Does arrest signal campaign by breakaway region against pro-Moldovan journalists?
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||15 April 2010|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Does arrest signal campaign by breakaway region against pro-Moldovan journalists?, 15 April 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4bceb7ae15.html [accessed 12 December 2013]|
Reporters Without Borders condemns the detention of leading independent journalist and political analyst Ernest Vardanean in Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway region of Transnistria. Arrested by the Transnistrian intelligence agency, the MGB, on 7 April, he is facing between 12 and 20 years in prison on a charge of high treason.
Vardanean, who is from Tiraspol, is currently being held in the breakaway territory's national security headquarters after a court held a closed-door hearing and ordered him placed in pre-trial detention for two months.
According to a television station in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, the Transnistrian authorities have accused Vardanean under article 272 of the Transnistrian constitution of spying for Moldova. Transnistria declared itself independent of Moldova in 1990 but its secession has not been recognised by Moldova or any other state.
Reporters Without Borders fears that the Tiraspol authorities could, in an arbitrary and untransparent manner, impose a long jail sentence on Vardanean although they lack any grounds for doing so. His arrest may be the first move in a broader campaign against Transnistrian journalists working for Moldovan media who express views critical of the breakaway region's authorities.
Vardanean's wife Irina said his computer was seized when he was arrested. She still had not received any news from Vardanean or any information as to the conditions in which he was being held two days after his arrest.
He used to work for the Novii Reghion news agency but recently began freelancing. He is well known among Moldovan journalists for being critical of Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov. He had been due to begin this week to write for a blog on the Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty Moldovan service's website.
Journalists working in regions with lasting political conflicts are often in a delicate situation. There is always a danger of their falling victim to regional political rivalry and harassment of the press often foreshadows a resurgence in regional tension.
Located along Moldova's eastern border with Ukraine, Transnistria declared its independence of Moldova after the USSR's collapse. Supported by Russia, it has a constitution, a flag and an independent army but it has not been recognised by any country.