The German journalist Paul Arne Wagner who had been taken in custody by gendarmes during the protests in Victoriei Square, Bucharest on Wednesday evening has been fined by RON 500. The Gendarmerie representatives claimed that, although he said he is a journalist, Wagner had not proved that with an official document. Gendarmes also added that the German had the obligation to have a proper conduct. On the other side, the journalist said his press badge had been in plain sight, wondering why the gendarmes have created „this diversion and chaos” although the protesters were peaceful.
„The Romanian Gendarmerie sanctions the inadequate behavior of any person, regardless of his or her capacity. The above-mentioned person has forced the gendarme cordon that was deployed near the pedestrian crossing on Aviatorilor Boulevard and that’s why he has been taken to the police section where he got a fine worth RON 500,” the representatives of the Bucharest Gendarmerie said.
They added that Paul Arne Wagner had no proof he is a journalist, as he claimed, for he has not presented any official document certifying this quality.
„Having a <PRESS> badge at sight does not represent an official document. On the other hand, we reiterate that, regardless of the professional capacity of any person who is attending this type of public events, they must have an adequate conduct and to respect the indications of the law enforcement that is deployed in the street (…),” reads the Gendarmerie statement.
Overall, the Gendarmerie gave fines worth RON 7,000 to the protesters in Victoriei Square on Wednesday evening.
The journalist posted on Facebook his stance, wondering why the Gendarmerie „has created diversion and chaos” although protesters proved to be peaceful and not only this time, but during all the past 500 protests staged so far.
„We recall that the Romanian Gendarmerie has almost completely missed the rally staged by the ruling parties, we also documented that. I am fine, thanks for your messages, I only have a bruise on one of my knees. My thoughts are going to all the people who have been hit today by the armed arm of the state, have been taken and abused, as I see now on the footage of my colleagues from Passport Productions, that are going to be released on Thursday. Nobody has called Germany’s Embassy or the German Foreign Ministry for these hit and bruised people, or any other institutions that have been immediately warned about what happened to me, a German journalist. The good news is: Dragnea’s armed arm is ending up there. They may take you to the police section, you take an abusive fine and you get back to the protest. I even heard discussions among the policemen who were out for a cigarette who wondered how they are going to do their job if the criminal code amendments are enforced. I am sorry that Romanians had to fight one more time for freedom in 30 years, but I am standing next to you. Don’t let yourselves intimidated by abuses,” Paul Arne Wagner wrote.
Wagner added that after his documentations during protests in the past one year, the conclusion is that Gendarmerie has become an institution „out of control, an oppressive force that makes systematic abuses”.
„I have seen today a total mess at the police section. Close to midnight, gendarmes were entering and getting out the rooms, people were taken, including old people, nobody knew what to do with them. All this time, precisely the gendarme who had taken me, with an extremely violent, brutal attitude, has stood only near me at the police section, although I said he was there just to intimidate me and I would rather see him out. I have been accused of some contradictory things, which varied from one gendarme to another, lies, that I would have abused them and so on. Then, something strange happened and they tried to make me sign a warning document „to avoid the fine” and to go. But I haven’t been allowed to read this document, so I could not sign it,” the journalist further said.
Paul Arne Wagner, journalist at Passport Production, has documented a feature about PSD chairman Liviu Dragnea and his fief in Teleorman county.
In retort to the Gendarmerie’s stance that the Press badge is not an official document, Ioana Avădani, executive director of the Independent Journalism Center in Bucharest said that the Press badge does represent an official paper. “We find out from the Romanian Gendarmerie that <Having a PRESS badge at sight does not represent an official document. We therefore reply that the press badge is an official document. During all training related to the presence of journalists in the conflict areas (home or abroad), one of the basic rules is to show your press badge attached to your neck, precisely for everybody to see it, to know that you are there to work,” says Ioana Avădani.
She also quoted from the UNESCO Statement in Medellin on ensuring the safety of the journalists: “Call on member states: To promote awareness and train their armed forces and police forces to respect and promote the safety of journalists in situations of risk, and to ensure that journalists are able to work in full security and independence in their territory”, Ioana Avădani posted on Facebook.