The new media censorship bill introduces fines up to 1,250 euros.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 05/01/13
More media freedom in Moldova is on the way. [AFP]
A new draft law that amends the Moldovan criminal code introduces punitive measures for media censorship and deliberate obstruction of mass-media activity.
The bill also makes a specific reference to a ban of public media censorship, involving forced distortion of a media product, limitation to spreading information of public interest, and other illegal actions meant to restrict information dissemination.
The draft is intended to complement the law on freedom of expression, which came into effect in 2010 and bans censorship but does not define any punitive measures.
According to the new regulations, which were given the green light last month and approved by the government, censorship fines up to 1,250 euros, and up to 600 euros for obstruction of media activity, will be imposed. At the same time, those who hold public offices and break this law could lose the right to hold public positions for up to four years.
"We are mostly interested in fighting censorship in the state media because, first of all, they do this with public money," Corina Fusu, liberal lawmaker and chairwoman of the culture and media committee in the Moldovan parliament, one of the initiators of the bill, told SETimes.
As a former journalist at state-owned TeleRadio Moldova, she pressed for censorship-free editorial policies.
Two months ago, journalists at TeleRadio staged a protest denouncing censorship and administrative blackmail due to what they called a "moral, deontological, and managerial crisis."
In 2011 and 2012, the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders ranked Moldova 53rd out of 179 countries -- ahead of regional countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece.
In its latest report, Freedom House also acknowledged the Moldovan media as increasingly open.
"Growing access to a variety of opinions in the media and efforts to improve public media and journalistic ethics has had a significant impact on improving media quality and pluralism," the 2012 Nations in Transit report said.
"What many journalists cope with now is another form of censorship, namely the so-called economic control. They are financially controlled now by their employers who are usually politicians, and who seek to promote their own party through their media," Fusu said.
"In this case, it is hard to prove we are looking at censorship or editorial policy. What we could do is compel media institutions to declare their real owner so we know who is behind them. I am sure politicians in Moldova will feel uncomfortable about being controlled," she said.
Some journalists agree.
"Theoretically, this bill ranks well," Dumitru Ciorici, one of the founding editors of the news website Unimedia, told SETimes.
"Amendments to the criminal code should contribute to the independence of the media in Moldova. The bad news is the market is small and the media doesn't have where to absorb money from," he said.
"So, if one doesn't have money, he either stops the activity or finds resources at a certain politician. In this last case, the bill is worthless," he said.