Paris, July 14, 2022 — Authorities in Moldova should investigate journalist Slava Radulov’s recent expulsion from covering a public parliamentary meeting, and ensure that the members of the press can work freely in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On July 5, Dmitry Konstantinov, chair of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia in the southern Moldovan autonomous region of Gagauzia, directed men to expel Radulov, a reporter at the regional independent news portal nokta.md, from a public meeting, according to media reports and a video of the incident by nokta.md, and the journalist, who posted about the incident on Facebook and spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
The incident began when parliamentary deputy Grigoriy Dülger and several other members of the assembly said that Radulov was not allowed to remain in their meeting room and told him to leave, according to those sources.
At Konstantinov’s orders, two men confronted Radulov, and one grabbed him by the arm and shoved him out of the room, as seen in that video.
“The treatment of journalist Slava Radulov by the deputies of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia is unbecoming and raises concern for press freedom in the Moldovan autonomous region,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Gulnoza Said, in New York. “Journalists must have free access to public information. Authorities in Moldova must swiftly investigate this incident to signal that such obstruction cannot be tolerated.”
Radulov told CPJ that he believes the members of the assembly had a “personal animosity” against him, and said officials had previously asked other nokta.md journalists to leave assembly meetings on vague grounds. He also said that nokta.md frequently covered LGBTQ issues in Gagauzia, while the People’s Assembly had passed resolutions blocking Pride events in the region, and that assembly deputies had made negative comments on the outlet’s livestream of a June 19 LGBTQ march.
“Perhaps some members of the People’s Assembly do not like nokta.md because we are an independent media [outlet]; we ask deputies questions that are important for the public, but uncomfortable for them,” Radulov told CPJ.
According to the region’s regulations, People’s Assembly sessions are public and can be attended by “any interested person.” Radulov told CPJ that Dülger and the other assembly members asked to see his accreditation, but Radulov said he did not have one, as he had not needed one in the past.
He added that a reporter with public broadcaster GRT and a photographer with local newspaper Vesti Gagauzii were sitting next to him in the conference room and were not asked to leave.
Radulov told CPJ that he filed reports to the police, the prosecutor’s office, and the Moldovan Ministry of Internal Affairs against Konstantinov and the two men who forced him out of the room. As of Tuesday, the police had registered two of his complaints but no law enforcement official had contacted him, Radulov said.
“The issue is deputies violating the law and human rights, as well as restrictions on media reporting on their activity and their general attitude towards media,” he told CPJ.
Janis Mazeiks, head of the European Union delegation in Moldova, wrote on Facebook calling for authorities to investigate Radulov’s expulsion.
CPJ emailed the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia and the Gagauzia police department for comment, but did not receive any replies.