I have no real interest in news about political scandals in my home country, Romania. I look into the facts but all the drama and emotional statements that accompanies these topics do not excite me. One particular case thou, is different.
National news bulletins were announcing from time to time that a journalist, Emilia Șercan, was accusing high-ranking Romanian politicians for plagiarism in their doctoral thesis. One day it was a minister, another time, a general. On another occasion, same news about plagiarism was targeting a former prime-minister but recently, the same news revealed that the current prime-minister’s doctoral thesis is plagiarized as well. Even the EU chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, who is a Romanian, got under the scrutiny of journalist Emilia Șercan and she says that she discovered that chief prosecutor plagiarized her doctoral dissertation.
Of course, these revelations stirred a lot of anger in those targeted by the journalist. To my disappointment, the reaction of the academic circles is hesitant and weak. There is not a very convincing rejection of plagiarism among the public as well. In spite of threats or attempts to discredit her, for the past eight years, Emilia Șercan did not give up, she continues her investigative work. She confessed to have been subjected to intimidations and that she received death threats. Several attempts were made to compromise Emilia Șercan but without any success. In fact, none of the plagiarisms discovered by Șercan has been definitively refuted by the National Council for Attestation of University Titles, Diplomas and Certificates (CNATDCU).
The latest campaign against her was launchd when she targeted the interior minister. The operation is trying to discredit her work by saying that she is having a political agenda, that she intend to run for president but, as she stated publicly, it is not the case, she is and will stay a journalist. 3 ministers and 3 prime ministers, one of them being the current cabinet leader, were accused of plagiarism by Șercan.
In September last year, one of the accused ministers, Sorin Câmpeanu, former minister for education, incriminated for plagiarism by Emilia Șercan, resigned.A year before, the minister for digitalization, Florin Roman resign amid scandal for his plagiarized disertation. Physicist, and former teacher, president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis declared: "In our country, thieves have perched on top of the state and this was also possible due to the too high tolerance of society and the university environment towards plagiarism. Because plagiarism is a form of theft. If it is tolerated, the politicians' conclusion is that even more is tolerated and it is possible. And now, unfortunately, we have the proof that, at the moment, it can or has been possible. I hope this could end as soon as possible".
Meanwhile, the 46-year-old writer, academic and journalist has been the victim of insults and hate speech on social media to the point where Șercan said she feels "in danger".
Few journalists, some professional associations like, for example, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) stood up and are calling for ending the harassment and threats against Emilia Șercan. Sadly, the reaction of the Romanian authorities is contradictory. Few murmured admittance of the truth about the plagiarized dissertations faded away several times under the judges’ hammer. Plagiarism is debatable in the cases brought up and, in any case, percentage of copied works is not so worrying are so called arguments that Romanian public heard already many times.
Justice walks with a broken head in Romania and there are not many people who want to heal her. Emilia Șercan thou is one of those extraordinary journalists who is not deterred from her believes in democracy and justice. In spite of her life being under siege since she started to scrutinize doctoral dissertations, she continues steadily her academic career and her research. Her perseverance transcend present times political and social context. Emilia Șercans investigative articles lay the foundation for a more active, more responsible society.
As I said, I am not very much interested in media scandals. But Emila Sercan, caught in the middle of smear campaigns, stirred my curiosity. I discovered that she stays modest and is not search for the lights of fame. She earned notoriety and public trust because of the impeccable articles she wrote and published. Her personal life, habits or preferences are not discussed in fashion magazine articles. Her academic work is kept in class rooms and she is not boasting about her role in molding new generations of journalists.
I praise Emilia Șercan for having the courage to discover fraud at the highest political level in Romania and because she draws the public's attention to a phenomenon that corrupts mentalities and has a major destructive potential for the future of Romanian society. Emilia Sercan is one of the journalists who proves that this profession is meant and has the power to bring about changes, to purify, to keep civil society active and responsible.
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