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Twenty-five IFEX members condemn post-election media crackdown

Since the eruption of mass opposition protests after election results were announced in Moldova on 6 April, journalists reporting for international and Romanian media outlets have been refused entry into the country; various news websites and stations have been censored and media workers reporting from within Moldova have been arrested, harassed and assaulted.

Twenty-five IFEX members and 10 other rights organisations condemned the numerous violations of the rights to access to information and freedom of the press that have occurred as authorities crack down on dissent.

"The signatory organisations call upon Moldovan authorities to ensure media freedom under the obligations incumbent to a member of the Council of Europe and to facilitate the public's access to information," said IFEX's member in Moldova the International Journalism Center (IJC) in a statement signed by the groups.

At least 10,000 demonstrators took to the streets on 6 April after the incumbent Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin was declared to have won the election with 49.9 per cent of the vote. The election was deemed fair by international observers but opposition leaders said the election was controlled by the ruling party and marred by repeat voting. In the following days, violent clashes broke out between protesters and police, resulting in dozens of injured protesters and at least 200 arrests.

At least 19 Romanian journalists, and several other international reporters, who have attempted to access Moldova by air and road since 6 April have been refused entry, say the IFEX members. Customs officials denied the journalists entry for various technical reasons. But Moldovan law requires that foreign journalists be accredited only if they wish to be permanent correspondents in Moldova or if they require access to official information.

The past week has also been marked by a spate of physical attacks and police intimidation directed against journalists. For example, on 8 April, Oleg Brega, a cameraman for the online broadcaster Jurnal TV, was beaten by five security operatives, some in uniform. According to ARTICLE 19, his whereabouts are currently unknown.

The next day, police officers guarding the headquarters of the Moldovan government hit PRO TV Chisinau cameraman, Constantin Rogodantiev, and stole his tape-recorded footage. Also on this day, three employees of the Romanian TV station Realitatea TV were detained for several hours by police.

On 10 April, security operatives raided the "Jurnal de Chisinau" newspaper without a warrant and confiscated computers, tapes, CDs and documents. The editor of the paper, Rodica Mahu, was taken into custody and interrogated for two hours before being released. Later that day, Romanian journalist Doru Denida of TVR 1 was apprehended by police as he was about to send a live report from the country.

The IFEX members are demanding that Moldova authorities investigate the incidents of abuses against journalists and hold those responsible accountable.

At least two broadcasters in Moldova stopped retransmitting Realitatea TV and TVR 1, and IJC reports that various news websites, including unimedia.md and jurnaltv.md, have been interfered with or altogether blocked. The press freedom organisation also reports Internet users in Moldova have been denied access to social networking websites such as Facebook and Odonklassniki.ru.

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