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Lawyers and experts on the new mechanism for holding the BC accountable and dismissing its members

12 November 2021
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The decision of the parliamentary commission for the media to repeatedly examine the activity report of the Broadcasting Council (BC), which led to the dismissal of BC members on Thursday, November 11, is viewed critically by some experts and lawyers. On the one hand, they remind that new legislative provisions cannot be applied to past events. On the other hand, changes are predictable in the context of the new amendments to the Code of Audiovisual Media Services.

At the plenary meeting on November 11, MPs adopted a decision rejecting the BC’s activity report for 2020 and, consequently, dismissing the current members of the BC. The decision was adopted following the examination of the report presented by the commission for the media, which came up with this recommendation, while the report had already been examined in spring 2021. Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei, the head of the commission, explained that the report had been discussed for the second time after the Code of Audiovisual Media Services was amended, and also because the document had not been registered in the Parliament, and MPs did not issue any decision during the previous examination of the document.

The lawyer Tatiana Puiu, Freedom House representative in Moldova, believes that the MPs’ intention to change the BC members is understandable, since some civil society representatives expressed discontent with the work of the BC. However, she believes that the repeated examination of the report and subsequent dismissal of the BC members “raises some questions” and is “problematic”. According to her, as a rule, laws apply to future events. “They once heard the 2020 activity report, and next they should examine the year 2021. (...) The law does not apply retroactively. (...) MPs could include in the draft law the possibility to examine the report by derogation from the general rule,” Tatiana Puiu said.

DOES THE END JUSTIFY THE MEANS?

The political scientist Denis Cenușa noted the speed with which the country’s leadership promotes changes in some areas. “In the process, it shows its readiness to commit violations or abuse because in its vision the end justifies the means. The repeated hearing of the BC’s report denotes a fierce intention to completely reset the country’s broadcasting regulator. In this way, they want to achieve results as early as possible during the four-year term of the governing party,” noted Denis Cenușa.

“However, you cannot make changes retroactively by applying the newly voted legislation. The BC is to present a new report in the spring of 2022, when the new legislation can be applied. This haste creates major risks of politically influenced decisions more than the objective evaluation of the BC’s performance. This will be a black mark for the government,” Cenușa believes.

“THE MPs’ DECISION IS LOGICAL”

Ion Bunduchi, the executive director of the Electronic Press Association (APEL), also spoke about the responsibility that the country’s leadership assumed in the field of broadcasting. “They want quick changes, and that is not to be condemned. On the contrary, if changes are for the better and are real, we will all win. If not, we all have to lose, including our leadership, because, until now, if the BC worked poorly, the BC was criticized, and now, if the BC works poorly, criticism will target the country’s leadership, which assumed responsibility for the work of the BC, too. That’s the equation,” the expert explained.

Bunduchi insists that there is, however, a way that does not require changing the law in order to change things for the better – “delegating to the BC some members who fully comply with the law (before amendments to the Code), are honest, professional, without political affiliation.”

The media researcher Aneta Gonța called the MPs’ decision to repeatedly examine the BC’s activity report for 2020 “logical in the sense of the amendments made to the Code of Audiovisual Media Services”. “It was clear from the start that they want to change the BC members as quickly as possible, and the only quick possibility now is to reject the report. It is ridiculous, of course, to say in November that this report is bad and that the BC failed to perform properly, when in March the majority of MPs found it ‘satisfactory’. But back then the commission for the media had other members, too,” Gonța recalls.

The dismissal of BC members is not the only recent dismissal in broadcasting. After the new amendments to the Code of Audiovisual Media Services entered into force last week, the public company Teleradio-Moldova (TRM) returned under parliamentary control. Thus, the term of office of all members of the TRM’s Supervisory Board and director ended.