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April 15, 2021
POLITICS

Victor Ponta at war with the press

‘The Romanian Press Club (CRP) on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Victor Ponta to ‘reconsider his attitude to journalists’, as the one shown during his latest statements was ‘inconsideration’ and ‘regress of communication’, the professional association states in a press release.

‘Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s latest statements represent an inconsideration of journalists who honestly do their job and a regress of communication between public officials and journalists. Making communication with journalists subject to conditions and dividing them into <good> and <bad> because of circumstances they are not responsible for are foreign to the European conduct a top-ranking public official is supposed to adopt. The Romanian Press Club urges Prime Minister Victor Ponta to reconsider his attitude, a return to a professional approach in his relations with the journalists being necessary for a state of normality’, reads the statement of the Honorary Council of the Club, which is the Board of the association.

CRP’s reaction follows an incident happening on Monday, after the meeting of the PSD National Standing Bureau, when Ponta refused to comment on the vote of PSD senators against Sova’s arrest or say if they would be sanctioned in any way, claiming not to have understood the question. He also refused to comment on possible amendments to the Criminal Code, also claiming he was unacquainted with the draft law.

Still on Monday, in Parliament, the PSD leader passed by a group of journalists and, before they could ask any questions, asked them to show a fiscal receipt if they wanted an answer. ‘Please show me a fiscal receipt if you want answers to your questions!’ Ponta said, according to Mediafax.

Afterwards, Ponta posted a message on Facebook saying he wanted to explain why he had refused to answer a journalist’s question on the vote of PSD senators in the Sova case, claiming that he only answered questions asked by representatives of companies that fairly paid their taxes.

‘Being in a public post paid with tax-payers’ money, it is correct and compulsory that I answer the questions (and participate in the programmes) of all reporters and journalists representing media organisations that correctly pay their taxes – whatever critical they may be of my performance!

As head of Government, however, in the context of the effort against tax evasion, I must send out a clear warning to all those who evade the payment of taxes and who don’t even pay their employees’ social security contributions (sometimes not even salaries!) and are unlawful competitors for those who are honest and correct. And the first normal gesture is not to answer their questions in any way! If their owners and managers decide to become legal and normal, it will mean that the purpose has been fulfilled’, Ponta states on Facebook.

Journalist Catalin Tolontan brings four arguments demolishing Victor Ponta’s attitude. ‘When citizens pay taxes only to states that do not report a deficit, Prime Minister Victor Ponta may also only make statements to those media organisations that do report a profit, have no debts and are with all taxes and dues up to date. Otherwise a state with a budget deficit is a state that owns money, that has a debt which must be paid by people in the future’, Tolontan writes on his blog.

PNL MP Ovidiu Raetchi has also reacted to Premier V. Ponta’s outburst. ‘I am curious to know if Victor Ponta speaks to Iulian Hertanu, his brother-in-law currently under arrest for European funds fraud and tax evasion. Whilst those people are either investigated into or convicted, TV reports are not. And yet, the PM preferentially speaks to those in conflict with the criminal law’, Ovidiu Raetchi said.

 

Active Watch: “Mr. Ponta proves to have mistaken understanding of role of the press in democratic society”

 

Active Watch reacted harshly to the Premier’s retort and accuses him of attempted censorship. “By making these statements Mr. Ponta proves that he has mistaken understanding of the role of the press in a democratic society. The mission of the press to inform the public about issues of public interest is exercised through persons that practice this job, called journalists. Their role is essential in a democratic society, given the fact that they ensure the citizen’s/public’s free and fair access to information and draw attention to abuses, irregularities, illegalities committed in society’s power spheres. Thus, the journalist’s commitment is toward this mission and toward the public, not toward his employer. Dissolving the journalist in the owner’s (often rotten) broth is increasingly used by politicians of all stripes in order to delegitimize the journalist’s overture by associating it with the (often corrupt) interests of his employer and in order to avoid answering uncomfortable questions,” a communiqué issued by the association reads. Likewise, the association points out to the distinction that the Premier should have made between a journalist and a press owner and claims that this hostile attitude is a form of censorship against the correct information of the public.

 

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