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"House of Press" Will be Transferred into the Subordination of a Government Division. Valeriu Saharneanu: ‘The Draft Decision Shows that the State Hammered the Final Nail in the Coffin of the Free Press’

02 July 2018
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According to a draft decision developed recently, the ‘House of Press’, the Soviet-era building for the print media of that time, will be transferred into the subordination of General Division for the Administration of Buildings belonging to the Government of the Republic of Moldova. This means that rental rates could also be revised, which worries some representatives of the media outlets, while others, which are financed by the Government, hope to get exempted from paying the rent.

The State-Owned Enterprise ‘House of Press’ Complex is reorganised by merger (absorption) with the Public Institution General Division for the Administration of Buildings belonging to the Government of the Republic of Moldova, according to the draft decision that is now subject to public debates.
In the opinion of Valeriu Saharneanu, current chaiperson of JUM, the recently developed draft decision aims at banishing all media outlets from that building, so that it would be privatised afterwards. ‘I think they are preparing to remove the ‘House of Press’ logo from the facade and then sell the building. It is a money-making neighbourhood where a prosperous business can be developed. The draft decision shows that the state hammered the final nail in the coffin of the free press from the Republic of Moldova. We reached the day when authorities have a worse attitude towards the press than the Soviet administration did’, Valeriu Saharneanu stated for our portal.
The Journalists’ Union of Moldova (JUM) has been involved for years in a lawsuit against the administration of the ‘House of Press’. In March 2017, JUM was forced to leave the office it had there.

The initiative to change the status of the ‘House of Press’ worries the managers of the few media outlets that still reside in this building. Valeriu Vasilica, Director of IPN News Agency, does not rule out that new administrators might raise the rent again, though it has just increased early this year. ‘In a normal country this should not affect us, but in the Republic of Moldova - it might. For example, tariffs have already increased, unexpectedly, by 30% at the beginning of this year. I am afraid to think what the new administrators’ rationale and calculations might be’, stated Valeriu Vasilica for the portal

According to IPN Director, there are already just a few press outlets left in the ‘House of Press’. ‘There are some editorial offices, some of which, being financed from the budget, are renting offices on preferential terms. Only in the last few months some editorial offices have left from there’, said Valeriu Vasilica.

On the other hand, the management of the weekly newspaper ‘Florile Dalbe’, founded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, hopes to be exempt from paying the rent. ‘This does not affect us, just the other way around – we hope, as a public institution, to get a lower rent rate from the Division or even to be exempted from paying the rent,’ Ion Anton, Director of the weekly newspaper, told us.

This amendment is part of the second stage of the specialised central public administration restructuring and aims at ‘ensuring the efficient management of state property’ – this is mentioned in the justification note related to the draft paper, developed by the Reform Implementation Centre.

The initiative implies staff cuts as well, but precise data will be determined by the management of the Division, which is going to submit them to the State Chancellery. Upon completion of the reorganization, the State Chancellery will develop and submit to the Government the methodology on calculating tariffs for the services provided by the General Division for the Administration of Buildings belonging to the Government.

An investigation carried out in September 2015 by the Center for Investigative Journalism revealed that over 2,300 sq. m. out of the total 10,000 sq. m. of the ‘House of Press’ were transferred into economic management or privatised between 1998 and 2004. In 2012, criminal charges were pressed against three former directors and the accountant of the SOE ‘House of Press’ because of frauds amounting to millions of lei.

The ‘House of Press’ enterprise was founded in 1967 as a functional structure in the subordination of the Central Publishing House of the Communist Party from Moldova. In 1984, SOE ‘House of Press’ Complex was merged with the ‘Universul’ Publishing House and thus the ‘Press’ Concern was established. Currently SOE ‘House of Press’ Complex is a self-managing enterprise and the State Chancellery is its founder.

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