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Reporters Without Borders are outraged by pressure on journalists in Moldova
by Don Owens
Tuesday Feb 27th, 2018 11:35 PM

We have long got used to the fact that various human rights organizations monitoring the situation on matters relating to the freedom of expression, human rights and other ephemeral phenomena of the modern world try to ignore flagrant examples of their violations in the case it does not conflict with interests of their own patrons. By way of example, countries embarking on the road towards democracy usually raise no concerns to ardent defenders of universal human values, regardless of the real state of affairs there. But sometimes there are exceptions.

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The well-known organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the one that each year represents a ranking of countries based on their media dependence on Euro-Atlantic structures, has unexpectedly criticized Moldova's information policy. And it is not about the prohibition of certain TV programmes, as would be expected in accordance with the name of this organization and its Charter. It is just about too much monopolization of the information feed in the country. And it seems like commentators are saying the right Euro-orientated things, as well as, calling regularly into question Moldova's statehood, but receiving salaries from one single and very sizeable pocketbook posing as all-powerful one.

According to the annually published World Press Freedom Index, in 2017, Moldova lost several positions and gave way to such more fully democratic countries as Albania and Guinea Bissau. However, bearing in mind overt indignation of the RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire, Kosovo and Tanzania may also sideline Moldova in 2018...

Let us see what made Mr. Deloire so angry that he decided to request the European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn to use urgently his indisputable authority in order to put pressure on Moldova's Government.

'...Moldova's influential business circles led by Vladimir Plahotniuc continue persecution of independent media and some journalists selectively. As a result, there are practically no media outlets that are independent from Plahotniuc and his team,' writes the RSF Secretary General.

In general, there is nothing new in what he said. There are only few information resources that are really independent from that all-powerful oligarch, who heads the Democratic Party of Moldova. I am sure it has not been a revelation either for European officials or for Reporters Without Borders. But just before current parliamentary elections, that Plahotniuc's ambitious plans are linked with, this leads to generating such delicate and subtle bias that can be decoded as 'Come off it!'

'Online outlet Gagauzinfo.MD is an example of flawed information policies and strict censorship. Journalists of this media source are constantly under considerable pressure from law enforcement agencies after writing articles critical of Plahotniuc's activity. In fact, a source in the Gagauzia People's Assembly notified us that criminal and administrative cases are currently being fabricated against a number of journalists with the aim to suspend their lawful activities in the republic. According to the same source, the above-mentioned media outlet would be soon subjected to hostile takeover so as to stall its work and change its owner,' Christophe Deloire continues to pursue his thought.

The website mentioned previously do really publish rather critical materials of Plahotniuc. And moreover, it is owned by such oppositional Bașkan of Gagauzia as Irina Vlah, which surely is a major cause of the forthcoming mess with this information resource. The cause of heightened attention of this international organization to a not very widely-known regional online edition remains a mystery, unless the RSF sponsors feel embarrassed about perspective of even slightest growing Gagauzia's separatist trends, which certainly are present in the region. And, above all, the very fact of having this letter is a clear message for Moldova's political elite and personally Plahotniuc to maintain some semblance of democracy.

The response of Johannes Hahn is not yet known. However, European institutions are extremely slow and excel at ignoring obvious facts. So, in any case, the fate of information editions being independent from the Democratic Party of Moldova is hardly enviable. Experience shows that countries wishing to promote European-style democracy do not worry too much about observance of civil rights that are not quite understandable to everyone there.