One Romanian journalist indicted, another freed on secrets charge

New York, February 22, 2006—Prosecutors in the eastern city of Focsani today indicted journalist Sebastian Oancea for possessing classified military documents about Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the second such arrest in less than week, according to local and international press reports.

Oancea, Focsani correspondent for the national daily Ziua, faces up to seven years in prison, the prosecutor general’s office told The Associated Press. Authorities searched Oancea’s home and seized his computer last week; they questioned again him on Tuesday before charging him, AP said.

The arrest, along with an earlier detention last week, is part of a broader investigation into the actions of a former Romanian soldier who allegedly leaked the documents to several newspapers. The soldier was arrested earlier this month. Ziua did not publish the contents of the documents.

In an interview with Realitatea Television, Oancea criticized prosecutors for investigating journalists rather than the sources of the leak in the military.

“Prosecutors are terribly misguided in bringing criminal charges against journalists who are just doing their jobs,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “The charge against Sebastian Oancea should be dropped immediately and without condition.”

The indictment came four days after the Supreme Court ordered the release of journalist Marian Garleanu of the newspaper Romania Libera after he was detained on a similar charge of possessing classified military documents, according to local and international press reports. Garleanu was arrested last Thursday and indicted the following day.

The Supreme Court ruled, however, that prosecutors failed to demonstrate why Garleanu should remain under arrest, AP reported, citing the state news agency Rompres. Garleanu denied wrongdoing and said he was arrested in retaliation for exposing corruption in the Defense Ministry, AP reported. Despite his release, the charge is still pending.

“If I hadn’t been freed, no journalist in Romania would have had the courage to continue doing investigative reporting,” Garleanu told Rompres after his release on Saturday.

President Traian Basescu expressed regret about the arrests, but local prosecutors defended their actions by saying they were simply pursuing the leak of the classified documents, AP reported.

Defense Minister Teodor Atanasiu said the classified information was two years old and “doesn’t threaten our forces … but it is very serious that something like this was leaked,” AP reported.