2009-05-03/15:22 Media organizations gathered on Sunday in Chisinau’s Opera House square to mark the World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on May 3. This year the event was marked in an atmosphere of concern and revolt against “the intimidation of journalists and media organizations following the April 5 parliamentary elections”, Info-Prim Neo reports.
The organizers of the event – the Moldovan Journalists Union (UJM), the Independent Press Association (API), the Electronic Press Association (APEL) and the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) – declared that their intention this year was to “draw the attention of the national and international public opinion to the particularly dangerous environment for a Moldovan journalist to work, to the violation of the right to information, violation of the freedom of expression, violence against the journalists and the pressure exerted by the authorities on the media outlets and media nongovernmental organizations that are critical of the government”.
API executive director Petru Macovei expressed his appreciation for the journalists who stood on the “frontline” during the tragic events in the aftermath of the April 5 polls, condemning at the same time “the biased reporting” from “many fellow journalists”. “It is key that we demand journalists to be objective, to show us the reality as it really is and never lie to us”, said Macovei.
Valeriu Saharneanu, UJM president and also the moderator of the meeting, read out the findings of a recent report by the democracy watchdog Freedom House, which showed that there’s no free press in Moldova.
However, speaking about the April events, Val Butnaru, the director of the “Jurnal de Chisinau” daily, challenged the correctness of Freedom House’s findings: “The fact that those generally apathetic and conformist European officials changed their opinion is to some extent the merit of this free press that exists in our country”. Butnaru also disputed the idea that the press was split on ethic criteria in reporting on the events that followed the April 5 polls, according to which the Russian-language papers pursued a pro-Communist policy, whereas the Romanian-language media took the side of the Opposition. “Two Russian papers – “Moldavskie vedomosti” and the Balti-based “SP” – displayed an equidistant conduct and their reporting was in agreement with journalism ethics. This proves that some reporters are what they are meant to be – the fourth branch of government”, said Val Butnaru.
Tudor Iascenco of the Rezina-based “Cuvântul” told Info-Prim Neo that today the Moldovan journalists must unite. “We must demonstrate that we are a power in this country, that we have a say in many things, especially in informing the people correctly. Because, if we fail to do this, someone else will inform them incorrectly. It’s most tragic that many fellow journalists realize that they do something wrong, but they go on doing it”, said Iascenco.
Various attendees at the event, other than journalists, agreed that the freedom of media is key in developing a democratic and European state. Writers and politicians congratulated the journalists on their day, encouraging them to do their job without fear, no matter what. Some politicians used the occasion to promise early elections in order to institute “a democratic government and a free press”.