Romanian film director and journalist Mihai Dragolea, who was shooting an international documentary about illegal logging in Romania, was severely beaten by about 20 individuals in a forest within the commune of Cosna (Suceava County). His equipment and all records were destroyed.
Along with him was a colleague, director Radu Constantin Mocanu and environmental activist Tiberiu Boșutar, who helped him identify evidence of forest crimes in Bucovina.
The attack was severe, two of the victims losing consciousness on the way to the Municipal Hospital in Vatra Dornei.
Mihai Dragolea, film director and journalist: “Suddenly we saw 20 people with axes and sticks in their hands, among whom were the owner and the forestry engineer, and from there it was another 10 seconds until we were assaulted. We took refuge in Dacia Duster, but did not hold the Duster to 20 people, they opened the doors, we were thrown from the car, I was hit in the face and I fell into a ravine, from where I called 112 “.
“They opened the doors, we were thrown out of the car, I was hit in the face, I fell into a ravine. The ones above, together with Radu, were hit quite badly, he has amnesia. Tibi was severely beaten, I understood that they had some of these mafia practices, of terrible humiliation towards him. The forestry engineer, according to Tibi, was doing his best. I called the police, the policemen came to the scene, they saw some of the attackers, I think they identified them”, Dragolea recounted.
The journalist also said that the attackers had directly threatened them “We’ll kill you”.
Tiberiu Boșutar, the beaten activist, said in his turn: “I do not blame a forester, but an entire system! They stripped me naked and sent me home. My colleague asked me what happened to me, he doesn’t know what it’s about. They broke the ignition key, the brother came home with another key. I didn’t want to get out of the car and they wanted to overturn the car, they wanted to ruin me with the car “.
Ionuț Epureanu, the spokesman of the Suceava Police Inspectorate, told Digi24 that five people involved in these violence were taken for hearings at the Police headquarters in Vatra Dornei.
Romanian Police spokesperson Georgian Dragan said later on that the police officers identified and interrogated 11 people involved in the assault on the media representatives and the environmental activist.
Prime Minister Florin Citu recommended on Friday to journalists and environmental activists who were victims of aggression in Cosna commune, Suceava County to file complaints against the aggressors.
At the same time, the head of the Executive asked the state institutions to intervene and “do their duty” in this case.
The Minister of Environment, Tánczos Barna announced that such reprehensible facts cannot be accepted. “I condemn any such aggression and I want all perpetrators to bear the maximum legal consequences,” Tánczos Barna said in a Facebook post.
He called on the authorites in the forestry and environmental system to provide full cooperation to criminal investigation bodies in identifying and sanctioning perpetrators.
“I met with Tiberiu Boșutar a few weeks ago, at the ministry, we discussed the importance of the work he does together with all the other environmental activists and wistle-blowers. We have almost 1 million queries in the Forest Inspector application, and the citizens support us directly in the fight against wood thieves, when the check shipments and report irregularities. But things have gone too far! We cannot accept such reprehensible deeds, which endanger the integrity and even the lives of those who defend the forest,” the minister said.
The Head of the European Commission Representation in Romania has also reacted to the attack, saying that it is inadmissible for a journalist while doing his job, asking the national authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the freedom of the press. “I have taken note with concern of the information on two journalists and an environment activist being attacked in a forest in Suceava while doing their job. Information is public asset. We must protect journalists, for they are the ones who provide transparency“, said Ramona Chiriac.
The attacks against forest activists and foresters have intensified in Romania in the past years amid increasing illegal logging cases.
Liviu Pop, a former forester in Maramures, northern Romania, was killed in October 2019 while he was on duty to prevent illegal logging.