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Media organisations concerned over harassment of newspaper and journalists, discriminatory assignment of broadcasting licences

(IJC/IFEX) - The following is an abridged joint statement by IJC and other media organisations:

Media NGOs express their concern about the continuous worsening of the situation of the Moldovan press

Even though President Vladimir Voronin and Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanyi state that they uphold the principles of a free press, cases in which journalists are intimidated, in which the right to free expression is violated, and in which the press is subdued are growing in number.

Most recently, the authorities targeted the newspaper "Moldavskye Vedomosti", which was subjected to financial control by the Center for Combating Corruption and Economic Crime as part of a criminal investigation by the General Prosecutor's Office over the alleged misappropriation of foreign property. The accusation was brought against the newspaper after it published materials regarding the recently re-nationalised Soroca Quarry. The arguments produced by law enforcement bodies to prove that the periodical appropriated foreign property are dubious, and the legal process questionable (. . .).

We also denounce the three-day detention of journalist Oleg Brega, arrested for peacefully protesting in front of the National Palace where a celebration was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Moldova's public television station. The police prevented Oleg Brega from approaching the National Palace, while the Buiucani District Court ruled that his placard, which bore the inscription "50 Years of Lies", constituted "injury" and sentenced him to three days' detention, violating a number of legal provisions and international norms on the right to opinion and free expression. Cameraman Ghenadie Brega, who accompanied his brother Oleg Brega and filmed the incident with the police, was fined. On May 10, Ghenadie Brega, who was then protesting in front of government offices against the detention of his brother, was ill-treated by police officers dressed in civilian clothes, arrested and taken to the police department of Buiucani district, where he was held for 48 hours in inhuman and degrading conditions, accused of insubordination, resistance and insulting the police.

The authorities' desire to subdue opposition mass media and critical voices was further exposed during the meetings of the Broadcasting Coordination Council, held on May 7 and 8, when the Council distributed licenses for 16 radio frequencies and 60 television frequencies. The Broadcasting Code says that licenses must be issued according to the principles of pluralism in broadcasting, avoiding the creation of monopolies or concentrated ownership in the areas of broadcasting and mass media in general, while also taking into account the compliance of already-licensed broadcasters with the given requirements. However, none of the licenses put up for tender was offered to stations that provide access to the opposition or that broadcast opinions critical of the present government. The radio station Vocea Basarabiei was granted none of the eight FM frequencies for which it applied. We stress that this station applied for a frequency in Chisinau for the 26th time, in vain. Instead, stations that belong to the political parties allied with the ruling party - PRCM and PPCD - obtained over 20 frequencies.

The Council's behavior shows that these decisions are made outside the Council, while its members represent biased interests. We ask the authorities to stop interfering in the activity of the Council and to punish those that intimidate the mass media and mistreat journalists.

Finally, we call on civil society, political parties and European representatives to make common cause with the independent press in Moldova and to take steps to stop the antidemocratic tendencies of the Moldovan authorities, which are aimed at undermining media pluralism and freedom of expression in this country.

Independent Journalism Center
Independent Press Association
Association of Electronic Press
Journalistic Investigations Center
Young Journalist's Center
Committee for the Freedom of the Press
Union of Journalists of Moldova
Access-Info Center

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