Bill to amend Broadcasting Code passed in two readings

The bill to amend the Broadcasting Code that was proposed by the MPs of the Democratic Party and the European People’s Party of Moldova was adopted by Parliament in two readings by 61 votes in favor on December 7. The bill was criticized by the Communist MPs, who left the assembly hall before this was put to the vote. The Socialists also criticized the proposal, suggesting voting by name so as to see who and how assumes responsibility, but the proposal was rejected, IPN reports.

One of the authors of the bill, Democratic MP Sergiu Sarbu said that even if the Broadcasting Code was amended not long ago, not all the shortcomings were eliminated and these continue to endanger the appropriate implementation of the state policy on broadcasting. The bill introduces the notion of information security that will represent a set of measures aimed at protecting the people, society and the state from possible misinformation and manipulation attempts from outside.

In order to ensure the information security of the state, only news, feature, military and political radio and TV programs produced in the EU, U.S., Canada and states that ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television could be broadcast. The broadcasters and service distributors that will violate these provisions will face fines of 40,000 lei to 70,000 lei. The fine for the repeated violation will be of 70,000 to 100,000 lei. After the gradual application of penalties, the broadcast license could be withdrawn.

During the debates, a number of MPs said the bill does not contain provisions that would protect the media space from internal propaganda and it is not clear how local TV channels will be penalized if they disseminate propaganda, making reference to information broadcast by particular channels. Sergiu Sarbu replied that the Broadcasting Coordinating Council has instruments to ensure internal control over manipulation and misinformation.

Lib-Dem Maria Ciobanu said when the national media market is controlled by two monopolists – the Democratic leader Vlad Plahotniuc and, newer, President Igor Dodon – it’s not clear what prevented Vlad Plahotniuc from giving up retransmitting a Russian TV channel until now. She noted that this bill was put to the vote immediately after Vlad Plahotniuc was accused of murder attempt in Russia.

Communist leader Vladimir Voronin said this bill pursues economic rather than political goals. The people have all kinds of antennas and access to the Internet and can watch what they see and nobody can ban them from seeing a particular program. The bill is actually aimed at advertising. It should stipulate penalties not only for Russian channels, but also for Romanian ones.

Liberal leader Mihai Ghimpu said the Liberals proposed a similar bill in 2015. All the MPs in Europe understood that the Russian propaganda bit by bit destroys everything that is related to the freedom of the people, human rights, etc.

Head of the Communist group Inna Supac noted that in the harsh struggle for European values, the government is the one that violates those principles and values itself. “The Communist MPs will not take part in this crime and in the violation of human rights and leave the sitting in protest,” she stated.

Socialist MP Bogdan Tardea said the representatives of the government say they are pro-European, but flout the European recommendations and values. They say they are Democrats, but violate the pluralism of opinion and democracy. His colleague Vlad Batrincea said this law could cause a diplomatic scandal as it also refers to other partners of Moldova, besides Russia.

The bill was passed in two readings by 61 votes for. Vlad Batrincea said the Socialists will challenge the voting procedure and the law.

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