To the attention of:

General Prosecutor of Romania, Mrs. Gabriela Scutea

The Direction of Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism Crimes (DIICOT), Mrs. Oana Daniela Pâțu, Deputy Chief Prosecutor 

The Judiciary Inspection, Chief inspector Mr. Lucian Netejoru 

Minister of Justice, Mr. Catalin Predoiu

Dear Madam/Sir,

We express our indignation at the actions of the DIICOT Braila prosecutors who searched the home of journalist Alin Cristea, including the home of his parents, and the editorial office of the newspaper debraila.ro and confiscated telephones, computers and other equipment.

By confiscating this equipment, DIICOT prosecutors blocked a publication from appearing and violated the confidentiality of journalistic sources, abusive acts in any democratic society.

Moreover, the DIICOT prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation case against the journalist Alin Cristea and the publication debraila.ro for committing the crime of distributing or possessing child pornography materials. According to the DIICOT press release, this case was opened only on the basis of the publication of an article (on a topic of public interest and which was done with the protection of the victim’s identity).

The searches, confiscation and opening of the criminal investigation file follow the publication by the journalist, in the newspaper debraila.ro, of a material on a subject of maximum public interest: the physical aggression of a minor.

In addition, national publications showed that the journalist Alin Cristea had entered the spotlight of the law enforcement officers from Brăila after criticizing the head of the Braila Police. A DIICOT Braila prosecutor contacted the journalist to defend the police chief. The latter was removed from the office shortly after the articles were published by the journalist, and the DIICOT’s action in force followed a few days later, which raises serious suspicions about the real reasons for the searches, confiscation and opening of the criminal case against the journalist and the publication he leads.

We remind you that the abuse of DIICOT prosecutors is not unique. Just a few months ago, Libertatea and Newsweek were summoned to DIICOT headquarters for questioning following a complaint by the mayor of Sector 4, in which he accused the journalists of being involved in blackmail and organized crime, but without presenting any evidence related to the object of blackmail, apart from press articles. DIICOT’s abuse became apparent after the press revealed that the case prosecutor was married to the lawyer of one of the relatives of the mayor of Sector 4. DIICOT closed the case for the organized crime charge, but a DNA file was disjointed for the blackmail accusation, although the evidence is obviously missing. ActiveWatch, along with Reporters Without Borders, addressed you in this case as well, and by your inaction, the prosecutors violation of journalists’ rights continues.

Such abusive actions, disproportionate or ignoring the rights of journalists, from prosecutors or police officers are not unique. We remind you that in 2017 the DIICOT prosecutors searched the house of a whistleblower from the public radio and put her on trial, at the complaint of the President-General Manager of this public media institution. The whistleblower anonymously informed the press about the abusive expenses of this President-General Manager , and the courts ruled in favor of the whistleblower and DIICOT eventually closed the case. One of the DIICOT prosecutors who acted in the abusively opened case against the journalist from the public radio station, instead, recently closed a file regarding the surveillance of two journalists and two magistrates. A former police officer and a former SRI officer were among those responsible for surveilling and surreptitiously recording and recording the journalists.

Added to this, there is another recent worrying phenomenon: the increasing convening of journalists to police stations or to the prosecutor to disclose their sources, without the slightest understanding of the inviolable rights that journalists enjoy when it comes to protecting their sources.

In view of the above, we ask you to take action, in accordance with the legal responsibilities of the institutions you manage, for:

  • The investigation of the way in which the investigation of the DIICOT Braila prosecutors in the case of Alin Cristea and of the publication debraila.ro was carried out.
  • The investigation of the manner in which the search warrants were issued by the Judge of Rights and Freedoms from the Braila Tribunal. Has there been a real verification of the validity of the mandates requested by DIICOT Braila by the Judge of Rights and Freedoms?
  • The urgent termination of proceedings in the child pornography file opened on the name of the journalist Alin Cristea and of the publication debraila.ro and the urgent return of the confiscated equipment.
  • The implementation at the level of the National Institute of Magistracy of sustained training programs for magistrates in the field of ECHR jurisprudence on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and the rights of journalists, such as the protection of sources.

All the cases mentioned by us above indicate a significant deterioration of press freedom, which is worrying for a democratic space. Accusing journalists, who publish in good faith, of such serious acts as organized crime or the distribution or possession of child pornography, the practices of removing computer equipment from newsrooms, especially in situations where it directly affects journalism, or home searches are intimidating tactics that affect not only the people directly targeted, but also impact the democratic space, freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

ActiveWatch

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Association for Technology and Internet  – ApTI

Association Kompatibil

Association Miliția Spirituală

Association Átlátszó Erdély (Transylvania Transparent)

Center for Public Innovation

Center for Independent Journalism

CeRe: Center of Respurces for public participation

Respiro – Human Rights Research Centre

The Romanian Union of Journalists MediaSind

 

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