Journalists campaign against censorship in Moldova, 2004

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Timing
Time Period:  
March
2004
to
November
2004
Location and Goals
Country: 
Moldova
Location City/State/Province: 
Chisinau
Goals: 
End the overt censorship put in place by the Communist government
 

In 2001, the communist party came to power in Moldova. The communist party would go on to acquire a parliamentary majority. Early in 2004, this parliamentary majority made a request that suspended the licenses of two oppositional media entities: a radio station, Antena C, and a television station, Euro TV. Both media outlets had supported oppositional candidates in the previous election. The government's decision would be met with outrage and resistance from both stations.

Vasile State, director of Antena C, and Arcadie Gherasim, director of Euro TV, requested authorization for a protest from the Chisinau City Hall. The request was made on March 18 for a protest to be held April 4th. Eleven days after the request, five members of Euro TV began a hunger strike in protest of the overt censorship. The strikers released a statement calling for the reinstatement of the two stations. This statement was signed by Dina Clapco-Pripa, Tatiana Turcanu, Giulia Ostapova, Aurel Iesanu, and Valeriu Clapco. The five also indicated to the media that others would be joining them shortly.

Meanwhile, employees of Antena C were organizing in the streets. They gathered in the streets carrying signs that read "Down with censorship!" and "We want to work!" On April 1, an employee of Antenna C announced that he would begin a hunger strike and nine other employers of Euro TV joined in a hunger strike. On April 2, two of the original five hunger strikers fainted and needed to receive immediate medical attention The two later ended their hunger strikes due to cautionary advice from the doctor that treated them. That same day, Gherasim announced that more journalists had pledged to join the hunger strikes. As the campaign gained momentum and media coverage, organizations began to speak out in support of their cause; the Independent Journalism Centre, Acces-Info Centre, Committee for the Press Freedom, Association of Independent Press and Association of Electronic Press APEL also issued statements voicing support for the campaign.

The long-awaited protest scheduled for April 4 attracted hundreds of people to participate in a rally in Chisinau. This day marked the fifth day of the hunger strike and twenty one protesters remained on strike while five others had to quit due to serious health concerns. Protesters at the rally held signs that read "Antena C and Euro TV are under house arrest!" and "We experience information hunger!" Representatives from the opposition parties, including the Christian Democratic Popular Party, the Social Liberal Party, and the Our Moldova Alliance, were present at the rally.

Two days after the rally, the government's decision to suspend the licenses of the two media outlets was confirmed by the Audio Visual Council, an agency dealing with media licenses. Eight of the nine members of the council voted in favor of the government's decision. Employees of both media outlets attended the meeting and chanted, "We demand the right to information." Before leaving, they also assured the council that there would be further demonstrations. The following day, street protests resumed; protesting journalists picketed outside the offices of the Audio Visual Council for an hour.

The next dramatic action taken occurred at the end of July when a group of journalists sat-in at the national radio headquarters for five days. The journalists were forced to end their sit-in when a bomb threat was called into the building, leading to a complete evacuation of the building. Hundreds gathered outside the building to continue the protest. Opposition leaders were present once again, waving anti-communist posters. The protests persevered and on August 6, they began to attract support from musicians who would come and voice their support through music.

The continued presence of the journalists prompted a violent response from the Moldovan police forces. Those who were gathered outside the national radio headquarters were attacked during the early hours of the morning on August 7. Other news surfaced reporting that the families of some protesters were also intimidated in their homes. Allegedly, the police set fire to the door of one protester's apartment.

Protests continued after the assault, but the communist government responded by firing hundreds of journalists that sympathized with the cause in November. The communist president was then reelected in 2005, which confirmed that nothing would change. The campaign failed to make any progress.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Basapress News Agency. "Moldovan journalists plan protest over closure of TV stations" Basapress News Agency 20 March 2004

----. "Journalists of opposition TV channel go on hunger strike in Moldova" Basapress News Agency 31 March 2004

----. "Moldovan opposition journalists resume protests against closure" Basapress News Agency 1 April 2004

----. "More opposition journalists go on hunger strike in Moldova" Basapress News Agency 2 April 2004

----. "Moldovan journalists on hunger strike hospitalized" Basapress News Agency 3 April 2004

----. "Three Moldovan hunger strike journalists in hospital" Basapress News Agency 3 April 2004

----. "Moldovan journalists show solidarity with hunger-strike peers" Basapress News Agency 3 April 2004

----. "Moldovan opposition journalists resume protest against closure" Basapress News Agency 7 April 2004

----. "Moldovan police break up journalist protest" Basapress News Agency 1 August 2004

----. "Moldovan protesting journalists say police attacked their camp" Basapress News Agency 8 August 2004

----. "Hundreds protest against cuts, censorship at Moldovan TV" Basapress News Agency 9 August 2004

----. "Moldovan reporter on hunger strike in continuing state broadcaster row" Basapress News Agency 23 August 2004

----. "More Moldovan journalists join hunger strike against dismissal" Basapress News Agency 25 August 2004

----. "Fourth Moldovan reporter goes on hunger strike" Basapress News Agency 26 August 2004

----. "Dniester war veteran joins Moldovan hunger-striking journalists" Basapress News Agency 6 September 2004

----. "Striking Moldovan journalists joined by language-row pupils" Basapress News Agency 13 September 2004

----. "Moldovan journalists end hunger strike" Basapress News Agency 24 September 2004

----. "Moldovan court rejects journalists' suit against state broadcaster" Basapress News Agency 25 September 2004

----. "Re-employed Moldovan journalists decry "pressure" from opposition" Basapress News Agency 29 September 2004

----. "Protesting Moldovan journalists say state TV not negotiating in good faith" Basapress News Agency 23 Novemeber 2004

Deutsche Press-Agentur. "Moldova media protest broken up by unknown assailants" Deutsche Press-Agentur 9 August 2004

Infotag News Agency. "Moldovan authorities confirm opposition TV, radio suspension" Infotag News Agency 6 April 2004

----. "Moldovan protest journalists demand right to reply" Infotag News Agency 6 August 2004

----. "Moldovan TV chief says protest sympathisers to lose jobs" Infotag News Agency 9 August 2004

Interfax News Agency. "Hundreds of protesters back Moldovan hunger-strike journalists" Interfax News Agency 4 April 2004

----. "Interfax: Three hunger strike participants hospitalized in Chisinau" Interfax News Agency 4 April 2004

----. "Moldovan journalists continue protest after hoax bomb threat" Interfax News Agency 1 August 2004

----. "Interfax: Moldovan national radio resumes broadcasts" Interfax News Agency 1 August 2004

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Julio Alicea 21/03/2011