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The Ombudsman: Attacks against Media Launched by High-Ranking Persons Are Unacceptable

06 May 2020
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Ombudsman Mihail Cotorobai urges the authorities to stop denigrating the press and describes “attempts to suppress critical voices”, especially those made by high-ranking state officials, as alarming, according to the statement published on Tuesday, May 5. The reaction followed the day after the messages regarding the media were published by Prime Minister Ion Chicu and were denounced by non-governmental media organizations.

The Ombudsman recalls that, according to international standards, “people have the right to express their points of view, even if their opinions are offensive or shocking to others unless they incite violence or hatred”.

“Attempts to suppress critical voices are alarming, yet the fact that they come from high-ranking state officials is even more alarming. The fact that intimidating messages incite violence against journalists working for some media outlets and generate hatred and controversy among people is equally worrying and dangerous. (...) Such behavior is unacceptable, it contributes to generating an overall atmosphere of intolerance and fear, and can serve as a stimulus for new cases of violence and harassment against the press “, the Ombudsman argues.

Mihail Cotorobai reminds us that the press is supposed to have unrestricted and timely access to information of public interest and recalls that, during the state of emergency, the media’s access to information was limited.

The Ombudsman’s reaction followed after Prime Minister Ion Chicu posted a message on Facebook criticizing the media institutions, especially Pro TV channel, “Our formidable artists no longer find their place on the screens of all those ‘protv’s’ – manele have taken their place (…) the ‘independent press’ financed by the manele has no chance”. (Manele is a popular genre of music in Romania. - Translator’s note).

The non-governmental media organizations denounced the defamatory messages posted by the head of the executive power and demanded from both the Prime Minister and his communications adviser, Vitalie Dragancea, to publicly apologize to the media representatives, in particular to those from Pro TV. They also requested Dragancea’s resignation.