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Police raid headquarters of Albasat TV station, allegedly for the purpose of "conducting an investigation"

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 27 February 2009 IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls on Moldova to Respect Press Freedom after Police Storm Media Outlet

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called upon the government of Moldova to respect basic standards of press freedom after police raided media premises.

"Basic standards of press freedom and rule of law are violated when police raid media without any mandate. We demand a proper explanation for what happened," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "Moldova has a poor record of press freedom and this merely confirms the worst fears that there is little hope of improvement. This is particularly worrying in the midst of a general election campaign."

The IFJ has been told that, on the morning of 25 February, a group of policemen in the capital Chisinau entered the headquarters of the television station Albasat TV, a member of Euronova Media Group holding which includes TV Euronova and the radio station Vocea Basarabiei. The only reason they gave was that the raid was for the purpose of "conducting an investigation."

The network's director, Efim Bârdan, was threatened after he asked the police for a warrant and to explain themselves. Police responded by threatening to call in shock troops if access was denied and the director was forced to open the door. Once inside, the police demanded that staff hand over documents. The accountant, Mihai Pintilie, the editor and presenter Natalia Pintilie were detained for a few hours. Police searched the newsrooms, took computers disks and left after a few hours without further explanation.

A Ministry of Interior official later defended the police action, which he described as perfectly legal. He also revealed that the police intervention followed a request from a member of the public.

The IFJ fully supports the protests of its member, the Journalists' Union of Moldova, and asks for a full inquiry into the incident to find who was responsible for this "blatant abuse of press freedom."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide.

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