Freedom of the media witnesses continuous deterioration

The freedom of the media continues to worsen to alarming proportions and the problems identified during the past year have intensified. The journalistic guild became more divided. The de facto media concentration is more visible, as is the political control over some of the media outlets.

Consequently, the pluralism of opinion declines, says a Memo on the freedom of the media in the Republic of Moldova for May 3, 2018 – May 3, 2019 that was presented in a news conference at IPN on May 3, when World Press Freedom Day is celebrated.

Independent Journalism Center director Nadine Gogu said a number of cases witnessed last year showed the security environment for journalistic activity continues to deteriorate. There were many cases of verbal and even physical aggression against journalists on the part of politicians and public functionaries. There were cases when the journalists didn’t have access to different events of public interest. For the first time, the print run of a newspaper was confiscated. All these cases show in what conditions the journalists have to work in Moldova.

“I want to also refer to the quality of the mass media that continues to worsen. There is a connection between the quality of the media products and media concentration. The media outlets that are owned by politicians or persons affiliated to the political class are used by the owners to promote their agenda, to  manipulate and misinform. In the election campaigns, we saw how they were used as electoral agents and propaganda instruments. When we speak about manipulation and misinformation, we cannot speak about the high quality of the information that reaches the people,” noted Nadine Gogu.

Director of the Association of Independent Press Petru Macovei said a campaign entitled “Defending journalism!” is carried out under the aegis of UNESCO. This is also a call addressed to societies in all the countries that want objective and pertinent information that comes from different sources. “In the Republic of Moldova, all these vulnerabilities reached a climax in 2018. Let’s remember the saddest and most scandalous cases, the abuses and attacks on journalists. Let’s remember that nothing happened after Ilan Shor threatened the journalists. Let’s remember that the Prosecutor General’s Office avoided taking any measure even if we have a legal framework that would have enabled to discourage such things,” stated Petru Macovei.

Vasile State, director of the Electronic Press Association of Moldova, said a new serious regional media holding appeared in 2018 and, accidentally or not, representatives of parties that have serious holdings behind entered the current legislature, at least in the case of three of the four entities. The concentration of media ownership generated the most serious concerns at European level as well and was treated in the two resolutions adopted by the European Parliament. “Regrettably, each time on the occasion of the Press Freedom Days we ascertain that the situation does not develop as the professionals or nongovernmental organizations that monitor the development of the media in our country would like,” noted Vasile State.

Journalistic Investigations Center director Cornelia Cozonac stated the situation concerning the access to information and security of journalists also worsens annually. The activity of investigation journalists becomes more problematic owing to insecurity and the pressure exerted by different institutions. This year they saw cases of following of journalists and attacks on the Center’s website. If impunity is tolerated and no changes are made, some of the journalists will be simply discouraged from conducting investigations.

The launch of the Memo that contains a series of recommendations for ensuring the real freedom of the media in accordance with the principles of a democratic society is one of the first activities staged in connection with the World Press Freedom Day. A series of public events focusing on the freedom of the media and problems faced by the journalists will be held in the course of May.