Attacks on the Press 2002: Moldova

Political instability and social unrest plagued Moldova in 2002, with disenfranchised groups struggling against the country’s authoritarian president, Vladimir Voronin, and his ruling Communist Party. The country’s small and beleaguered nonstate media suffered from the feeble economy and official harassment, while state print and broadcast media endured heavy-handed censorship.

As 2002 began, the communists’ attempt to reinstate obligatory study of the Russian language prompted opposition protests in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau. Several media outlets rallied to defend the Romanian language and the cultural identity that the majority of Moldovans share with neighboring Romania. State media coverage of these protests was censored. In February, in response to severe censorship of the state broadcaster Teleradio-Moldova (TVM), hundreds of TVM journalists went on strike in solidarity with the anti-communist opposition. In retribution, a few journalists and staff members were dismissed or suspended from the station in March.

Months of intense opposition protests drove the Council of Europe to issue a resolution on April 24 condemning Moldova’s censorship of state media. The resolution called on Moldova to transform Teleradio-Moldova into a public entity. According to a new law that was drafted in response to the council’s resolution, a 15-person Supervisory Council, appointed by the president, Parliament, and the government, will manage the broadcaster. Although widely criticized for allowing the state to retain control over the outlet, the law took effect on August 15, ending the standoff between TVM journalists and management.

Trans-Dniester, a breakaway region in eastern Moldova, continued to make headlines. In early 2002, a newspaper there was forced to close, allegedly because its founder and chief financier, who is also the son of the region’s president, pulled out of the operation following the publication of articles that criticized the region’s authorities. At the same time, proposed amendments to the region’s Press Law threatened to make it easier to censor and harass journalists. The proposals would abandon a clause that prohibits censorship and would introduce registration and licensing procedures.

Civil conflict over Trans-Dniester erupted in 1991, when Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union and aligned itself with neighboring Romania, adopting Romania’s Latin-based alphabet and national anthem and even calling for unification with the country. Trans-Dniester’s Russian-speaking population has since achieved a large degree of autonomy, with its own money, president, and legislature. Moldova, however, still formally claims the territory as its own.

While political tension exists between Moldova and Trans-Dniester, correspondents from the Chisinau-based weekly Timpul and Adevarul Nistrean newspaper working in Trans-Dniester’s capital, Tiraspol, have taken steps to bridge the two sides of the conflict by discussing opportunities for professional cooperation.

March 11

Larisa Manole, Teleradio-Moldova
Dinu Rusnac, Teleradio-Moldova

News anchors Manole and Rusnac were dismissed from the Communist Party-controlled state broadcaster Teleradio-Moldova (TVM) because of “technical errors” and Rusnac’s incomplete contract, according to TVM management. Moldovan sources indicated, however, that the journalists were fired for actively protesting state censorship at the station. Several of TVM’s technical staff were also dismissed or reprimanded at the same time for protesting censorship at TVM, according to Moldovan reports.

March 14

Ana Bradu-Josanu, Teleradio-Moldova
Aurelia Vasilica, Teleradio-Moldova

Bradu-Josanu and Vasilica, news anchors at the Communist Party-controlled state broadcaster Teleradio-Moldova (TVM), were suspended by the station’s management. The journalists’ colleagues believe that the two were fired for actively protesting state censorship on TVM, according to Moldovan sources. Both Bradu-Josanu and Vasilica had participated in a recent anti-censorship strike.

April 10


A bomb exploded just outside the editorial offices of the Communist Party newspaper Kommunist in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau. The bomb, which was planted near the office entrance, caused structural damage to the building and shattered its windows, as well as those in a nearby apartment building. An elderly guard sustained minor injuries but was not hospitalized. Police have opened an investigation into the incident, but no progress in the inquiry had been reported by year’s end.

The bomb attack came amid rising tensions between the pro-Russian Communist Party and the ethnic Romanian nationalist opposition, which is seeking to align the country with neighboring Romania and the European Union. Opposition leaders have been organizing demonstrations calling for the resignation of the communist-dominated Parliament and government. In a statement read to Parliament, the Communist Party blamed the attack on “extremist elements who want to destabilize the country,” according to The Associated Press.

June 21

All parliamentary reporters

Moldova’s Parliament approved new regulations enabling legislators to suspend the accreditation of journalists covering the legislative body. The regulations also allow Parliament members to reproach reporters publicly for printing incorrect information. A reporter’s accreditation can be suspended if a demanded retraction is not published in the manner desired by the lawmaker.

August 5

Natalia Florea, The Associated Press, Flux News Agency

Education Minister Gheorghe Sima confiscated the audiocassette of Florea, a reporter for The Associated Press and Flux News Agency, during a speaking engagement. The minister snatched the audio recorder from the journalist and handed it to his security personnel, who took the tape and returned the recorder to Florea. The tape was not returned.

October 9

Sergiu Afanasiu, Accente
Valeriu Manea, Accente

Afanasiu and Manea, editor-in-chief and journalist, respectively, at the weekly Accente, were detained on charges of receiving a bribe of US$1,500 in return for not publishing compromising materials about a local businessman. According to the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), the businessman offered Afanasiu bribes several times, but he never accepted them and instead published materials about the man’s activities. Accente staff believe that the charges are spurious and came in reprisal for the paper’s critical reporting.

The journalists were released on October 23, but both had to sign an agreement not to leave the capital, Chisnau, while the case remains ongoing. According to CJES, a court hearing is scheduled for January 30, 2003.