decided to resign, together with his deputy, Octavian Cojocaru, with whom he had written the article in question. Conțescu accuses the management of sanctioning him because "he failed to execute an order: that of being lenient with Gigi Becali" .

Octavian Cojocaru offered the most details related to this incident: "Wednesday's text was the improved version, after one of the shareholders, Dan Andronic, did not endorse what we wrote. The management changed our text, so that only the good things about Gigi [Becali - our note] were left. They deleted many statements, pictures and photo explanations that attacked the Steaua sponsor! They managed to create some reverential pages, but we do have a backbone and will not stand for it" . The main shareholder of the publication, political advisor Dan Andronic, denies the accusations and claims that the journalists were only requested to write an unbiased article: "He was asked nothing else than to write an unbiased article regarding Becali's mandate at Steaua for the last 10 years; under no circumstance was he asked to coddle him."

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