The International Federation of Journalists today expressed “shock and outrage” over attacks on Moldovan journalists and freedom of expression activists who are locked in an industrial battle – including a hunger strike since 22 August – to force the authorities to transform the former state broadcaster into an independent public service network.
“This is a pitched battle for standards and decency in media,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It is a shocking outrage that despite legal and constitutional guarantee to protect them, journalists and demonstrators have been savagely attacked.”
He said Moldovan authorities have shown “total disdain” for the freedom of expression and the right to strike of the workforce. “We insist that the decisions to create a genuine public broadcaster should be implemented and there must also be an inquiry about the violence used against media staff.”
The protest action began after the failure to carry through the democratic transition of the national broadcaster Teleradio Moldova during the summer. This led to protests and violent confrontation with striking journalists.
Demonstrations started on 27 July, when the Teleradio-Moldova journalists went on strike to protest against unfair procedures of selection of the staff for the new public broadcaster to be created following the adoption of a law last year.
Despite the authorisation to demonstrate received from the Chisinau Town Council, the protestors were attacked by the police, which also confiscated their materials. Several strikers were injured by the police and later one died, reportedly from an “unspecified heart attack.” Since 22 August five persons have been on hunger strike to protest at continuing political control over the broadcaster.
During the following days, the special forces drove out the journalists out of the building and National Moldovan Radio Station stopped broadcasting. The Journalists Union of Moldova has called for an inquiry into the attacks and the failure to implement the law on transformation of RTM. “The Moldovan authorities must get the transformation to the public broadcaster back on track,” said White. “More importantly, they must end all violence against media staff and carry out a full investigation into the complaints of our colleagues.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries.