Seven media NGOs, including the Independent Journalism Centre, have expressed concerns about a draft amendment to the Audiovisual Media Services Code (AMSC), which was registered in Parliament on October 14, 2021. Among other things, MPs want to establish legal mechanisms for appointing, managing, and removing members of the Broadcasting Council (BC) and the supervisory and management bodies of Teleradio Moldova (TRM), should they perform unsatisfactory work. At the same time, the authors of the draft law propose to change the mechanism for appointing members of the Supervisory Board (SB) of TRM.
In a joint statement, the media NGOs argue that such practices, which have been used previously in the national public broadcasting sphere, have led to the significant subordination of the TRM to the ruling political powers. This politicization of the broadcasting space led the European Court of Human Rights to condemn to Moldova for violating Article 10 of the Convention. The signatories warn, among other things, that in the absence of clear criteria, the proposed changes allow for political forces in government to interfere in the TRM’s work and distance the provider from its primary objective to serve the public interest.
The ECHR has condemned Moldova in an October 12 decision for violating freedom of expression in the case of RISE Moldova and Iurie Sanduta v. Republic of Moldova.
The journalistic investigation, published in September 2016, concerned an offshore transaction involving the company Exclusiv Media, which was managed by socialist MP Corneliu Furculita. According to the investigation, more than 30 million lei (1,475,746 euro) were transferred through this company to Moldova a few months before the presidential election in October 2016. The transfer involved an offshore company (with ties to the Russian Federation) registered in the Bahamas – a notorious tax haven.
After the publication of the RISE Moldova investigation, representatives of the Socialist Party of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) and Exclusiv Media sued the journalists and demanded a retraction, claiming that they were the victims of defamation.
The ECHR judges ruled in favor of RISE Moldova and investigative journalist Iurie Sanduta, author of the investigation “Dodon’s money in the Bahamas.”
The decision of the European Court of Human Rights calls for the state of Moldova to provide compensation to the sum of €3,800 to RISE Moldova journalists for using national courts to obstruct their freedom of expression.
Several journalists met on October 7 with representatives of government press services, ministries, and other executive branch institutions. During the informal event, journalists discussed issues related to facilitating communication between authorities and the media.
The meeting was organized under the initiative Journalists’ Crisis Cell, which was launched by the IJC after several media representatives asked to talk to government spokespersons about improving lines of communication. Executive officials urged journalists to come up with recommendations on how the central government should communicate with the media.
The event was attended by about 25 people, including spokespersons and journalists from about 15 newsrooms.
The IJC launched the Journalists’ Crisis Cell in early April 2020 in the context of the state of emergency following the Covid-19 pandemic, which exacerbated problems related to the lack of transparency and restricted access to information of public interest.
The Information and Security Service (ISS) has requested the blocking of the website Censor.net, which allegedly distributed false news about the conditions under which Ukraine is supplying natural gas to Moldova. The order, signed by ISS Director Alexandr Esaulenco, was approved on October 23 based on a provision of the Committee on Exceptional Situations. This occurred as Parliament declared an Emergency Situation.
In a press release, the ISS refers to the following excerpt from the article: “The gas deal for Moldova is part of a deal, according to which the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Moldova must close the case on the kidnapping of former Judge Ceaus”. As the news agency “Komsomolskaia Pravda” (www.kp.md
) distributed the article, the ISS has requested the removal of the content from all online resources that have picked it up.
|The term of office of the current members (director general and deputies) of the Supervisory Council (SC) of TRM could automatically end when several amendments to the Audiovisual Media Services Code – proposed by Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) MPs in a draft law – come into force. The amendments concern, among other things, the establishment of a parliamentary oversight mechanism over the TRM and the election of members of the TRM SC and the BC.|
A group of PAS MPS presented the draft law at an October 18 press briefing. According to the authors, the new provisions “will promote the accountability of the national public media service provider, Teleradio-Moldova.” Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei, Chairwoman of the parliamentary committee, said that the changes also concern the revision of the mechanism for determining the board of directors.
Several BC members have expressed their disagreement with the October 21 draft law on the establishment of parliamentary control over TRM and the adoption of new mechanisms for the removal from office of the public company’s management and BC members. Some board members argued that such changes would “undermine broadcasting.”
In the opinion of BC Chairwoman Ala Ursu-Antoci, “this is a very serious attack on media independence. It establishes political control over the only regulatory institution and the only national media service provider. It is political control and political subordination”.
Other BC members were also critical of the draft law. Iulian Rosca described the legislative initiative as another attempt by Parliament “to undermine the audiovisual sector”, and Corneliu Mihalache assumed that one of the aims of the initiative would be to withdraw the broadcasting license of certain TV channels by disbanding and appointing new members to the BC.
|At an October 19 meeting, the Parliamentary Committee on Culture, Education, Research, Youth, Sport, and the Media repealed the decision related to the competition for the selection of candidates for BC membership. The deputies cited the draft law bringing Teleradio-Moldova back under parliamentary control, which provides for a different numerical composition of the BC and a different mechanism for appointing members, as justification for this repeal. Earlier, the committee announced that Victoria Stetcaia, Eugeniu Ribca, and Ion Terguta are the candidates proposed by civil society organizations for membership on the board. The three were to compete for two vacancies.|
However, on October 14, a group of PAS MPs registered a draft amendment to the Audiovisual Media Services Code that would reduce the number of BC members from nine to seven. Currently, the BC is composed of two members proposed by Parliament, one member each proposed by the President and the government, and five members proposed by civil society organizations and selected through a public competition. The new formula stipulates that the audiovisual regulatory authority will be made up of three members proposed by parliamentary factions (keeping in mind the proportional representation of the majority and the parliamentary opposition), one member each proposed by the government and the Head of State, and two members proposed by civil society organizations covering audiovisual media issues.
|The BC announced at its October 22 meeting a new competition to fill two vacancies on TRM’s SC. The decision was adopted in parallel to Parliament’s vote on a draft law in its first reading, which provides that the mandate of the current SC members (the general director and the TRM deputies) will automatically cease upon the entry into force of the law.|
BC Chairwoman Ala Ursu-Antoci said that authorities must follow the procedure, even though the legislature voted in its first reading on the draft law related to the possible dismissal of the current members of the SC. “When it will be voted in the second reading, then we will suspend the competition,” Ursu-Antoci explained.