Notorious Romanian journo held

2010-06-23 13:06

Bucharest - Romania's most notorious television journalist and his producer were formally arrested early on Wednesday and detained for 29 days on charges of blackmailing and threatening a mayor.

Dan Diaconescu and producer Doru Parv were arrested after a seven-hour overnight court hearing.

They are charged with demanding money from Ion Motz, the mayor of Zarand village, to avoid broadcasting compromising material about him.

Motz claims he paid the two defendants about 30,000 ($37,000) after Diaconescu's popular OTV TV channel broadcast a promo in 2009 promising scurrilous details about Motz's personal and professional activity. Diaconescu denies blackmail.

Since communism was overthrown in 1989, Romanian journalists have been regularly accused of extorting money from officials and public figures in exchange for a news blackout on damaging topics.

Many Romanian journalists dissociated themselves from Diaconescu and his sensationalist-style reporting.

Worth millions

His national broadcast station calling itself "the People's TV", has broadcast images of disfigured corpses and live fights in the studio.

"Every night he trampled all over the most elementary rules of journalism and social norms. When this TV station showed dead people ... nobody took a stand," said respected journalist Cristian Tudor Popescu.

Apart from the tabloid-style shows, Diaconescu also secured top interviews with President Traian Basescu, Prime Minister Emil Boc and other ministers.

The 42-year-old journalist is worth $41m, according to Top 300 Capital which publishes an annual list of Romania's richest people. He has several properties, two Rolls-Royces, a Bentley, a yacht and two helicopters, according to the publication.

One media group, Civic Media, criticised the arrests, saying the journalists were not "a public danger", and did not need to be handcuffed.