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RSF: In "unfair and dangerous" move, Moldova denies entry to 18 Romanian journalists

A total of 18 Romanian reporters and photographers working for Romanian and international news media were denied entry to Moldova yesterday as violent demonstrations were taking place in protest against the official results of the 5 April parliamentary elections, according to which the ruling Communist Party won 50 per cent of the votes.

"We condemn this unfair and dangerous decision by the Moldovan authorities," Reporters Without Borders said. "It not only hampers proper media coverage of what is taking place but it also exacerbates the tension between Moldova and Romania, fuelling a nationalistic and aggressive discourse that could destabilise the situation even further."

The international media whose journalists were denied entry included Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, EPA and Reuters. Among the Romanian media to be affected were Evenimentul Zilei, Jurnalu National, Ziua and Realitatea TV. The journalists were repeatedly turned back at various border crossings including Galati and Oancea on administrative pretexts although the real reason was probably their Romanian nationality. Journalists from other countries were allowed into Moldova from Ukraine.

Telephone communication with Moldova, especially by mobile, is currently very difficult and Internet connections within the country are still very unstable since Internet access via the national telecommunications company Moldtelecom was interrupted yesterday. Access to several independent news websites is blocked.

Meanwhile, the state-owned broadcast media have mainly been putting out entertainment programmes and cartoons, with very little coverage of the protests in the capital, Chisinau.

According to a so far unverified report, at least one journalist was the victim of police violence while another was prevented from filming in Balti (150 km northeast of Chisinau). Journalist Natalia Morar was meanwhile reported to be the target of legal proceedings by the prosecutor's office. Legal proceedings were also reportedly being brought against several of the organisers of lightning demonstrations in which thousands of protesters took part.

The already very tense relations between Moldova and Romania have worsened in recent days. Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin accused Romania of being behind the protests in an interview for the Russian news agency Interfax and Romania's ambassador has been declared persona non grata. Today President Voronin threatened to use force if the anti-communist rioting continued in the capital.

A former Soviet republic that has been independent since 1991, Moldova is Europe's poorest country. The OSCE said that overall the 5 April elections met international standards but several individual OSCE members questioned this evaluation. The opposition is demanding a recount.

A landlocked country between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova has had an unresolved territorial dispute since 1992, when the easternmost region of Transnistria, with an area of some 4,000 sq km, declared independence with support from Russia. The election result has revived tension between Moldova's pro-Russian and pro-Western factions, between those nostalgic for the Soviet past and those who want to join the European Union.

tags: election | Moldova | RSF

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