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Moldova31 March 2004

Six journalist go on hunger strike to protest closure of their TV channel

Six journalists working for Euro TV and the radio Antena C began a hunger strike on 31 March in protest at the suspension of their media. Known for their opposition to the neo-communists in power, both channels were forced to take their programmes off the air on 6 February 2004 following a ruling by the council for audio-visual co-ordination (CCA). They have not been able to resume broadcasting because the government refuses to register their statutes.

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage that the bank accounts and other assets of the opposition newspaper Timpul were sequestered today by court order in a libel suit, although no hearing on the merits of the suit has yet been held.

This violates both the presumption of innocence and the most elementary right of defence, as well as press freedom, the organisation said.

Reporters Without Borders also condemned the 6 February suspension of two opposition broadcast media, Euro TV and radio Antena C, saying it appeared to be politically-motivated.

Journalists at Timpul learned only three days ago that they were being sued by DAAC Hermès SA, a company that distributes Skoda cars, over a 16 January article by Alina Anghel suggesting that the company may have bribed officials. Shortly thereafter, the newspaper learned that its accounts were too be frozen pending the start of the trial on 18 February.

DAAC Hermès SA is demanding 500,000 dollars in damages and a ban on Timpul publishing any articles about the company without the company being consulted. Timpul editor Constantan Tanase claimed that "political orders" were given for the lawsuit to be filed and accused the communist authorities of hoping to force his newspaper to close.

Euro TV and Antena C have been temporarily closed on the orders of the regulatory Broadcasting Coordination Council on the grounds that they have no legal status. They are attached to the Chisinau city hall led by mayor Serafim Urecheanu, who is also vice-president of "Moldova Noastra" (MNA), a party opposed to the ruling communists.

But many other news media which are in the same situation have not been suspended. In fact the council’s president, Ion Mihailo, recognized at the beginning of the month that half of broadcast media had no legal status.

For this reason, Reporters Without Borders urged Mihailo to immediately cancel the suspension of Euro TV and Antena C, which is otherwise supposed to remain in effect until they manage to legalise their status.

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