Paris, 28 June 2022
Subject: Publication of stolen pictures of Emilia Șercan and alleged leak from criminal investigation
Dear Prime Minister of Romania, Nicolae Ciucă,
Dear Minister of Internal Affairs of Romania, Lucian Bode,
Dear General Prosecutor of Romania, Gabriela Scutea,
Dear General Prosecutor attached to the Bucharest Court of Appeal, Ioan Viorel Cerbu
Dear Romanian Ombudsman, Renate Weber,
Dear General Inspector of the Romanian Police, Quaestor of police Benone-Marian Matei
The undersigned organisations write to share their deep concerns about the delay in the investigations into the publication of Romanian journalist Emilia Șercan’s stolen photos and the alleged leak of key elements of the investigation into this offence.
The compelling need for independent investigations was pointed out in an open letter that our organisations sent to the Romanian authorities in April 2022.
Although the principle of confidentiality of investigation applies, the law enforcement authorities seem to have failed – according to available information – to make significant progress four months after Emilia Șercan became the target of harassment and a smear campaign through the publication of her private pictures and the alleged leak of key elements of the criminal investigation into the matter amplifying the exposure of her private pictures.
Moreover, neither the response of the Ministry of Interior to the above-mentioned open letter, nor the state reply to the alert published on the Council of Europe’s platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists addressed our organisations’ legitimate concerns about the progress of the investigation into the leak.
Hence, our organisations find that the authorities are neither designating the investigation a priority, nor devoting sufficient resources to it.
Guaranteeing a swift and independent investigation appears all the more necessary and urgent in the light of the risk of alteration of evidence and of the inaccessibility of the evidence caused by the delay. This could significantly complicate the proper conduct of the investigation.
Furthermore, the information newly added to the file indicates possible involvement of the police in the alleged leak from the criminal investigation into the offence, as a screenshot that Emilia Șercan had provided to the police appeared in the media along with her private pictures. It seems that before the leak, solely the police – in addition to the journalist herself – had access to the screenshot.
This last hypothesis is supported by a recent independent expert report concluding that any surveillance of the plaintiff’s devices is unlikely.
It is all the more crucial to prosecute these offenses given that they specifically target a journalist who has been threatened for her investigations into the practice of plagiarism by heads of the highest state institutions, including military educational institutions.
It is of utmost importance that the probe into both the threats that targeted Emilia Șercan and into the alleged leak of her stolen pictures from the criminal investigation be conducted in total independence and reach a successful conclusion as soon as possible.
As stated by Vice-President of the European Commission Vera Jourova in her reply to the open letter of Members of the European Parliament on Emilia Șercan’s case, “the Commission calls on Member States to investigate and prosecute all criminal acts committed against journalists, whether online or offline, in an impartial, independent, effective, transparent and timely manner (…) and (to) make full use of existing national and European legislation, to ensure that fundamental rights are protected and justice is swiftly delivered in particular cases and prevent the emergence of a ‘culture’ of impunity regarding attacks against journalists”.
Indeed, the authorities’ swift and transparent action in Emilia Șercan’s case is in the interest of improving press freedom in Romania, which has recently declined due to an increasing number of threats and resulted in press freedom group Reporters sans frontières (RSF) ranking the country 56th in its World Press Freedom Index.
Thank you for considering our concerns.
ARTICLE 19 Europe
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)