Romanian journalist files lawsuit against Prime Minister 

Calin Petrar, editor in chief of the Romanian satirical publication "Times New Roman" announced that he has filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Viorica Dancila because she is damaging the nation’s image with her public blunders.

Ana Maria Luca
Ana Maria Luca NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Romanian journalist files lawsuit against Prime Minister  - NewsMavens
Viorica Dancila 2018, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

In a press release published on "Times New Roman", Calin Petrar says that he sued Dancila because “she is tarnishing my image and dignity as a Romanian since January 21, 2009 as an MEP and since January 29, 2018 as Romania’s PM.”

During her official visit to Montenegro three weeks ago, Viorica Dancila confused the country’s capital, Podgorica, with the capital of Kosovo, Pristina. “I am happy to be here in Pristina,” she told journalists. The translator immediately corrected her mistake and translated it as “Podgorica.” Romania’s government deleted the recording and in Montenegro they muted the word, but by then, most media in Romania had saved this gaffe in their video archives, and replayed it over and over again.

Two days later in Skopje, Dancila called the Macedonians, “Macedons,” a blunder that quickly joined the previous one as a favourite joke on social media.

Dancila is well known in Romania for her blunders, but after her Balkan tour, analysts, journalists and social media users fear that her mistakes are starting to undermine Romania’s international standing.

Many in Romania fear that Dancila’s protocol gaffes in her official visits abroad and during her speeches, but also blunders committed by her cabinet ministers will lead to Romania’s strategic partners not taking the country’s officials seriously.

Dancila also recently sued the magazine for 100,000 EURO after the journalists called her “an idiot.” But Petrar says that, after the gaffe in Podgorica, Romanians should feel entitled to sue her for tarnishing their image as a nation.

Context

  • Saying Pristina instead of Podgorica and Macedons instead of Macedonians in official speeches is but a small drop in the bucket of gaffes Dancila has made since she was appointed Prime Minister by the ruling Social Democrat-led coalition six months ago.
  • The former handicrafts teacher from southern Romania, who served as a Social Democrat MEP beginning in 2009, assumed the premier’s post on January 29 after the ruling coalition fired its second cabinet in a year.
  • At a cabinet meeting in March 2018, she read the word “imunoglobin” six times from a printed speech instead of immunoglobulin -- an antibody administered to cancer patients -- as Romania was forced to request aid from other EU countries to ensure treatment for its cancer patients.
  • During a meeting in April, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted her with: “It’s a pleasure to see you!” Dancila answered with only: “He he!” which was deemed a protocol gaffe.
  • In May, when she greeted the Pope with “Sfinţia Voastră [Romanian for “Your Holiness”] I am very glad for this opportunity”, Dancila was criticized again for her lack of English and for addressing the Pope using a Romanian idiom.
  • In February, Dancila angered rights organizations after calling MEPs who criticised the government’s pushy to relax the fight against corruption “autistic”. She later apologized for the offence.
  • During an official visit to Bucharest in May, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had to discreetly warn Dancila that she needed to listen to the national anthems and salute the national guard before heading in to hold the bilateral meeting, as protocol requires. Once more, her English betrayed her: “We make a photo?” she asked Plenkovic after the meeting.  
  • On June 17, during a press conference with the Estonian Prime Minister, Juri Ratas, Dancila forgot his name. The same day, when inaugurating the Estonian Consulate in the port of Constanta, organizers displayed Estonia’s flag upside down and Ratas had to re-arrange it himself.
  • Times New Roman has been targeted by several lawsuits by ruling Social Democrat Party members for making fun of officials. In May, several Social Democrat women sued the magazine for making sexual comments on the party leader Liviu Dragnea’s relationship with a 25 year-old woman.
  • “When freedom of expression is under such hallucinating attack, when you are sued for a banal observation, we cannot do nothing. Because, I’ll say it again, this is the times we’re living in: I am being sued by Viorica Dancila who wants some 100,000 euro damages to her image because I called her an idiot,” Times New Roman editor Calin Petrar said. “So I am asking for damages too: not a lot, 1 RON, because  my colleagues and I are fighting for freedom of expression, not for money.”
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