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Moldova1 August 2004

Police evict journalists from state TV and radio broadcaster

Journalists occupying the conference room in the state-owned radio and TV broadcaster TeleRadio Moldova since 27 July were made to leave by police at 11 p.m. yesterday on the grounds that there had been a bomb alert. Nonetheless, neither the fire brigade nor the bomb-disposal squad was ever summoned, protesters said.

Unlike all of Moldova’s other news media, TeleRadio Moldova has made no mention of the dispute between its management and many of its journalists, and the discussion programme "Arena," in which two communist parliamentarians were due to take part, was replaced yesterday by a music programme.

About 500 people including politicians, journalists and human rights activists, as well as regular viewers and listeners, took part in a demonstration today outside TeleRadio Moldova to protest against the management’s position. The journalists announced that they would press on with the protest until their demands were met.

A scuffle broke out between police and demonstrators at about 3 p.m., and four persons were detained.

30.07.04 - Reporters Without Borders concerned about press freedom violations

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern about a steep decline in press freedom in Moldova as some 30 journalists continued a sit-in begun 27 July at the state broadcasting company with around 100 police and military surrounding the building.

The journalists were protesting about staff selection - after a shake-up of the company’s legal status - which they claimed was based on political rather than professional criteria.

Elsewhere a Chisinau appeal court on 22 July upheld an order to pay damages for defamation against opposition weekly Timpul that risks bankrupting the newspaper.

And on 20 July an administrative appeal court in Chisinau upheld a decision to refuse accreditation to Dmitri Ciubascenco, editor of the bi-weekly Moldavskie Vedomosti.

Continuing demonstration at Moldova state television and radio

Conflict between staff and management at the state broadcaster began in November 2003 following a legal amendment breaking up the existing company and creating a new public service, with a one-third cut in staffing levels. The journalists at the time voiced their fears about the company’s independence.

The law however set up a 15-member monitoring committee, but this committee only consolidated the power of those already in control. The director, Ilie Telescu, along with a large majority of the monitoring committee are in fact pro-communist.

The journalists on 27 July called for the resignation of their bosses and for all recent decisions to be reversed, in particular recruitment of staff following the change of status.

They then demonstrated in front of the building before starting an occupation of the meeting room in which the staff recruitment board was sitting. They complained that recruitment was based on political and not professional criteria.

They pointed to the fact that members of the ’anti-censorship committee’ set up by the journalists at the state broadcaster in May 2003 to combat management pressure, had not been selected.

The journalists’ sit-in began as 70 salaried staff announced the creation of a "committee for the defence of professional and human values". Nineteen journalists were suspended after the announcement.

The management then blocked journalists from entering the offices and around 100 armed police and military surrounded the building and seized tents from journalists who arrived to demonstrate their solidarity.

Expressing its concern about the deteriorating situation, Reporters Without Borders said, "The change in status of Moldova state radio and television passed last December should not in any way be used as a pretext to recruit journalists according to their political compliance."

Sentence against the weekly Timpul

The Chisinau appeal court on 22 July confirmed sentence against opposition weekly Timpul ordering it to pay damages of around 130,000 Euros for defamation to the firm Daac-Hermes.

The Buiucani district court, Chisinau, had on 28 April 2004 sentenced the newspaper for defamation after it carried an article on 16 January 2004 headlined, "Luxury in a land of poverty", that revealed the existence of a deal between the state chancellery and Daac-Hermes on the sale of luxury cars.

On 23 June, thugs brutally beat Alina Anghel, who wrote the article, when she was due to appear in court in connection with the case the following day. She has also received numerous phone threats since the article appeared.

Editor of Moldavskie Vedomosti still denied accreditation

The Chisinau administrative appeal court on 20 July rejected a complaint made by Dmitri Ciubascenco, editor of the bi-weekly Moldavskie Vedomosti, against the presidential administration. The journalist, one of the most prominent in the country, has thus been deprived of accreditation since the start of the year.

The newspaper’s bank accounts were frozen on 8 June as a result of a defamation case brought against it by a businessman.

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