FAKE NEWS: Maia Sandu wants to abolish free media

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The President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, only mimics her attachement to democratic and European values and if she could, she would establish an authoritarian regime in which freedom of expression would be limited. This fake narrative, originating from the Socialist circles, was also used during the elections campaign. 

NEWS: KP alleges that Maia Sandu would close down all opposing TV stations in Moldova with one wave of her hand, if she had the prerogatives of Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky. The publication is citing Ernest Vardanean, who was an advisor of former president of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, and who wrote on his Telegram account that Maia Sandu would shut down all TV stations hostile towards her and would put her democratic principles aside, were she to usurp state power. In this context, he recalls that NIT TV station was shut down in 2012, a decision taken by judge Domnica Manole, currently the President of the Republic of Moldova’s Constitutional Court. The author also recalls that the Liberals were then in power, many of whom are today part of Maia Sandu’s team.

NARRATIVES: 1. Maia Sandu will wage war on all unfavorable opposition media, thus trying to encroach on freedom of the media and freedom of speech. 2. Maia Sandu has authoritarian tendencies.

BACKGROUND: The commentary comes after on February 2, 2021, Ukraine decided to revoke the broadcasting licenses of three pro-Russian TV stations - 112, ZIK and NewsOne. The stations in question are owned by Viktor Medvedchuck, a Moldovan deputy with known ties to the Kremlin. After hostilities broke out in the Donbass region in 2014, several Russian channels were banned on Ukrainian territory for allegedly serving as a propaganda tool for the Russian Federation, seen as the aggressor in this conflict.

The Russian mass-media is waging an information war on its neighboring state, as well as on other former Soviet countries.

After Russia’s acts of aggression in Ukraine, Baltic states have also been trying to curb Moscow’s influence by banning some TV stations rebroadcast from Russia. In 2020 alone, Latvia banned seven of Russia’s RT stations on its territory, after in 2019 the Latvian authorities had suspended ten other Russian-language channels for instigating hate speech against Ukraine.

Russian media dominates the news landscape in the Republic of Moldova, whether it’s TV channels, radio stations, the printed press or online news agencies. The rebroadcast of Russian-language TV stations to Moldova is a Soviet-era custom, and even today these stations are preferred by the Soviet-nostalgic, Russian-speaking population. The Russian state-controlled media is brimming with fake news, disinformation, manipulation and hate speech, the Press Index in the Republic of Moldova revealed in 2019. This adds further strain on this country’s information security. The news segments of Russian TV stations were banned in 2018 under a law dismissed by the then president, Igor Dodon, and ratified by Parliament Speaker Andrian Candu. However, PSRM-Șor MPs repealed these provisions in December, 2020.

The political class has managed to grab hold of a large part of the media market in the Republic of Moldova. Politicians now own media outlets and major TV stations. After PDM was removed from power and Vladimir Plahotniuc fled Moldova, PSRM-controlled media consolidated its market position. Accent TV, a pro-Socialist TV station, has been renamed Prime, and is now rebroadcasting a large number of programmes run by Pervyy Kanal, Russia’s Channel One. PSRM controls another two television stations – NTV Moldova, rebroadcasting NTV Russia content, and Exclusiv TV, rebroadcasting TNT, both being owned of Exclusiv Media, a company founded by Socialist deputy Corneliu Furculiţă.

The political control over a significant part of Moldovan mass-media is affecting not just the quality and credibility of journalism in the Republic, but also stations owned by politicians, which either disappear, or are forced to limit their broadcasts as their owners gradually lose power.

In 2012, the Audiovisual Council (CCA) in the Republic of Moldova revoked the license of NIT, a TV station controlled by the Communist Party (PCRM) in Moldova with almost exclusive Russian-language broadcasts and near nationwide coverage. Before having its license revoked, the audiovisual authority had handed the TV station a number of cautions and fines for failing to observe plurality of speech, serving as a propaganda tool for the Communist Party, broadcasting pro-PCRM content and attacking its political opponents. PCRM had lost power in 2010. The station’s owners claimed the decision to shut down NIT was a political move and decided to challenge it in court. The Court of Appeal however upheld the decision. Part of the NIT team moved to Accent TV (presently controlled by PSRM) and continued to spread propaganda favoring the communist party at first, and now PSRM.

As regards to Maia Sandu, she has been targeted by fake news and disinformation campaign ever since she came to the forefront of politics. The narratives regarding her lack of support for democratic values and her intention to censor media were also used during the last elections campaign. 

PURPOSE: The news article advances the idea that Maia Sandu is not attached to the democratic values she advocates and upholds, and seeks to put a dent in her image. The author also associates Maia Sandu with the President of the Constitutional Court, Domnica Manole, implying the judge allegedly shut down a TV station in 2012.

WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: The president of the Republic of Moldova has no remit to regulate the audiovisual code, deny or revoke the licenses of TV stations.

The NIT television station was shut down not by the current president of the Constitutional Court, but it lost its broadcasting rights after the CCA revoked its license for disregarding the plurality of opinion in news programmes. The Court of Appeal, through judge Domnica Manole, merely upheld the Audiovisual Council’s decision to have the license revoked.

GRAIN OF TRUTH: The NIT station was actually shut down in 2012, its owners claiming the decision was political.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, ordered the withdrawal of broadcasting rights and frequencies for three television stations controlled by the pro-Russian MP Viktor Medvedchuk, whose party, “Opposition Platform – for Life”, is leading opinions polls ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election.

  • Publication / Media:
    kp.md
  • Date of publication:
    03/02/2021
  • Target audience:
    PSRM voters, nostalgic, pro-Russian population
  • Political affiliation:
    PSRM
  • Key narrative:
    Maia Sandu will shut down opposition media

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  • Russian media dominates the news landscape in the Republic of Moldova, whether it’s TV channels, radio stations, the printed press or online news agencies. The rebroadcast of Russian-language TV stations to Moldova is a Soviet-era custom, and even today these stations are preferred by the Soviet-nostalgic, Russian-speaking population. The Russian state-controlled media is brimming with fake news, disinformation, manipulation and hate speech, the Press Index in the Republic of Moldova revealed in 2019. This adds further strain on this country’s information security.
  • The political control over a significant part of Moldovan mass-media is affecting not just the quality and credibility of journalism in the Republic, but also stations owned by politicians, which either disappear, or are forced to limit their broadcasts as their owners gradually lose power.
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