Investigative journalist Natalia Morari was reportedly charged with 'calls for organising and staging mass disturbances', and could face up to eight years in prison.
The charges stem from a protest organised by Morari, aged 25, and a group of activists which took place at the Great National Square in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, on 7 April 2009. The protest 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 hundred people, and informed the authorities accordingly, on 6 April. However, on the 'day of mourning' over 10,000 people 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. In spite of the charges against her, Morari continues to report on European issues for The New Times, and has also written for Index on Censorship. (To read the first article written by Morari after the April 2009 protest, please click here.)
Natalia Morari had been living and working as an investigative journalist in Russia for the Moscow based The New Times. She writes on contentious issues such as corruption and money laundering. She is described by a colleague as "a rising star" in the dangerous world of Russian investigative reporting, and is well known to free expression activists in Russia and abroad. In late 2007, Morari published a number of reports on political irregularities within the Kremlin and corruption inside 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.
In December 2007 Morari was barred from entering Russia on her return from an assignment in Israel. She was held in Domodedovo airport in Moscow overnight before being deported to Moldova, her home country. Two weeks later she was informed that she would no longer be allowed to enter Russia under Article 27 (1) of Law 114 that states that a non Russian citizen would be barred from entering Russia if considered "a threat for national security, defence capacity of the state, public order and public health of Russian citizens".
In February 2008, Morari married Ilya Barabanov, a Russian citizen who is also an investigative journalist for The New Times. When the couple attempted to return to Russia together, Morari was refused entry. Barabanov now lives in Russia, visiting Morari in Moldova every two to three weeks. In early May 2009 it was reported that the Moldovan Court of Appeals had released Morari from house arrest. She is free to leave her home, but cannot leave the country.
Natalia Morari is an Honorary Member of English PEN and Cuban Writers in Exile PEN
Natalia Morari is now regularly blogging for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. To read her blog, please click here.
Please send appeals:
• Protesting the charges against Natalia Morari solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression, and calling for the charges to be dismissed;
• Calling on the Russian government to put an end to the harassments against Natalia Morari for her journalistic work;
• Asking the Russian and Moldovan governments to respect it's international human rights obligations, in particular Article 19 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights which guarantees the rights of all individuals to free expression
Addresses in Moldova
Parliamentary Human Rights Advocate
Centre for Human Rights in the Republic of Moldova
16 Sfatul Tarii Str., MD-2012, Chişinǎu
Republic of Moldova
Fax: 373 22 22 54 42
26, Mitropolit Banulescu-Bodoni Str., MD-2005, Chişinǎu
Republic of Moldova
Fax: 373 22 21 20 32
Addresses in Russia
Mr Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Fax: 7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408
Mr Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka, 15a GSP 3
Fax: 7 095 292 88 48
*** Please let us know via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have sent an appeal and certainly if you should receive any response from the authorities.***