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Goodbye journalism: The New York Times gossiping about the antifracking movement in Romania


Open letter to The New York Times after its gossip-like article concerning “suspicions” of Russia funding anti fracking activists in Romania
(To write an email to the author Andrew Higgins please click here or sign the Open Letter with your name in the comments area!)

Dear Mr. Higgins,
I have just read through your article about antifracking activism in Romania. Reading it all would have taken too much time for an article that is lacking a basic element of journalism: evidence. Although all in all the article seems to be objective since it admits that there’s no proof for the allegations that Rusia is behind the protests against Chevron in Pungesti and Romania in general.

Still, there’s something weird about the article and I have doubts that it’s journalism at all. I hardly remember having read articles in trustworthy newspapers that are based on suspicions, allegations and “circumstantial evidence” only – and it’s by far not enough to admit that you don’t have evidence, to make your text fulfill the basic requirements of a press article. You said it: Even the head of Romania’s (pro-American/Western) secret service admits that there’s no proof whatsoever of Russia paying us, the antifracking activists. And still, you uphold the suspicions in the title of your article.

I’ve said “us”, the activists, since I am one of the dozens of antifrackers in Romania that fight fracking at any stage – no we don’t fight Chevron or Gazprom, but FRACKING and the demolition of the state of law and democracy that gos hand in hand with fracking projects! Our little grassroot NGO has two lawsuits against prospection companies in Romania as well as against the prefect of Vaslui county, in order to allow for a referendum that mayor Vlasa be kicked out of office for corruption and serious abuse of power. This shows that anti-fracking protests go well beyond the early 2012 protests in Barlad and late 2013 protests in Pungesti.

I assure you, me and our NGO (Neuer Weg, based in Fagaras, Brasov county) has got NO money from any state organisation or individuals linked to state authorities of any country – even less from Russia. We would never accept such funding – and still: We would fight fracking in Romania for the next 1-2-3 decades – sorry: generations – if necessary, if you know what I mean. Determination doesn’t need any money from goverment – determination simply IS there and it finds its ways through. It is supported, fed and “funded” by our lives, believes, values. So, we have all we need to fight fracking, including money from fellow citizens who support us out of – right: determination!

Still (in order to show you that I’m not biased at all): Concerning the protests in Barlad in early 2012 I sincerely believe that they had been organised way to professionally in order that there were only local activists behind it. I suspect mainly the back then opposition party PSD of having organised them. Of course, Russian circles might have been involved as well (through Moldavian groups) – but again: The later protests, mainly the big street protests in autumn last year as well as the numerous law suits against fracking companies have been organised mainly by the young urban professional, pro-western middle class activist circles – some of them having learned basic NGO organsational skills through American/Western NGO’s active in Romania or after studying, living and working abroad, in Western countries – including te USA.

Last but not least: The drilling site in Pungesti has been given up after Chevron had finished its illegal test drilling this year – not after protests or attacks of protesters! I’d be proud if we’d succeded to make them stop drilling but unfortunatelly it wasn’t us! Chevron has drilled and fracked in Pungesti since it was protected by anticonstitutional measures of the riot police that had blocked the access of citizens to the area. So, an American corporation contributed to undermine and weaken the already weak state of law and democracy in Romania! Thank you, America, “Land of Freedom”!

All in all, your article as well as Mr. Rasmussens allegations smell rather of shale gas-lobbyism then of journalism, I must say. Sorry NYT, you can do MUCH better! You can do true journalism if you want! Instead, what you’ve published now is pure gossip wrapped in the aura of NYT premium journalism. :-(

Hans Hedrich
civil rights and environmental activist



1 Comment

  1. Seconded! I met some Romanian activists in Puiesti during a festival there. They are NOT rolling in cash, neither are they ever likely to be. Mr.Putin has more on his plate than worrying about us Fractivists! Give me a break!
    I write on behalf of the Protectors UK, Anti Fracking International & The International Collaboration Against Fracking & Gold Mining.

    ps Exactly how much did NY Times PAY that idiot ex-Mayor of Pungesti? Just curious!

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