The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute, condemns the physical attack against a Publika TV crew in Calarasi, a town of 16,000 inhabitants in central Moldova, approximately 50 kilometers from the country’s capital, Chisinau.
The incident occurred on 7 December 2011, when the TV crew arrived in Calarasi, to report on a decision by the local church to switch allegiance from the pro-Russian Moldovan Metropolitan Church to the Metropolis of Bessarabia, a branch of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
While local citizens gathered to watch the filming, a man who was alleged to be the lawyer of the Moldovan Metropolitan Church, pushed reporters around and tried to impede the filming while a policeman watched without intervening. When the journalists asked him for assistance, the policeman said that he could not do anything in such situations, according to the video shot at the scene.
Policemen in small towns do not know how to deal with camera crews, according to a Moldovan NGO consulted by SEEMO. Journalists filed complaints with the Calarasi Police Commissioner.
Reacting promptly, an advisor to the Ministry of Interior said that the policeman’s alleged inaction would be examined, while representatives of the Bar Association declared that they would examine the behavior of their alleged colleague.
A group of Moldovan NGOs – the Independent Journalism Center, the Association of Independent Press, the Electronic Press Association, the Committee for the Freedom of the Press, the Journalistic Investigations Center, Acces-Info Center, and the Journalists Union – signed a joint statement demanding punishment for those who intimidate journalists and calling on the Ministry of the Interior to hold an internal inquiry into the behavior of the police officer who witnessed the incident. “The incident happened in a public place, in the presence of several police officers, but they did not intervene,” the statement read.
“I call on the authorities in Chisinau to investigate this incident, sanction the alleged aggressor and make sure that the police, even in small towns, guarantees security for journalists,” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. “In a democratic country, media freedom should be guaranteed in every corner of the country. Journalists cannot be attacked with impunity.”