Journalists in Moldova are not sentenced for their news stories

The Republic of Moldova reached the 22nd year of independence. The IPN Agency decided to present the accomplishments and failures in the country’s development in a number of articles. Representatives of the current government, experts, former and current politicians stated their views on the steps taken by Moldova after August 27, 1991.

Article No. 13 of the IPN series “Moldova-22. Steps forward and steps backward”, on the occasion of the Independence Day

After the proclamation of independence, the most important achievement of the mass media in Moldova was the obtaining of freedom of expression and the switchover from the Soviet journalism model to a western model where the subject centers on the person and the problem. In the 1990s, during the National Renaissance period, the press switched to the Latin script among the first and was a useful source not only for informing the people, but also for learning the Romanian and how to write in the Latin script.

Cornelia Cozonac, director of the Journalistic Investigations Center, considers that the investigative journalism has developed over last ten years. Under the Communist government, the journalists carried out courageous journalistic investigations, even if not many. After 2009, more journalists started to perform such investigations with an impact. In the 22 years of independence, the Moldovan journalists had the freedom to criticize the government, the head of state and other state authorities, unlike their colleagues from other ex-Soviet countries. It should be noted that the journalists in Moldova are not sentenced for the news stories they write.

The chairman of the Broadcasting Coordinating Council Marian Pocaznoi said that one of the most important accomplishments of the national mass media in the 22 years of the proclamation of independence was, first of all, the development of the broadcasting sector. Thus, in 1997, one year after the creation and approval of the first Broadcasting Coordination Council on January 1, 1996, there were only 35 holders of broadcast licenses. Now the figure stands at about 260 holders. They include TV channels, radio stations and service distributors. “This fact contributed to the appearance of loyal competition on the mass media market and stimulated the Moldovan broadcasters to provide program services of a higher quality and more diversified so as to satisfy the demands of all the program consumers who are of different ages, have different tastes and form part of different social strata,” said the chairman of the BCC.

Events in the broadcasting sector that should be remembered

Cornelia Cozonac considers that the Law on Access to Information, adopted in 2001, and the fact that the criminal punishment for slander for journalists was eliminated in 2003 should go down in history. After Moldova lost a number of cases concerning the limiting of journalists’ rights at the ECHR, the number of lawsuits filed by functionaries against journalists decreased. But the danger of a media outlet becoming bankrupt as a result of a trial persisted.

Marian Pocaznoi said the country’s history should include the date of October 3, 1995, when the Broadcasting Law was approved and then promulgated on November 24, 1995. It was the first legislative act that regulated the broadcasting sector. It laid down the methods of broadcasting communication – by ether, satellite and cable. For the first time, there were stipulated the rights and obligations of the broadcasters and the powers and duties of the regulatory body. On December 24, 1996, there were issued the first broadcast licenses, No. 1 – to the state-run company “Teleradio-Moldova”, No. 2 – to the state-owned company “Radiocomunicatii”. Afterward, on May 7, 1997, there were issued the first licenses to private broadcasters.

The chairman of the Broadcasting Coordinating Council added that a Regional Radiocommunication Conference, convened by the member states of the International Telecommunication Union, was held in Geneva on May 15 – June 16, 2006. The conference set the deadline by which Moldova was to switch from analog to digital television – June 17, 2015. Another important event for the Moldovan mass media was the adoption of the Broadcasting Code on July 27, 2006. By this act, the national legislation was adjusted to the European standards and there were set new broadcasting communication principles and new norms for regulating the content of broadcasting services. There was also set up a new Broadcasting Coordination Council as an independent and autonomous regulatory body, which was the representative and guarantor of the public interest in the broadcasting sector. The Broadcasting Code also regulated the work of the regional public broadcaster “Teleradio-Gagauzia”.

The journalists made history by protests  

Cornelia Cozonac said the mass media sector was marked by journalists’ protests in the period of the Communist government – by journalists of the news agency “Moldpres”, followed by large-scale protests staged by journalists of “Teleradio-Moldova” and the municipal radio and TV stations Antena C and EuroTV in 2005. These protests showed that the journalists no longer tolerate censorship and refuse to work under pressure and to be politically biased. On April 7, 2009, the journalists made history by documenting every moment of the youth revolution. “Also, owing to the pressure exerted by media outlets, criminal cases were started against judges, prosecutors and police officers who broke the law and violated the human rights on April 7 and afterward, judging and torturing young people in police commissariats. In a number of cases, the press showed that it is a power and can exert pressure on the authorities and can improve things. The most recent related case is the tragic shooting incident in the  natural reserve “Padurea Domneasca”.

Accomplishments and failures of the national mass media

Cornelia Cozonac considers that the mass media in the 22 years of independence achieved more things that it lost, but there are yet many things to be done. “The development of the social media, the blogs and the online press is an accomplishment. But, on the other hand, the quality of the journalistic materials is affected. They often do not take into account the ethical standards. A kind of copy-paste journalism developed over the last years. The journalists do office journalism, copying and remodeling all types of materials and news items from other media outlets, often without making reference to the source,” stated Cornelia Cozonac.

Marian Pocaznoi said the national broadcasting sector in the 22 years of independence only gained in its development. “The broadcasting sector developed considerably. There are about 60 TV channels and 60 radio stations in Moldova. A large part of them are local broadcasters that produce programs for the consumers from certain settlements. In the period, there appeared ‘niche’ channels specialized in music,” he stated.

He added that among the achievements is the development of the service distributors. There are now about 125 such distributors. Some of them, besides rebroadcasting TV channels, provide telephone and Internet services and their offers include a wide range of channels retransmitted from Romania, Ukraine, Russia and other countries.

Future views in the mass media

Marian Pocaznoi said the switchover to digital television is the next step in the development of the broadcasting sector of Moldova. The implementation of digital technology will lead to the appearance of new methods of producing, distributing and receiving broadcasting programs, while the Moldovans will benefit from services of the highest quality. Another important segment that must be regulated is the ensuring of fair and loyal competition on the mass media market and of transparency as regards media ownership.

Cornelia Cozonac considers that legislative regulations are needed to provide more tax and other kinds of concessions to the media outlets. The monopolized advertising market should be liberalized. Regulations should be also adopted to govern the distribution of the print media because the newspapers now face problems in the relations with the distributors.

Alina Marin, IPN
August, 2013

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