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News 08 Dec 17

Moldova Leaders Battle Over Russian Broadcast Ban

Moldova’s pro-Russian and pro-EU leaders are again in deadlock – this time over a law that seeks to curb the broadcasting of Russian-made media content.

Ana Maria Luca
BIRN
Bucharest
Moldova President Igor Dodon at a meeting with NATO officials. Photo: NATO/Flikr

Moldova’s pro-Russian President, Igor Dodon, and the country's ruling pro-European Democratic Party are at odds once again over a law designed to curb Russian broadcast propaganda, which parliament adopted on Thursday.

Dodon, who has opposed the bill since it was introduced to parliament by the Democratic Party leader Vladimir Plahotniuc, says he will not promulgate it.

Ruling party leaders have countered by warning that they may suspend him again from office if necessary, to enforce the law.

On Facebook, Dodon declared the country's pro-Western government doomed to vanish in the next elections.

“All attempts to prevent cooperation and dialogue established at heads of state level between Russia and Moldova committed by the Democratic Party and its satellites this year have proved to be a total failure,” Dodon wrote on Facebook in both Russian and Romanian.

“Those who will decide how this regime has performed, including these initiatives, will not be the high-ranking decision-makers in Brussels or Washington but Moldovan citizens at the next elections, when this regime will become history,” he added.

Parliament on Thursday adopted a new broadcasting code than bans Russian "propaganda" on Moldova’s territory.

Democratic Party MP Sergiu Sarbu said the new law would not force any television or radio station to close but would prevent content from countries that had not ratified the European Convention on cross-border television from reaching the public.

Russia is the main content provider in this situation, however.

“All entertainment and movies will be able to be aired,” he explained.

Democratic Party spokesperson Vitalie Gamurari announced that the party was willing to suspend the President again, if need be.

The party suspended Dodon from office for a short period in November after he refused to appoint the party's proposed Defence Minister. The Constitutional Court upheld the initiative.

Dodon is not alone in opposing the new law. The Socialists and the Communists in parliament have warned they may protest against the provision by speaking only Russian in debates, and accuse the government of violating freedom of expression.

The governor of the largely pro-Russian autonomous region of Gagauzia, Irina Vlah, also said  her region would ignore the law and would allow all Russian media channels to run as usual, based on regional legislation.

Government supporters, for their part, maintain that the country is flooded by Kremlin propaganda, designed to lure the country back into the Russian camp.

Moldova was formerly part of Tsarist Russia. It was united to Romania between the two world wars, before being joined to the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. It became an independent country when the USSR broke up.

A report by the Independent Media Association, API, in Chisinau, said rebroadcast Russian made content, including news and political programs, formed a large part of the media landscape in Moldova.

After monitoring five of the largest channels in Moldova – PrimeTV, REN Moldova, RTR Moldova, NTV Moldova and STS Moldova – it concluded also that the Russian content largely followed the Kremlin’s line on sensitive issues. 

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