Memorandum on Press Freedom in Moldova 3 May 2013 – 3 May 2014

According to international media freedom rankings, between 3 May 2013 and 3 May 2014 the freedom of the press in the Republic of Moldova maintained the same level as in previous years. This lack of significant progress is almost entirely explained by the status quo in domestic politics and in relevant legislation. Alike previous democratic governments, the Leancă Government included in its program similar objectives, such as: modernization of the National Public Broadcast Institution “Teleradio-Moldova”, freedom of the press and of the media pluralism and adequate conditions for media outlets, stimulation of investments in the domestic media market and access to information of public interest. However, in the last year there were not adopted concrete measures in order to put these objectives into practice. To the contrary, some risky initiatives for the development of the media and of the freedom of expression were launched, including criminalization of libel and nontransparent regulation of Internet. Working conditions. Frequent cases of verbal attack by politicians, threats and physical aggression by individuals on journalists that occurred between 3 May 2013 and 3 May 2014 had a negative impact on the situation of the press. In the last year, the access of journalists to some public events was restricted. The most eloquent example is the limitation of the access of journalists to the plenary sessions of Parliament. The media representatives have been obliged to report from a separate room in Parliament equipped with live video transmission, while the access to the meeting room was restricted. The cameramen are not allowed to shoot in Parliament building. They also have no control over the camera angles of showing the images on the screens situated in the room. These technical conditions impede the work of journalists. Both the leadership of Parliament and the leaders of Parliamentary factions have promised on several occasions to restore the access of the press in the plenary sessions` room. However, the promises have not yet materialized in concrete actions. On 18 June 2013, a group of deputies registered a draft law amending Article 25 of the Law on Government proposing to cease the live transmission of Government`s meetings. The proposal was adopted in first reading on 18 October 2013. In the opinion of a number of journalists and media outlets, the cease of live transmission will affect the transparency of the decision-making process. In early 2014, a number of cable operators removed certain channels from their offers. The concerned channels claimed that the decision of cable operators was of political nature and alleged violation of contract provisions, unfair competition and limitation of the freedom of expression in the broadcasting market. Following the critics of the civil society, the decisions have been repealed. This situation showed once again that the Broadcasting Code was deficient and if not amended it would generated other similar situations. The legal framework. The legal framework concerning the monopolizations of the media and of the advertising market, the transition to digital transmission and the media coverage of elections was not improved between 3 May 2013 and 3 May 2014. Several proposals amending the Broadcasting Code were registered, among which the proposal to improve the transparency of media ownership and the access of the public to such information. The civil society proposed a new Broadcasting Code, which was registered as a draft law in 2011. Media organizations have doubts about the adoption of these two legislative proposals by the actual legislature, given the contradiction between the deputies` statements and their deeds. Public broadcaster. The reported period was marked by some positive changes at the Company “Teleradio-Moldova” among which the optimization of the programming and of the webpage. However, the reforms launched in 2011 had stagnated. The new salary system has not yet been implemented, while the digitalization is financially uncovered although it is to be completed by 2015. In late 2013, the Supervisory Board of “Teleradio-Moldova” had only three members in office, being unable to fulfill its duties. In December, following a public contest, the Broadcast Coordinating Council selected and forwarded to Parliament 12 candidates. However, the six new Supervisory Board members have not been yet nominated by Parliament. Concentration/monopolization of the media. The media in Moldova are not sufficiently independent politically and economically and the citizens do not receive fair, objective and balanced information. One of the reasons lies in that that a high number of media outlets are owned or controlled by politicians and they would not resist the conditions of the media market without the protection and financial support of their owners. The information about media owners is not available and, in result, the journalists have to rely on suppositions and connections. During the last year, the media experts urged the adoption of laws that would limit media concentration and unfair competition, but to no avail. Monopolization of the press to the interest of owners will lead to the transformation of the media in a tool of political and economic blackmail to the detriment of fair reporting. As a consequence, the main role of the media as a “watchdog” to inform the society and to scrutinize the government would be perverted.
Recommendations: To ensure true freedom of the press in accordance with the principles of a democratic society and in line with international norms, the Moldovan authorities should:
  • Put the objectives of the Government program into practice;
  • React and penalize the persons guilty of aggression against journalists, intimidation and harassment of the press, violation of the right of expression, limiting of access to information of public interest;
  • Improve the media legislation by adopting or amending laws that will ensure the adequate environment for the development of independent and pluralist media. The first steps in this direction shall include:
  •  Repeal the Press Law and transfer the functional provisions uncovered by other laws to other normative acts;
  • Adopt without delays the draft law amending the Broadcasting Code which guarantees the media ownership transparency; and afterwards adopt the draft broadcasting code;
  • Adopt the proposal to amend the Law on Public Procurement which provides obligations to ensure the transparency of public procurement in the media field;
  • Ensure the transparency of broadcast frequency assignment and withdrawal and of the decisions establishing the basic programs to be included in cable offers by setting clear criteria and conditions for all broadcasters, priority being given to broadcasters producing domestic programs.
  • Ensure continuation of reforms at Teleradio-Moldova;
  • Adopt measures to limit mass media concentration that would pose a threat to the pluralism of national, regional and local media;
  • Ensure full depoliticizing of the Broadcast Coordinating Council and empower it with sufficient competences for its mission;
  • Create and ensure realization of national programs and policies to support the development of independent media and the production of programs in Romanian language.
Independent Journalism Center Association of Independent Press “Acces-Info” Center Press Freedom Committee Electronic Press Association – APEL Center for Young Journalists Association of Independent Tele-journalists Center for Investigative Journalism Source of photo: http://www.infoprut.ro/

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