Intimidation, Economic Issues, and Obstacles in Accessing Information. Findings of the Memorandum on the Freedom of the Press in the Republic of Moldova

Exaggerated costs, economic issues, obstruction of activity, and preventing access to information were part of the reality for the Moldovan press in 2024. These conclusions are published in the  Memorandum on the Freedom of the Press in the Republic of Moldova, a document released on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, complied by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), and signed by eight other non-governmental media organizations. The findings cover the term from May 3, 2023, to May 3, 2024.

The signatory organizations emphasized that insufficient economic sustainability and obstruction of access to information endangered the media activity during the reporting period. For instance, in 2023, the economic situation of the printed media worsened due to the expensive costs of newsprint and printing services, the pries for which increased by more than 40% on average. For these reasons, Gazeta de Chisinau, Gazeta de Sud (Cimislia), and, temporarily, SP (Balti) ceased publishing the printed versions of their newspapers.

In September 2023, after the subscription campaign for 2024 started, Posta Moldovei announced a 341% increase in the rates for newspaper distribution from January 1, 2024. The management’s insistence and the real risk of disappearance of the printed press led the Government to create a supporting tool for newspaper distribution this year; it will be managed by the Independent Press Association (IPA).

Limited right to access to information remains an urgent issue for the press in the Republic of Moldova, according to the authors of the document. The media received delayed responses, journalists’ requests were ignored, and arbitrary replies were sent illegally or motivated by personal data protection requirements.

Intimidation and threats against journalists continued from May 3, 2023, to May 3, 2024. There were two cases of assaults against a reporter from Newsmaker and a cameraman from Nordnews, registered during the anti-government protests organized by the politician Ilan Sor. In addition, Mihail Sirkeli, the journalist from the Nokta portal, was verbally attacked and denigrated by a deputy of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia and two civic activists during a broadcast on Gagauziya Radio Televizionu (GRT).

Certain politicians kept attacking the press, including ex-Prime Minister Ion Chicu, who verbally assaulted and intimidated the journalist from Ziarul de Garda, Mariuta Nistor, Ion Ceban, Mayor of Chisinau, who regularly attacked the media for covering the problems in the capital, and Vladimir Bolea, Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry, who insulted a journalist during a press conference. At the same time, the authors appreciated adoption of several laws necessary for the media, including the new Law on Access to Information of Public Interest and the Law on the Subvention Fund in the Sphere of the Media.

The memorandum contains a number of recommendations addressed to the authorities, which, if implemented, could contribute to encouraging and protecting the free press. They include releasing the GRT public provider from political influence and countering confirmed disinformation practices; ensuring media ownership transparency and countering anti-competitive practices; preventing and sanctioning threats and aggression against the media; avoiding rapid amendments to the legislation in order to obtain dubious temporary impact aimed at ensuring informational security of the state; training and professionalizing law enforcement authorities to efficiently react to digital threats against the press.

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