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900 Villages In 10 Years

Moldova -- RFE/RL Moldovan Service correspondent Valentina Ursu travels to the forgotten corners of her country to give locals a voice, 15 June 2012.
Valentina Ursu, a Chisinau-based reporter with RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, Radio Europa Libera, holds many awards for her outstanding journalistic work. Most recently, she received the National Order for Merit from the Romanian President for her reporting on European integration and her promotion of free speech. For her weekly radio program, she travels to the most remote parts of Moldova--over 900 villages during her 10 years with RFE/RL--to give a platform to people in a country that for the last 20 years has been torn between its past and its future, struggling to form a cohesive national identity. Ursu sat down with RFE/RL to discuss her work and what it takes to be a good reporter.

RFE/RL: The recent Ukrainian crisis and Russia's annexation of Crimea is closely watched in Moldova, which has its own separatist region of Transdniester. As an expert of the region, what do you consider to be the main challenges for reporters working in separatist areas?

Valentina Ursu: There are many challenges for journalists in Transdniester, especially for those who are not considered to be Russia-friendly media. For example, in 2011 I attempted to cover the presidential elections in Transdniester, but as a Radio Europa Libera reporter, I was immediately arrested and held in custody for four hours.

RFE/RL: And long before that you were among the fearless group of correspondents leading the coverage of the Transdniester War in 1992.

Ursu: I was among the few journalists who covered the tragic events of 1992 on the Nistru (Dniester) river. For almost half a year I filed daily reports for Moldovan National Radio from the conflict zone, which I compiled for my 1993 book "River of Blood.”

RFE/RL: What does it take to be a good journalist?

Ursu: My 17 years at Moldova's National Radio taught me that a good journalist should have common sense, and always be interested in truth and justice. In my time with RFE/RL, I’ve come to appreciate that freedom is the most precious value in this world, and I am lucky to work where I can promote freedom of expression. These democratic values are very important for a society in transition, especially for Moldova's citizens, who are looking for truth, justice, and prosperity.

RFE/RL: As an award-winning reporter, you are a role model for many journalists in your country. Who is your role model?

Ursu: That would be Oana Serafim, Director of RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service. From her I've learned to live for others, to seek perfection, and to let God take care of my life. Another role model in this life is my mother. I don't like it when others think that women cannot have a successful career as well as a beautiful family. I believe that a person cannot sacrifice herself for her job and vice versa -- everybody needs moments for a short “respiro.”

-- Zydrone Krasauskiene