Reporters Without Borders

Government closes down foreign ministry spoof website

Published on Friday 21 July 2006. Updated on Thursday 25 January 2007.
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Reporters Without Borders voiced surprise today that a foreign ministry spoof website launched by two journalists of the daily newspaper Ziua (The Day) was closed down at the government’s request on 15 June by the privately-owned host company CHML, which also gave the authorities information about the journalists in violation of personal confidentiality laws.

“It is astonishing that Romania, a future European Union member, has not respected free expression and the confidentiality of personal information in this case, although these rights are guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and Romania’s own Law 677-2001,” the press freedom organisation said.

“We appeal to the Romanian government to reconsider this decision and to ask CHML, the host company, to immediately reinstate this website, which contained no illegal information,” Reporters Without Borders added.

Ziua foreign affairs specialists George Damian and Victor Roncea created their spoof site after writing a series of articles about the dismissal of a senior official at the foreign ministry, known by the acronym MAE in Romania.

The ministry’s web address is www.mae.ro. The address used by the journalists for their site was www.mae.haos.ro, because their aim was to highlight the “chaos” and instability within the ministry. They copied the ministry site’s layout closely but clearly indicated in the heading at the top of the page that it was a spoof intended to make fun of the ministry.

Claiming that the spoof site’s content was designed to destabilise the government and damage its reputation, the foreign ministry asked CHML to close it down although it has no power to do this. CHML also complied with the ministry’s request for personal information about the two journalists although this is banned under Romanian law.

The Media Monitoring Agency, a Reporters Without Borders partner organisation, has written several open letters to the foreign ministry asking it to reverse its decision, but so far has had no success.

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Screenshot of the www.mae.haos.ro website before it was shut down.


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