Government pressure on the Moldovan media increased in 2001 after the Communist Party won a majority in the February parliamentary elections. The Communist candidate, Vladimir Voronin, was elected president in April.
Soon after the presidential elections, the Chisinau-based Independent Journalism Center reported that journalists from the opposition publications Flux, Tara, Jurnal de Chisinau, and Trud-Moldova were denied accreditation for President Voronin’s April 7 inauguration. The stated reason was lack of space, but the journalists were told unofficially that access was denied because they worked for “bourgeois” newspapers.
In mid-July, the Moldovan Parliament approved an amendment to the Press Law banning domestic news media from receiving foreign funding. The government claimed the amendment would reduce foreign interference in Moldova’s internal affairs, but with the country sliding deeper into poverty, the legislation is more likely to put a financial strain on opposition and independent publications, which are not state subsidized.
National and local officials frequently keep public information from reporters, especially those affiliated with independent media outlets. The European Institute for the Media, a nonprofit research organization, reported that Moldova’s Administrative Code was amended in 2001 to impose a fine of up to 2,700 lei (US$210) for violating the Access to Information Law.
The Criminal Code was also amended and now punishes deliberate failure to grant access to information of public interest with up to three years in prison. It is unclear if these new regulations will be enforced.
Growing tensions between the official government in the capital, Chisinau, and authorities in the breakaway region of Trans-Dniester, which is dominated by ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, added to the hardships of journalists on both sides of the conflict. In early October, Moldova’s Prosecutor General asked a Chisinau district court to close the Russian-language weekly Kommersant Moldovy for backing the Trans-Dniester separatists.
The court banned Kommersant Moldovy. However, in mid-December, the paper resumed publication under the name Kommersant Plus.
In later October, Chisinau police detained a television crew from Trans-Dniester’s official news agency, Olvia Press, and questioned them about their work and their stance on Moldova’s territorial integrity. They were held for several hours and their videotapes were confiscated.
In retaliation, Trans-Dniester authorities rescinded the accreditation of 17 Moldovan journalists and ordered them to leave the territory by November 1. Trans-Dniester officials said they would not reconsider their decision until they received an official apology and the confiscated videotape. Two weeks later, Moldovan authorities apologized, and the Trans-Dniester authorities reinstated the journalists’ accreditations.
Yuliya Korolkova, Vremya
The Prosecutor General’s Office filed criminal charges against the Russian-language newspaper Vremya and against Vremya correspondent Korolkova.
The charges were filed after the Association of Graduates of Romanian and Western Universities (CAIRO) complained that an article in the newspaper had insulted Moldova’s national honor and instigated interethnic strife.
The story addressed the problems of Russian-speaking Moldovans, claiming that they have limited access to positions of power and that ethnic Moldovan officials take bribes.
According to local and international sources, Vremya‘s editor-in-chief believes that the lawsuit is aimed to discredit the Russian-language press in Moldova.
The lawsuit was still pending at year’s end.
Valentina Ushakova, Argumenty i Fakty
Ushakova, editor of the Moldovan edition of the Russian weekly Argumenty i Fakty, was dismissed after the paper’s owner, Ion Musuc, eliminated her position.
According to Ushakova, she was fired for refusing to publish pro-communist political propaganda during the parliamentary election campaign.
Several journalists at the paper subsequently resigned in protest.
HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION
Moldova’s prosecutor general asked a Chisinau district court to shut down the Russian-language weekly Kommersant Moldovy.
The Prosecutor General’s Office accused the newspaper of publishing material that threatened Moldova’s territorial integrity. Kommersant Moldovy, known for its sympathetic reports on Trans-Dnienster, a breakaway republic in eastern Modova that borders Ukraine, received a similar warning in January 2000 for its coverage of the region.
In the October 12 issue, the newspaper stated that it had not received the Prosecutor General’s official notification and continued to publish.
In the beginning of November, the Moldovan Economic Court denied the publication’s appeal to dismiss the lawsuit. On November 30, the court found Kommersant Moldovy guilty of threatening Moldova’s territorial integrity and national security and ordered the paper to cease publication, the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported.
The newspaper plans to appeal the decision to a higher court. Meanwhile, in mid-December, the paper resumed publication under the name Kommersant Plus.
Oleg Yeltsov, Olvia Press
Ivan Azmanov, Olvia Press
Several members of a television news crew from the news agency Olvia Press were detained by police in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, according to local and international sources.
Correspondent Yelkov, cameraman Azmanov, and their driver were with the secretary of the Socialist Party of the Republic of Moldova, Valentin Krylov, whom they intended to interview, when they were taken into custody.
Olvia Press is the official news agency of the breakaway republic of Trans-Dniester, which is dominated by ethnic Slavs. All three crew members were questioned about the nature of their work in the country and their stance on Moldova’s territorial integrity. The three men remained in custody for several hours, and their footage was confiscated.
In retaliation, Trans-Dniester authorities rescinded the accreditation of 17 Moldovan journalists, who were ordered to leave the territory by November 1. Trans-Dniester officials said they would not reconsider their decision until the Moldovan government issued an official apology and returned the videotape to the Olvia Press crew. Moldova denied detaining the journalists.
Two weeks later, however, Moldovan authorities apologized, and the Trans-Dniester authorities reinstated the journalists’ accreditation.
LEGAL ACTION, CENSORED
Authorities in the breakaway Trans-Dniester region of Moldova blocked the broadcast of a report about the region by the Russian state television network RTR.
The report, part of RTR’s regular program “Vesti Nedeli” (News of the Week), reported on allegedly widespread corruption, smuggling, and arms trafficking in Trans-Dniester and implicated the son of the current president, Igor Smirnov, in illegal activities.
The Trans-Dniester information minister, Boris Akulov, claimed the program was interrupted for technical reasons. “Vesti Nedeli” was then rebroadcast on the Trans-Dniester television station TV PMR with official commentary, Moldovan sources reported.
In response to RTR’s report, Trans-Dniester authorities sued RTR for slander. The case remained in court at year’s end.
In addition, RTR was banned from working in Trans-Dniester. Akulov announced that the regional Ministry of Information would not accredit RTR journalists until the network’s management apologized for the program.