Freedom of the Press 2010 - Moldova
|Publication Date||1 October 2010|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2010 - Moldova, 1 October 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ca5cc5ac.html [accessed 30 January 2015]|
Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 20
Political Environment: 24
Economic Environment: 21
Total Score: 65
|Total Score, Status||65,NF||65,NF||65,NF||66,NF||67,NF|
Press freedom continued to decline in the first half of 2009 as the ruling Communist Party restricted independent reporting ahead of two rounds of parliamentary elections in April and July. President Vladimir Voronin used his government's tight control over the media, along with widespread voting fraud, to increase the Communist Party's parliamentary majority in the April vote. The official results sparked mass protests and a brutal police crackdown, along with an aggressive media blackout on broadcast and internet coverage of the unrest. Nevertheless, the Communists lacked the parliamentary votes to elect Voronin's chosen successor as president, prompting the second round of elections in July. A group of reformist parties emerged from the new voting with a majority, formed a coalition called the Alliance for European Integration (AEI), and established a new government.
A variety of media restrictions remained in force under Voronin's government, but the reformist government amended the Audiovisual Code so that it could appoint new members to two media regulatory agencies, leading to a shift in the political bias of the state-owned media. Journalists and media outlets continued to experience harassment from the authorities even after the change in government. In September, media regulators asked the pro-Communist Omega television station to stop broadcasting its Russian-language news reports because it lacked a license to do so, according to local news reports. Lack of judicial independence also remained a problem. Though defamation was dropped from the country's criminal code in May and only 10 new civil defamation cases were reported in 2009, according to the Chisinau-based Independent Journalism Center (IJC), the constitution still forbids defamation of the state and the nation. Reporters were often unable to obtain basic public information from the government because many officials ignore the Access to Information Law. Distribution of broadcast licenses and privatizations of state outlets are politicized. In May, the pro-Communist media regulator arbitrarily revoked the license of the independent television channel PRO TV.
Intimidation of the local independent media as well as journalists from neighboring Romania increased before and after the April 2009 elections. In February and March, police officers arrived several times without a warrant to search the premises of Albasat, a local television station near Chisinau, citing suspected financial irregularities. In April, the Communist government cracked down aggressively on all media coverage of the police response to postelection protests. Journalists filming the violence were attacked by police officers, and Moldovan authorities expelled or denied visas to some two dozen Romanian journalists, according to press reports. There were no violent attacks reported during the July parliamentary elections, but investigating sensitive topics like government corruption remained risky. The South East Europe Media Organization noted that individual intimidation and aggression against journalists increased following the elections. On separate occasions in July, reporters were forcibly removed from public meetings by authorities, including bodyguards of Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii. In December, several investigative journalists from the Chisinau-based independent newspaper Ziarul de Garda and their families received threats over the telephone and via e-mail in retaliation for reporting on allegations of corruption in the National Railway Company of Chisinau, the IJC reported.
In the separatist Transnistria region, media are highly restricted and politicized. Most local broadcast media are controlled by the Transnistrian authorities or by companies, like Sheriff Enterprises, that are linked to the separatist regime. Any critical information regarding the separatist authorities is promptly suppressed and the journalists responsible harassed. The Transnistrian State Security Ministry opened a criminal investigation against the Russian news agency Regnum in January and searched its bureau in the separatist capital of Tiraspol in February after it published an article that allegedly called for "a violent seizure of power and a change of the constitutional system" in the region, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES). Print media in Transnistria are required to register with the separatist Ministry of Information in Tiraspol rather than the internationally recognized Moldovan government in Chisinau.
The state broadcaster, Teleradio Moldova, consistently favored progovernment politicians and criticized the opposition ahead of the parliamentary elections in April and July, according to European election monitors. Only government-controlled broadcasters have national reach; there is little private broadcasting, and most programs are rebroadcasts from either Romania or Russia. The government also influences the media through financial subsidies and advertising. Following the April elections, the government forced advertisers to stop working with the independent and opposition media, according to local press reports and CJES.
Although the underdeveloped telecommunications infrastructure and high fees for internet connections have limited usage, internet access is generally not restricted by the authorities, and access grew around 36 percent of the population in 2009. During the April postelection protests, authorities blocked access to several social-networking websites because protesters were using them to communicate amid the media blackout, according to local press reports. The following month, the state internet-service provider MoldData warned the oppositionist website Unimedia that it could be shut down for publishing "illegal material," namely "hateful comments" posted by users.