Cameraman arrested during railway seizure; sentenced to 15 days in prison

New York, September 8, 2004—A cameraman with the Chisinau-based state television station Moldova One was arrested and sentenced to 15 days in prison this week after trying to cover the seizure of a Moldovan railway station in the breakaway enclave of Trans-Dniester.

The cameraman, Dinu Mija, and Moldova One correspondent Lyudmila Munteanu were on assignment in Tighina (also known as Bender) on September 6, covering the railway center seizure by Transdniestrian authorities, local reports said. (Molodova One was formerly Teleradio Moldova.)

Authorities of the self-declared Transdniestrian Republic named a new head of the railway station and ousted railway workers that day, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Tighina is about 30 miles (45 kilometers) east of Moldova’s capital, Chisinau.

News reports said about a dozen local policemen stopped Mija and Munteanu around 8 a.m. on September 6 as the two were entering the railway station to begin their assignment. Police tried to seize Mija’s camera, it was broken, and a scuffle ensued, according to news reports.

On September 7, a Transdniester court sentenced Mija to 15 days in prison for resisting authorities and entering the enclave illegally, the Moldovan news agency Basa Press reported. He is now in a Tighina prison.

Corina Cepoi, program director with the Chisinau-based Independent Journalism Center (IJC), disputed the legitimacy of the charges. Cepoi told CPJ that Mija had proper credentials, and did not need any travel papers to enter the region.

“CPJ is deeply concerned about the arrest of our colleague, who was trying to do his job,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Authorities are obliged not to impede coverage of such a newsworthy event, and charging a journalist with illegally entering the enclave is bound to inhibit reporting essential to people of the region.”