Sky News is facing criticism in Romania over a report by chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay in which he met alleged illegal arms dealers.
Ramsay has faced widespread “trolling” on Twitter from people in Romania about the story. The men involved met Ramsay in a remote region of the country and claimed they were willing to sell deadly weaponry to terrorists.
The men who appeared in the report have been arrested themselves and have told prosecutors they were just pretending to be members of a mafia gang.
The men were filmed openly by Sky News, but wearing masks to protect their identity.
Ramsay begins his piece by saying: “As Britain’s security services warn of potential Paris-style terror attacks in the UK, Sky News has been told by eastern European mafia gangs that demand for their military grade weapons across Europe has rocketed in two years – and they will supply to anyone.”
Daniel Horodniceanu, the chief prosecutor of the Romanian Directorate for the Investigation of Organised Crime and Terrorism, told local news agency Mediafax: “Although I am not an expert, the guns shown by the British journalists do not seem to be war weaponry, just hunting rifles.”
The Romanian translator who worked with Sky News on the story is also reported to have been questioned by prosecutors.
Local media reports claim the two arms dealers who appear in the video were paid a fee.
But Sky News says this is not true.
The broadcaster said in a statement: “Stuart Ramsay is one of our most experienced and tenacious journalists with a long history of delivering major stories from around the world. He’s delivered a robust report on gun dealing in Romania and Sky News fully stands by the story.”
Ramsay has received widespread criticism on social media about the story and has responded on Twitter. In a series of posts he said:
“Ha! Calm down everyone. Story is true. Nobody paid. Nobody scripted. Weapons real. Arrests happening. Govt embarrassed. Deal with it.
“Nobody was paid. The weapons are real. The story is correct. End of. Romania it wasn’t about you. It was weapons.
“Romania stop trolling it’s ridiculous. It’s very boring. I’ve answered every question – arrest the gangs?”
Dan Mihalache, the Romanian Ambassador in London, is understood to have sent a complaint to Ofcom and asked journalists for the right to reply to the implication in the report that the Romanian authorities cannot prevent arms trafficking.
In a blog post accompanying the video news report Ramsay said: “From the mountains of the Balkans across huge, remote forest lands in eastern Europe, networks of gangs have access to millions of weapons that have been cached after years of conflict or are in general supply in areas bordering conflict zones such as Ukraine.
“After months of negotiation with a Romanian gang Sky News was directed to a remote part of the country for a meeting with gang members prepared to show us what they could supply.
“There is no subterfuge here. They knew we were a news organisation wanting to illustrate how getting a weapon is relatively easy and they believed we were going to buy them.
“Among the weapons on display were high quality, apparently brand new, sniper rifles. One, going for 3,000 Euros (£2,540) was an Austrian military Steyr rifle complete with a top-end sight.
“Other weapons included semi-automatic rifles, shot guns, hunting rifles and pistols.
“In pride of place was a mint condition AK-47. This weapon they said was their biggest seller at 1,700 Euros (£1,440) and demand from Europe over the past two years had soared. The AK-47 is the terrorists’ weapon of choice.”