Media NGOs concerned over signs of censorship at Gagauz public broadcaster

Nongovernmental media organizations are deeply concerned about signs of censorship at the regional public broadcaster Gagauziya Radio Televizionu (GRT). In a statement, they strongly condemned any attempt at illegal interference in the editorial activity of media institutions and demanded an investigation.

The statement refers to video recordings from an unannounced meeting of the GRT supervisory board, recently published by activist Olga Parzany and media outlets from the Gagauz autonomy, which seemed to indicate censorship at GRT. The footage shows the journalist Oxana Kihayal, former editor of the GRT website, complaining to the board about
executive director Vasili Dermenji. He allegedly asked her, without giving a reason, to take down news items where experts critically commented on political promises about cheap gas.

Kihayal also complained that the GRT leadership regularly fulfilled orders from the Gagauz Executive Committee to publish press releases, while a press officer of the Committee was permanently connected to the newsroom’s internal chat.

Kihayal’s complaint was heard at an unannounced meeting on January 19, as the executive director refused to provide explanations. The board went on to postpone examining the complaint indefinitely.

Media NGOs remind that mass media censorship is unconstitutional and punishable by criminal law.

“We stand in solidarity with the GRT journalists who are honestly carrying out their mission and encourage them to publicly report any attempt at censorship inside or outside the public TV/radio company. We request the Audiovisual Council of the Republic of Moldova to carry out an additional monitoring regarding the GRT’s compliance with the provisions of art. 17 of the Audiovisual Media Services Code (Protection of the national audiovisual space) and to publicly announce the results of the monitoring and the measures taken”, the statement requests.

The signatories include the Independent Press Association, the Access-Info Center, the Center for Journalistic Investigations, the Electronic Press Association, the Media Guard Association, the Center for Independent Journalism, the Association of Environmental and Ecological Tourism Journalists, the Committee for Freedom of the Press and RISE Moldova.

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