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Were Romanian police ordered to target journalists at anti-corruption protest?

A man stands in front of anti-riot police during a demonstration in front of the Romanian Government headquarters, in Bucharest, 10 August 2018
A man stands in front of anti-riot police during a demonstration in front of the Romanian Government headquarters, in Bucharest, 10 August 2018

DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 17 August 2018.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) joins ActiveWatch, its partner organization in Romania, in condemning the police violence against around 15 journalists during a major anti-corruption protest in Bucharest on 10 August, and calls on the authorities to shed all possible light on what happened.

As thousands of Romanians continue to take to the streets every day to protest against corruption and call for the government's resignation, ActiveWatch issued a statement on 15 August condemning the unacceptable verbal and physical attacks by members of the gendarmerie against many of the journalists trying to cover the use of force to disperse the 10 August protest.

"The fact that gendarmes attacked many journalists suggests that they deliberately tried to prevent the public from being informed about the way they intervened against the demonstrators," ActiveWatch said.

The military prosecutor's office has begun an investigation.

RSF added: "Were orders given to prevent journalists from doing their work? All possible light must be shed on these acts of violence against the press, which are unworthy of a European Union member country."

RSF and ActiveWatch call on the security forces to publish the instructions they give to their personnel on how to behave towards journalists covering public events, and the sanctions to be applied when orders are not respected.

Journalists working for Deutsche Welle, Casa Jurnalistului, Documentaria.ro, Agerpres, Digi24 news TV were among those who were the targets of violence by gendarmes during the 10 August protest.

Robert Mihăilescu, a journalist with the Hotnews.ro website, was insulted and beaten by gendarmes, who also smashed his mobile phone. A gendarme sprayed teargas in the face of freelance photographer Ioana Moldovan and threatened her with a sexual assault although she was holding up her press card.

Two journalists with Austrian public radio and TV broadcaster ORF were also targeted: cameraman Robert Reinprecht was beaten with a baton and reporter Ernst Gelegs was slammed against a barrier.

More than 450 people, including around 30 gendarmes, were injured in clashes between protesters and gendarmes during the 10 August demonstration in Bucharest, in which an estimated 80,000 persons took part.

Romania is ranked 44th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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"...another deeply disturbing demonstration of the government’s determined efforts to cow Rappler into silence."… https://t.co/InIkBKrvpb

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