Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) have objected to comments made by an anti-corruption expert in an article published by Euronews. Here we publish their response to Laura Stefan's claims in full.
Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) have objected to comments made by an anti-corruption expert in an article published by Euronews.
Laura Stefan, a former director of Romania's Ministry of Justice, claimed the country's government was only focused on keeping political leaders out of jail.
Here — in the interest of objectivity, fairness and transparency — we publish the e-mail from PSD in full and unedited.
PSD's e-mail to Euronews
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2019 13:15
Subject: Right of reply from PSD Romania
Taking into account the "Bordeaux Declaration" adopted by the International Federation of Journalism in 1954 (and amended in 1986), which states that "the Journalist must do his best to rectify any published information that proves to be inaccurate and harmful" (paragraph 5), we kindly ask you to publish the below-mentioned rectifications of the information presented by Euronews in the article "Romania to take the EU presidency role", published on your website on January 1, 2019.
We underline that the information is inaccurate and the tendentious assessments have seriously damaged both the image of the country, of the Government of Romania and of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). The article published by Euronews seriously violates several fundamental standards of the Journalist profession, as it was defined in the "Declaration of Principles of the Conduct of Journalists”, published by the International Federation of Journalism. These include the omission of essential news for the correct information of your readers, the biased selection of information, without the prior consultation of the accused party and without stating the elements in its favor [sic], as well as the wrong presentation of the Romanian realities, or the baseless allegations against some people or organizations [sic].
Our first observation is that, in order to describe the political situation in Romania, your post has presented the statement of Laura Ștefan exclusively, a person who, through her previous public performance, has demonstrated she is a fierce opponent of the Government and the Social Democratic Party, being at the same a fierce supporter of some opposition leaders and decision-makers who have committed severe abuses against fundamental human rights. Therefore, her positions are partisan and cannot present an objective situation on the realities of Romania. For correct information of the Euronews public, several points of view would have been required to be presented either by the Government, the PSD, or even by some magistrates who have expressed their appreciations for the Justice reforms, promoted by the current ruling majority coalition.
Laura Ștefan’s assertion that "there have been constant attempts to undermine the rule of law" has no foundation and induces a totally false perception of the situation in Romania. Contrary to Laura Ştefan's affirmation, the Justice reform promoted by the ruling coalition has removed elements that seriously affected the rule of law in Romania. It also introduced additional safeguards to protect magistrates against the pressures exerted on them by the intelligence services and by some Prosecutor Offices that were running out of any democratic control.
Laura Ştefan remains silent when it comes to the very serious aspects that occurred in the judiciary system in Romania, which imposed the legislative changes made throughout the Justice reform. Euronews had the duty to do minimum research so that the developer of the news programme could tackle real issues in this area, issues omitted by the guest (Laura Ștefan), with the obvious purpose of inducing a false opinion about Romania.
If she had done so, the Euronews host would certainly have found out about the "secret protocols" agreed in previous years between the fundamental institutions of Justice (the High Court of Cassation and Justice ICCJ, the Superior Council of Magistracy, the Prosecutor's Office attached to ICCJ) and intelligence services (in this case the Romanian Intelligence Service). Based on these secret protocols, agreed by a violation of the law, the Constitution and the fundamental human rights, magistrates were subordinated to intelligence officers who were directly involved in criminal investigations and court decisions. Also, a minimal documentation on the judiciary system in Romania would have highlighted the repeated appeals of the professional associations of Romanian judges who accused pressures and intimidation investigations against judges, carried out by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), in order to convince them to give convictions in the case files handled by the DNA. Recently, Romanian media presented recordings of discussions between DNA prosecutors who initiate criminal investigations with the exclusive purpose of intimidating judges who were investigating cases handled by the DNA and thus causing them to take decisions of conviction against several political targets, targeted by prosecutors.
Also, journalistic research or at least a dialogue with several alternative sources in Romania would have highlighted the many pieces of evidence of pressure on witnesses to make lying denunciations or even to produce false evidence, leading to convict political targets, which certainly represents a serious diversion of the anti-corruption struggle. There was also no reference to judgments that rejected numerous DNA files on the ground that the transcripts of the telephone interceptions presented as evidence were truncated and did not correspond to the audio files. All these aspects, which seriously affected the independence of the Romanian Justice and hijacked the anti-corruption struggle, were removed by the justice reform carried out by the party led by Liviu Dragnea. So, contrary to what the Euronews channel has said, justice reform was meant to restore the fundamental principles of the rule of law and to remove the pressure on judges who carry out the act of justice.
Another tendentious assertion of the guest of the show, which Euronews journalist did not question, was that the government and "political leaders in Romania are obsessed with their own legal problems and not going to jail" and that "the Government has one priority, imprisoning political leaders and protecting their pockets." However, the guest Laura Stefan omitted to talk about the systematic violations of human rights and the rules of a fair trial that had taken place in previous years, things unthinkable in the Member States of the European Union. She also fails to state that the majority of the convictions of political people were based on the offense of "abuse of office" which does not exist in most of the EU Member States and which, according to the Venice Commission, represent reminiscent of communist origin, being at rather a labor [sic ]deviation that should not have been the subject of an anti-corruption prosecution investigation. Also, there was no mention of the involvement of intelligence officers in criminal investigations, following Soviet justice model, or about the falsification of interceptions transcripts, false testimony from witnesses threatened with arrest, judging DNA targets by judges who were not randomized but who have been appointed to high positions by the political adversaries, convictions passed by judges threatened in their turn by DNA prosecutors with criminal investigations against them or against members of their families. The range of these abuses, inconceivable in the democratic world, is endless and they have represented serious violations of human rights and the rule of law.
In the face of such a phenomenon, any Government in charge of an EU Member State has the duty to intervene to repair the gross injustice of this judiciary system, profoundly vitiated by practices of "political police" and inherited „soviet reminiscences” perpetuated until nowadays. Such unimaginable situations in a rule of law state are the reason why political leaders in Romania are looking for solutions for the rehabilitation of those who have been convicted by illegally constituted lawsuits, by judges threatened by prosecutors or intelligence officers, or on the basis of alleged evidence obtained on the basis of illegal and unconstitutional secret protocols. Also, the justice reform criticized by the Euronews guest removed the pressures made by DNA on judges and introduced more safeguards regarding the independence of judges – the measures were publicly appreciated both by the Superior Council of Magistracy and the professional associations of judges who actively participated in the amendment of the Justice laws; this aspect was not reflected in what Euronews presented.
Therefore, the fact that the article in Euronews took into account only one opinion of an activist with political partisan positions denotes a serious violation of the journalistic conduct which resulted in the truncation of the truth and the presentation of a highly deformed reality of the situation in Romania and about PSD leaders.
We, therefore, ask you to publish the right to reply in order to make proper rectification for accurate information of your audience and in order to demonstrate that you are not part of the media manipulation campaign meant to denigrate the image of Romania and its ruling party.
In addition, if Euronews considers it necessary, the Social Democratic Party is open to providing all information related to the Justice reform, as well as the priorities of our country during the EU Presidency.