More than 30 Romanian journalists have quit their jobs at an influential daily newspaper, accusing its Swiss owners of meddling in editorial policy.
They say Switzerland’s Ringier group tried to soften the paper’s critical reporting of the government and, faced with opposition from journalists, sidelined the editor and forced some reporters to leave.
Thirty-five of Evenimentul Zilei's political, investigative and business reporters quit in protest at what they say was blatant interference by Ringier.
The editor, Dan Turturica, said he was also stepping down after Ringier appointed a new editor last month. Turturica said the publishers intended to transfer him to the eastern city of Bacau for a new assignment. He has legally contested the decision.
Turturica said the resignations were a blow to already fragile press freedoms in this former communist country.
Beaten and harassed
In recent years, dozens of Romanian journalists, including several reporters at the paper, have been beaten and harassed.
“This is a trend in Romania [and Eastern Europe] of annihilating critical journalists who write about high-level corruption," Turturica said at a news conference.
The paper recently published a series of articles that exposed election fraud, high-level corruption and the communist past of government officials. It also took the government to task for undemocratic practices.
Director of the newspaper, Cozmina Noaghea, denied Ringier had meddled in editorial policy and said she regretted the resignations.
Investigative reporter Cristi Levant said the paper's reporting on government corruption ahead of last month's election helped bring down “the most corrupt government that Romania has had”.
According to Reporters Without Borders press freedom in Romania has diminished in recent years. Its most recent ranking of press freedoms in 140 countries put Romania 70th, a drop of nearly 20 places in the past two years.
swissinfo with agencies
Ringier is the largest publishing house in Switzerland with the tabloid Blick, and SonntagsBlick as well as a range of magazines.
During the 1990s, Ringier became one of the largest publishers in central and eastern Europe.
The group publishes more than 40 daily newspapers and magazines in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia.
Ringier is also active in China and Vietnam.