English PEN is deeply concerned that Natalia Morari, an investigative journalist and activist, has been charged with ‘calls for organising and staging mass disturbances’, and could face up to eight years in prison.
The charges against Morari stem from a protest organised by her and a group of activists which took place at the Great National Square in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, on 7 April 2009. The protest, initially organised as a peaceful demonstration, was coordinated using text messages on mobile phones, and the Twitter and Facebook networks. Its objective was to hold a ‘day of mourning’ after the results of the 5 April parliamentary elections were made public. Initially, the organisers thought the demonstration would gather several hundreds people, and informed the authorities accordingly, on 6 April. However, on the ‘day of mourning’ over 10,000 people had joined the demonstration. At around midday the protest turned violent, and hours later the riots were controlled by the authorities allegedly with excessive use of force. International commentators have named the events as the “Twitter Revolution”. Morari has told the press that she had not wanted or expected the violence, but praised the courage of young people in coming onto the streets to protest against the election irregularities.
Natalia Morari has written widely on corruption and money laundering, and had articles published in the independent Moscow based The New Times. She is described by a colleague as “a rising star” in the dangerous world of Russian investigative reporting. She is well known to free expression activists in Russia and abroad. In late 2007 Morari published a number of reports on political irregularities in the Kremlin and corruption within the Russian intelligence services, the FSB. As can be seen by the murders of journalists in Russia, such writings expose the authors to enormous risk. The New Times has lost advertising revenue as advertisers pull out, fearing repercussions. Morari believes that the Russian security services collaborated with the Moldovan authorities in her arrest.
Natalia Morari is married to the Russian journalist Ilya Barabanov, who remains in Russia. In late 2007 she was expelled from Russia, on charges of being a “threat to national security”. No specific reasons were given, but it is thought it is because of her exposure of Kremlin corruption. Since then she has been unable to visit her husband, who now visits her in Chisinau, Moldova twice a month. She continues to report on European issues for The New Times.
Letters to the press
PEN members may consider writing letters to their national newspapers expressing alarm at events in Moldova and Russia, and highlighting Natalia Morari’s case to illustrate repression in these countries.
Further details on Natalia Morari:
‘Protests in Moldova Explode, with help of Twitter’ (The New York Times, 7 April 2009)
‘Moldova: Civil Society Activists at risk of arrest’ (Amnesty International, 8 April)
Natalia Morari’s blog (in Russian)
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/moldovajournalistfacingimprisonmentforactivism/