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Attacks on journalists, the increasing domination of Russian language and ruling party-controlled broadcasters and laws that threaten media rights in the country - this was the press freedom situation in Moldova in 2008, says a new report by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC).

On the legal front, 2008 saw the adoption of the Law on State Secrets, which entrusts security services with the role of protecting "state secrets." This vague definition and the lack of a provision to protect individuals disclosing information could gravely limit public access to information, IJC warns. The report also decries a provision included in 2008's Code of Conduct of Civil Servants, which forbids civil servants from communicating with journalists unless they are legally authorised to do so.

A continuing concern in 2008 was the ongoing licence suspension of Romanian-language TV station, TVR 1, which was taken off the air in 2007. IJC says the closure further limits access to information and entrenches the supremacy of Russian language media outlets in Moldova. TVR 1 has lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), claiming a violation of the right to free expression. ECHR is expected to rule on the case in late 2009 or early 2010.

The report also summarises cases of journalists being arrested, intimidated, harassed, refused access to government buildings or denied accreditation. For instance, journalist Oleg Brega was detained for three days after peacefully protesting at an anniversary celebration of Moldova 1 TV station, which is controlled by the ruling party. His placard reading, "50 years of lies" is what led to his arrest.

In another case, cameraman Vasile Costiuc of the online TV station Jurnal TV was forcibly removed from the Great National Assembly Square in Chişinau. "In most cases these incidents were not investigated, and the culprits were not punished," according to IJC.

IJC expects freedom of the press to deteriorate further this year, as parliamentary elections will be held in April and state authorities are expected to disregard legal provisions on the right to information and expression.

To read the entire 20-page report, visit:

(18 March 2009)

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