The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) join their Romanian affiliate MediaSind in firmly condemning the violent clashes in Bucharest which left many demonstrators and journalists injured, on Friday evening, August 10. The clashes left 452 wounded, including journalists.
Romanian gendarmes assaulted and verbally attacked with no reason journalists covering the protest around Victoriei Square, in Bucharest. Cases of physical attacks were reported by journalists Robert Mihăilescu (Hotnews.ro), Cristi Stefanescu (DW) and Vlad Ursulean (Casa Jurnalistului), by photojournalists Ioana Moldovan (Documentaria.ro) and Silviu Matei (Agerpres), and by reporter Cristian Popa and cameraperson Cristi Ban (Digi24 news TV). A camera operator of the Austrian public television ORF, Robert Reinprecht, was also beaten by the riot police after the square was cleared.
Robert Mihăilescu was hit repeatedly by officers while covering the protest. “A man in white grabbed my hand and took away my phone. I shouted that I am a journalist, and raised my press card above my head. The man pulled me towards the police officers, saying ‘take him too’. One of the officers then hit me with his fist, and pushed me back, while another officer kicked me from behind. I asked for my phone, telling them again that I am a journalist. An officer swore at me, kicked me, while another one was crushing my phone,” Mihăilescu said.
Ioana Moldovan wrote on a Facebook post: “After the police evacuated the Victoriei square using tear gas, I was with a group of protesters who found refuge on Buzești street. At a certain point, a group of law enforcement appeared from a side street, and circled the protesters. As the police officers were running towards us, I raised my hands above my head, holding my press card in one hand and my camera in another. I was alone. One officer approached me and sprayed tear gas into my eyes from a few centimeters away. I could not see anything. As I passed them, I said to them: ‘You sprayed directly into my eyes.’ One of the officers replied: ‘So what, you wanted me to f… you? You idiot, who sent you here to take pictures?’”. Moldovan sustained burns to her face and hand, for which she received treatment from the emergency services.
Silviu Matei wrote on Facebook that he was kicked by an officer as he bent down to pick up a tripod from the ground. “I was holding my press card, but nothing… You know what he said? I pee on your press card,” Matei said.
Cristian Popa said on Digi24 that “at a certain point two officers came towards us. One placed his baton against my neck and pushed me. He grabbed my colleague and started pushing us. We were shouting that we are journalists. Then another officer sprayed a jet of tear gas from a distance of 1-1.5 meters.”
Vlad Ursulean published a video compilation showing how he was targeted four times by both police and football hooligans while he was covering the protests live on Facebook. Ursulean received multiple threats, despite shouting that he was a journalist.
The Romanian union of journalists MediaSind issued a statement calling on Romanian authorities to sanction “the gendarmes who acted illegally and those who gave the orders.”
The EFJ and the IFJ submitted an alert on these cases to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism.
Picture credit: Daniel Mihailescu / AFP.