The European Parliament (EP) has reacted to PRESShub’s disclosure that journalists were held at an arm’s length by the Petitions Department (PETI) delegation that visited Romania in mid-May following a complaint about illegal logging and a list of complaints about the destruction of protected habitats.
Following the publication of the article „A matter of facts, rebels and leaked documents: Competing Romania illegal logging fact-finding missions advance amid rumours UE infringement could be droppe” by PressHub, the head of the PETI delegation in Romania, Yana Toom, sent us her reactions.
We are releasing this reaction of the European delegation head, but with a note: the text marked in bold is part of the official EP statement, and the unmarked text is our rebuttal to the statements made by Yana Toom.
PETI: „Following the publication of an article on Presshub.ro, we would like to respond to some factual inaccuracies mentioned in this piece. As leader of the PETI delegation, Yana Toom’s intention was to be transparent about the actions and the meetings of the fact-finding mission.
In this context, she took the same approach to each of the meetings where journalists were present: The participants were asked if they agreed for the participation of the media in the meeting and where no objections were made, the representatives of the media were allowed to participate.
The article features a quote of the spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment claiming that the PETI representatives were the sole reason for the refusal of allowing media representatives to participate in the meeting with the Minister of Environment. We would like to clarify that shortly before the meeting at the Ministry the leader of the delegation the participants if they agreed to the participation of journalists in the meeting and that the Minister of Environment objected.”
PRESShub: According to the head of the delegation, the fact that we wrote that PETI refused journalists access was not a reporter’s error, but a lie from the spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment. He can be heard making this statement, on the record, at the end of the interview we had with Secretary of State Ionuț-Sorin Baciu, included as audio in the original article. (Listen here)
We have asked the spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment for an explanation for this situation and we will update this article as and when the comment graces us..
PRESShub journalist aggressively legitimised
„The Minister then asked the journalists present after the short initial photo opportunity. We would like to emphasize that this meeting was followed by a meeting with stakeholders where journalists, including the author of the article, were allowed to attend and even record the meeting.”
The minister asked reporters to leave after 5 minutes during which the reporters were allowed to take pictures and film. 5 minutes on the dot! That does not constitute attending a technical meeting meant to investigate a public complaint on a major public interest issue.
We did join a meeting with stakeholders at the express invitation of one of the speakers, forwarded to reporter Crina Boroş. Freedom House Romania director Cristina Guseth, an investigative journalist in her own rights, who did not have an invitation got there before the reporter and was denied entry. So much for free press access.
Once Crina Boros arrived and both got inside the discussion room, about 15 minutes into the meeting, when noone was guarding the door, one of the organisers insistently and persistently legitimised them, including following them around the room.
Exasperated, Crina hid behind one of the speakers and pointed at him and said “I was invited by him! Guseth is my editor. If you have any problem with our presence, talk to him!”
At this stage, the discussions were so aggravating, that some of the MEPs stating paying attention to us, rather than listen to the speakers! It was mind-boggling!
Furthermore, when Crina showed this person her press card, he took a photo of it, something she has never experienced in over 15 years of being a journalist!
Access allowed only at the final press conference
„Furthermore, the article claims that the PETI delegation chose a press-proofed route. In order to disprove this claim, we would like to refer to the presence of journalists at the almost all of the meetings held by the delegation, the openness of the delegation leader to comment to the press at each of these occasions, and to the presence of media representatives during the course of several meetings held by the delegation.”
PETI did have a press conference on Thursday, when the delegation finished the trip, where press presence was part of the event’s design. But let’s be clear: this does not mean you allowed the press to shadow your delegates and witness what they did.
Moreover, PRESShub and another media organisation – international and renowned for its deep-diving documentaries and which serves the whole of the European audience – have asked to shadow PETI during the Romania trip and were refused.
We published your statement out of courtesy, but we dol not endorse your impression of inaccuracies when it comes to how restricted, controlled and prevented the press’ access was to your fact-finding mission in Romania.
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