As the government of the Republic of Moldova builds its way into the European Union, Moldovan journalists are struggling with censorship and repressions that are taking place right under the noses of the EU leaders. The European community may think that there is democracy and freedom of speech in Moldova, but then why should media workers fight for their rights? The main question is acute: does Moldova have a future in the EU if everything is different from what it seems?
Most of the polls and statistics show that the Republic of Moldova has progressive authorities that respect the rule of law and advocate for democracy. According to the latest annual Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit, Moldova has flawed democracy and ranks 69th out of 167 countries with a score of 6.23 out of 10. The country seems to have democratic and political potential, and its authorities are making every effort to develop the country and its people satisfied. Moreover, the country’s government shares European values and does everything for Moldova to join the European Union. The authorities even managed to achieve the country’s EU membership candidacy status. Many published ratings show that the Moldovan authorities also encourage freedom of speech and freedom of the press. According to this year’s World Press Freedom Index of the international organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Moldova scored 77.62 points out of 100, rating the country 28th out of 180. The result put Moldova 12 positions higher than last year. Things seem to be going quite well in Moldova, but all that glitters is not gold. According to the Nations in Transit report of the independent research institute Freedom House, democracy in the Republic of Moldova is only 35.71 per cent out of 100, and the democracy score is 3.14 out of 7. This result confirms that the Moldovan authorities neglect democracy and other European values.
Why is there such a difference in various ratings? Local authorities only allow those media outlets that show Moldovan politicians to the world better than they are. They keep silent that media censorship reigns in the country. Only those journalists who speak well of the authorities are allowed to work as nobody can talk about them negatively. It is a direct violation of freedom of speech, but also one of the reasons for the emergence of biased ratings. Despite the beautiful picture on the outside, the current situation with freedom of the press in the country does not correspond to the results of the ranking. The Moldovan government keeps silent about the totalitarian actions of the authorities and about the problems that journalists face, regardless of their political views. A lot of obstacles come on the journalists’ way in their work, as Moldovan state institutions refuse to communicate with them, do not comment on requests, and even deny them accreditation to important political events. Many were denied accreditation at the European Political Community Summit in the Republic of Moldova, held on June 1, without explaining the reasons, despite the fact that all the requirements for this were met. The Moldovan authorities deprived only a few journalists of access to sources or, better say, the right to information.
The systematic restrictions on freedom of speech and expression in the country could be observed lately, although the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova guarantees these rights. The Moldovan authorities have divided people and journalists within their state into right and wrong. They refuse to cooperate with independent journalists as they equated all the news unpleasant for the current government to propaganda. It is not the first time the issue of freedom of the press has been raised in Moldova. The authorities banned several (Romanian speaking) TV channels earlier last year, accusing them of violating the country’s broadcasting rules and thereby depriving journalists of platforms for fair and free reporting. By suspending licenses to broadcast “inconvenient” TV channels, many media workers have lost their jobs and have been limited in their access and freedom to practice professional journalism.
The Moldovan government has intentionally chosen the politics of suppressing the freedom of speech and press over the actually urgent task of building a European democracy. It is a strategy that they use to disinform not only the Moldovan population but also international society. The EU is praising the actions that undermine the heart and soul of the European Union’s foundation, not noticing how democracy is turning authoritarianism right there, in bright daylight. In a world where the number of non-democratic courtiers almost matches those who still embrace democracy, the EU cannot afford to close its eyes to what might become another prison of opinions.