Russian journalist Irek Murtazin is seen in Chișinău, Moldova. He was recently denied entry to a flight from Moscow to Chișinău. (Photo credit withheld)

Moldovan airline employee prevents Russian journalist Irek Murtazin from boarding flight to Moldova

New York, November 4, 2020 – Moldovan authorities should immediately investigate an incident in which Russian journalist Irek Murtazin was prevented from boarding an Air Moldova flight to Moldova, and ensure that journalists can freely report on the country’s presidential elections, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On October 31, at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, an employee of the state-run airline Air Moldova refused to check in Murtazin, a correspondent for Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, for a flight to Moldova’s capital, Chișinău, where he planned to cover the November 1 presidential elections, according to news reports and Murtazin, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.

“Moldovan authorities should investigate the incident in which Novaya Gazeta correspondent Irek Murtazin was prevented from traveling to the country to cover presidential elections despite having been granted a press accreditation, and allow Murtazin to cover the second round of the vote from Moldova on November 15,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “It is essential that the international journalistic community is able to freely report on events in Moldova.”

Murtazin said the Air Moldova employee told him he needed to provide proof that he was expected in Moldova. The Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs had emailed Murtazin’s accreditation to him the previous day, but he had not seen that email at the time he went to the airport, he said.

However, Russian citizens can travel to Moldova and stay there for up to 90 days without a visa, according to the website of the Russian consulate in Moldova. Murtazin told CPJ that he would typically be required to show his accreditation to Moldovan border control, but not to an airline employee.

Murtazin said that Air Moldova employees told him that they contacted their representatives in Moldova, who spoke with the country’s border control, who in turn communicated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said that the journalist should be denied entry to the country.

Daniel Vodă, a Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, stated that Murtazin was issued an accreditation on October 30, and that the ministry could not comment on the actions of Air Moldova employees in Moscow, according to Novaya Gazeta. CPJ reviewed the email sent to Murtazin with his accreditation, and confirmed that it was issued on October 30.

Murtazin said he believes that the incident was related to his journalistic work, particularly his 2019 Novaya Gazeta article on the country’s political crisis, a series of investigative reports on the 2014 killing of a Russian billionaire who had ties to Moldova, and his documentary film investigating a Russian-Moldovan businessman allegedly connected to that killing.

Murtazin told CPJ that he plans to go to Moldova to cover the second round of the presidential elections scheduled for November 15, 2020.

CPJ emailed the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment but did not receive a response. CPJ contacted Air Moldova for comment through the airline’s website, but did not immediately receive any response.