Romania: Four policemen assault journalist

May 26, 2000

Mr. Mirea Cristea
General Prosecutor of Romania

VIA FAX: + 401 410 54 35

Dear Sir:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is troubled by the brutal assault on Valentin Dragan, a journalist with the weekly newspaper Cuget Liber in Constanta, and we urgently request further information about the status of the investigation.

On May 12, Dragan was attacked by four off-duty policemen who had been celebrating their chief’s promotion at a private party at the Pirates’ Inn in the town of Mamaia. Dragan and other newspaper staff members were trying to recover a colleague’s camera that had been confiscated earlier that day by police officials who were attending the party.

With his own camera, Dragan was trying to photograph a police officer holding the confiscated camera when four policemen from the party attacked him and beat him severely, according to the paper’s deputy chief editor, Sinziana Ionescu. The four attackers destroyed Dragan’s camera and broke his leg. According to the paper’s editor, the four policemen did not want to be photographed in an intoxicated state.

Ten days after the beating, Dragan is still in the hospital recovering from a complicated surgery that involved the implantation of a pin into his leg. He is expected to undergo additional surgery in a few months.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending the rights of our colleagues around the world, we urge you to ensure this violent attack by the Constanta police is thoroughly investigated, and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. In addition, we request that you keep us informed about any progress in this investigation. While we understand concerns have been raised about whether or not journalists had the right to enter a private club to cover such an event, we do not see what could possibly justify a violent and severe physical assault.

If the incident is not investigated, the repercussions on Romanian journalism could be serious. We are concerned that this attack constitutes not only an assault on Dragan, but also on press freedom in Romania. At the very least, such incidents foster a climate of fear and intimidation that inhibits the work of the press.

Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters.


Emma Gray
Europe Program Coordinator