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Memorandum on Press Freedom in Moldova 3 May 2012 – 3 May 2013 PDF Print E-mail

10.05.2013 / After approval, in 2010, of the legislative changes governing mass media in Moldova, a fact that the international ranking of press freedom appreciated by changing the status of the media from “not free” to “partly free”, our country had no more significant developments that would have allowed Moldova to join the category of countries with a free press. Moreover, last year there was certain stagnation in ensuring media freedom, and in some areas – even regression. The media continue to face the already traditional problems: gaps in the legal framework that hinder the development and financial sustainability of most media outlets, pressure and intimidation from officials, difficult access to information of public interest, lack of transparency regarding the owners of media outlets, delay in the reform of the public broadcaster, poor professionalism, etc.

The implementation of the Government program for 2011–2014 did not advance much over the last year, with many of the provisions regarding media liberalization and freedom of expression remaining unresolved. These issues include reform of the public broadcaster, privatization of the press, and de-monopolization of the media market by establishing a legal framework that would allow disclosure of owners and funders of media outlets, etc.

Working conditions. Regarding the safety of journalists, between 3 May 2012 and 3 May 2013 media organizations reported on several cases of abuse, which were committed mainly by individuals. In most cases perpetrators were identified and criminal cases were initiated. Relations between mass media and politicians have regressed, with there now being seen a trend of intimidation and harassment of the media by means of statements containing direct or veiled threats made ​​by some representatives of both government and the judiciary. Such statements as “I’ll tear you to pieces!”[1] coming from a public officer can be interpreted as attempts to intimidate inconvenient media and also indicate to a possible political interference in the work of the regulatory authority for broadcasting. Delay in the delivery of the verdict in the trial of the NIT TV station against the Broadcasting Coordinating Council (BCC), initiated after withdrawal of the station’s license in April 2012, is also symptomatic.

The legal framework. The legal framework on freedom of the press has had no major developments; only ​​a few insignificant changes were made to the Broadcasting Code, the Law on the Freedom of Expression and the Criminal Code. The Gagauz People’s Assembly adopted a new regulation regarding the accreditation of journalists for its sessions, which makes the accreditation process more difficult. In March 2013, a draft law was voted on penalizing public officials for censorship or intimidation of the media. On the other hand, the new version of the Broadcasting Code, drafted by the civil society and sent to the Parliament in autumn 2011, has not yet been forwarded as a legislative initiative. The draft law on amending the Law on Public Procurement, developed by media NGOs, has not yet been considered, either. At 2.5 years after the adoption of the Law on the Privatization of Public Periodicals, only a few of them have been privatized under the law. In the second half of last year, the Ministry of Economy prepared a draft law on amending the Law on Administration and Privatization of Public Property, under which the periodicals published and funded by district and municipal councils are to be included in the list of property not subject to privatization. This amendment would nullify the effects of the Law on the Privatization of Public Periodicals and would jeopardize reform in this area. Only the active involvement of third sector representatives, who specifically asked the Government and Members of Parliament to reject this legislative initiative, allowed the exclusion of publications edited on public money by district and municipal councils from the list of property not subject to privatization.

The media market. Over the last year there have been no major developments in the media market, and the legal framework has not been perfected in the sense of supporting the development of independent media. The lack of accurate data on the advertising market and excessive concentration in the capital of advertising providers on the one hand and of media outlets on the other hand prevent a coherent development of the media market and, ultimately, jeopardize the pluralism of the media and the diversity of media products. Currently, the circumstances hampering the development of national and local print media have included the abusive conditions imposed by major media distributors on the distribution of newspapers and magazines[2].

Public Broadcaster. Between 3 May 2012 and 3 May 2013, the situation of the public broadcaster remained unchanged, without apparent progress. The management of Teleradio-Moldova did not take major actions to implement the previously announced reforms, and the reform of the public broadcaster was unjustifiably delayed. The fact that the deadlines provided by the strategy and plan for the reorganization of Teleradio-Moldova were missed suggests that there are artificial barriers in the way of reform. The public broadcaster Moldova 1 worked without a Director for about nine months after its Director resigned in March 2012, justifying resignation by the fact that reforms had been stalling.

Concentration/monopolization of the media. The biased coverage offered by some media outlets, which is a result of an editorial policy providing open political partisanship, indicates to a dependence of media resources on politics. Both the governing and the opposition parties have significant interests related to mass media – either direct, when politicians are owners of media outlets, or indirect (economic or political), – which influence the adoption of certain decisions in the Parliament. Accordingly, in some cases the lack of professionalism causes the media to fall into the trap of those seeking to manipulate the public opinion through the media, while in other cases the media allow themselves to be engaged into the act of deliberate manipulation. The lack of media ownership transparency caused the emergence of a trend of media monopolization and concentration. It results in open or hidden partisanship of a number of media outlets led by obscure economic and political interests, and it seriously affects the diversity of opinions and limits public access to various and pluralistic sources of information.

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:

- React not only by declarations to the signals, suggestions and proposals of media outlets and media NGOs to improve the situation and advance towards European integration;

- Implement the actions regarding mass media as specified in the government plans according to the established terms and conditions, and avoid their delay;

- 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;

- Ensure the functioning of laws, in particular the application of the Law on the Freedom of Expression, and implementation of the Law on Privatization of Public Periodicals;

- Adopt legislative changes to ensure media ownership transparency, limit mass media concentration, and ensure transparency in the use of public money for public procurement;

 

- Improve the outdated parts of the legislation in the field, including on the funding for public broadcasters, purchases of European and domestic audiovisual works and products, commercial advertising, sponsorship and non-profit advertising, etc.;

- Ensure continuation of reforms at Teleradio-Moldova, refrain from exercising influence and pressure on the BCC and public broadcasters, and not allow various groups with political or economic interests to exercise such influence and pressure;

- Develop clear and transparent mechanisms for the use of public funds in the media, adopt and implement public policies to support the economic development of independent media.

 

Independent Journalism Center

Association of Independent Press
Electronic Press Association – APEL

Center for Investigative Journalism

“Acces-Info” Center

Press Freedom Committee

 

 

 

3 May 2013



[1] Intention of the Liberal Party to reintroduce criminal punishment for defamation, criticized by media NGOs http://www.ijc.md/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=804&Itemid=1

[2] Annual report on the media in 2012. http://www.ijc.md/Publicatii/mlu/Sumar%
20Raport%20asupra%20situa%C8%9Biei%20presei%20%C3%AEn%
20Republica%20Moldova%20%C3%AEn%20anul%202012.pdf

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