Romania: Journalist’s intelligence secrets human rights case set for European court ruling

A Romanian journalist, convicted of possessing classified national security information, hopes to get the backing of Strasbourg judges when the European court rules on his case tomorrow (26 June).

Gîrleanu v. Romania (no. 50376/09)

The applicant, Marian Gîrleanu, is a Romanian national who was born in 1963 and lives in Focşani (Romania). He was a local correspondent for the national daily newspaper România Liberă. His field of work included investigations into the armed forces and police.

In February 2006, the prosecuting authorities instituted a criminal investigation against Gîrleanu concerning leaked secret documents belonging to a Romanian military unit based in Afghanistan.

The documents had originally been leaked in 2004 and had given rise to much debate in the media, including articles in România Liberă, and an internal inquiry within the Ministry of Defence.

The investigation established that, in July 2005, a journalist specialising in the military had given Gîrleanu a copy of a CD of the leaked documents. He had then verified the information with the Romanian Armed Forces and intelligence services and shared it with two people he believed to be former police officers and other journalists.

During the investigation, his telephone was tapped, he was arrested and the hard drive of his computer confiscated. He was released after two days’ police custody.

In August 2007, the prosecuting authorities found him guilty of gathering and sharing secret information, in violation of the legal framework on national security, and ordered him to pay a 800 Romanian lei (approximately 240 euro) fine and judicial costs.

Gîrleanu complained to the courts about the decision against him, without success. The courts found in particular that he was guilty of sharing information which could have put the military in danger.

Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Gîrleanu alleges that the measures against him were disproportionate as compared to his actions, namely he had carried out a journalistic investigation to provide information in the public interest.

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