Freedom of the press is essential to building democracy and encouraging civic engagement in a country. However, at the end of 2022, the Moldovan authorities abandoned democratic values and, in gross violation of the law, ordered a suspension of broadcasting licenses of six TV channels for “propaganda by silence” and “disinformation”. Without even warning of the already untrue accusations, the channels had to stop their work, thus depriving many local media workers of jobs, freedom of speech, and the Moldovan population of the right to information. Is it not unfortunate that in today’s society so many undemocratic obstacles stand in the way of journalists in their work? The future of media independence in Moldova is extremely uncertain when press freedom is violated.
When Moldova decided to join the European Union, it committed itself to fulfil the membership requirements specified by the EU Commission and assured to sustain a stable democracy as well as the rule of law. These requirements did not mention giving the government the power to ban media with a pluralism of opinions. On the contrary, the free press is inextricably linked to the functioning of democracy and cannot remain silent. Moreover, it has to encourage different views among people to seed democratic values like in other countries, such as Denmark or Sweden.
It is essential to have access to information, which is a fundamental human right. Moldovans need more than news dictated and permitted by local authorities. After the illegal suspension of channels’ licenses, many Moldovan journalists began to fight for the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press and journalistic independence because they did not violate broadcasting rules, manipulate public opinion, or promote another state’s policies. They reflect on the actual situation, particularly in Moldova, constantly receiving threats and accusations in attempts to pacify their word. Therefore, we must support journalists and other media representatives who are risking their lives to secure society’s access to truthful and objective information.
The freedom of the press is vital, and the situation in Moldova leaves much to be desired regarding the democratic future within the issue. On June 1, the EU leaders will visit Moldova’s capital for the European Political Community Summit. While the Summit’s goal is to defend Europe’s common interests, the question stands — what are the Europe’s common interests? For the Moldovan government hosting the European Political Community Summit presents an opportunity to showcase their alignment with the European values. Also, June 1 is the first day of the EU’s mission to Moldova on cybersecurity and misinformation. But what kind of values does the EU share with Moldova?
The current actions of Moldovan authorities threaten the media’s independence and ruin the country’s reputation. According to the Freedom House report, Moldova is on the brink of establishing a hybrid regime, scoring 35.71% in the global Democracy ranking, resembling the likes of Hungary and Turkey. The ban on the work of six national channels by all means only alienates Moldova from European values and its international obligations on its way to the European Union. The EPC Summit is just days away, and when in Moldova, the EU leaders must pay ask themselves: what is the state of press freedom in Moldova and do everything in their power that is asked by others, they can find an answer.
The National Democratic Institute reports that 42% of the Moldavian citizens strongly disagree with the decision to suspend TV licenses of the 6 channels. Moldavians are thirsty for the pluralism of information, they share the European values, yet they are being pushed into subduing to the autocratic regime with the “western” values on the outside, and severe censorship on the inside. So, what about the freedom of speech, EU?
Originally published on Europe Right Now.