Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Romanian president in racism row after spat with journalist

dpa German Press Agency

Bucharest- Romanian President Traian Basescu, fresh from a clear victory in a weekend referendum to decide on his possible impeachment, on Monday faced accusations of having made racist comments and theft of a mobile telephone following an altercation
with a journalist.

Romania's National Council against Discrimination said it was to summon Basescu to explain the incident, which has sparked protests by journalists' unions and human rights groups.

The alleged incident occurred Saturday, the day of the referendum, as a journalist recorded footage of Basescu on her mobile phone as he was shopping with his wife in a Bucharest supermarket.

As the president was packing his purchases into his car, the reporter questioned him on what was the expected outcome of the vote. An angry Basescu responded "have you nothing better to do?", snatched the journalist's telephone and drove from the scene.

As he departed, the president is alleged to have commented to his
wife on how aggressive the reporter was, describing the woman as a
"stinking gypsy."

The mobile telephone, which was still recording, is alleged to
have captured his comment. Basescu's security staff are believed to have neglected to delete the recording before the telephone was later returned to the journalist.

Basescu scored around 75 per cent backing in Saturday's referendum, engineered by opposition and government parties over the president's alleged interference in political affairs as part of his anti-corruption drive.

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