Reporters Without Borders today condemned a brutal attack on 3 December on Ino Ardelean, who covers local politics and corruption cases for the daily Evenimentul Zilei in the western city of Timisoara. Ardelean was attacked by thugs as he was going home in the evening and was beaten until he lost consciousness. He is now hospitalised with head injuries and two fractures to his jaw.
"The growing number of physical attacks on journalists who investigate corruption within the political class in power, especially in the provinces, is extremely worrying," Reporters Without Borders said in a letter to Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. "The work of investigative journalists is nonetheless essential in the fight against the corruption that is eating away at your country," the letter said.
The organisation called on the prime minister to ensure that everything is done to identify and punish those responsible for the attacks on journalists. "Otherwise the enemies of press freedom, who are increasingly concerned to protect their image in the run-up to the 2004 legislative and presidential elections, will think that they can, with impunity, use violence against the journalists they consider troublesome."
Ardelean has often reported on the implication of local politicians, especially members of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) in illegal trafficking of various kinds. His most recent report, published at the end of November, was about a local PSD representative and school director accused of forcing pupils to work for him for no pay.
Two other journalists have been the targets of physical attacks this year. Carmen Cosman of the daily Romania Libera and Marius Mitrache, a correspondent with Evenimentul Zilei, were punched and kicked by two unidentified individuals in the street a few yards from the police station of the west-central town of Petrosani on 25 July as they were about to begin working on a report. The two reporters have uncovered several corruption scandals in the local government in which officials of the Jiu valley mining company were implicated. The police investigation into this attack has so far yielded nothing.