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Criminal proceedings launched against Albasat TV in run-up to elections

(IJC/IFEX) - State prosecutors initiated criminal proceedings against Albasat TV a few days after police raided the television station's headquarters on the morning of 25 February 2009, allegedly for the purpose of "conducting an investigation".

On 9 March, police officers went to the television station's premises and asked the management to provide the tape of a television programme broadcast in 2006. The director of the station, Efim Bardan, later explained to the press that in 2006, Albasat TV signed a contract with the local administrative body, controlled at that time by the Communist Party, to provide informational services. The station broadcast the programme in due time but the authorities did not respect their financial obligations under the contract to pay the amount of about 112 thousand lei (equivalent to approx. 7,000 euros at the time). Subsequently, the media outlet filed a court case against the authorities and eventually managed to recover the outstanding payment in 2008.

According to the police, criminal proceedings were launched against the television station for not broadcasting the programme as paid for by the authorities. Thus, the Albasat TV administration is required to prove the opposite even though the law does not provide for such long terms for storing television programmes.

On 25 February, three policemen entered the headquarters of Albasat TV without a warrant, demanding documents and removing hard disks from the computers. The officers acted brutally and detained the accountant, Mihai Pintilie, and the editor, Natalia Pintilie, for a few hours. A Ministry of Interior official later defended the police action, which he described as "perfectly legal", following a request from a member of the public. The television station was then charged with using unlicensed software.

International and local media organisations have expressed concern about the legal harassment against independent media, which they deemed as an attempt to silence the media in the run-up to the elections.

Updates the Albasat TV station case:

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