Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Press freedom continued to decline in 2008 as the ruling Communist Party restricted independent reporting ahead of the 2009 parliamentary elections. The party had lost some key posts in the 2007 local elections. While the government has made some attempts to comply with the requirements of European integration in recent years, enacting a number of democratic legal reforms, those changes have not been properly implemented or enforced, and media restrictions have continued. In an indication of the government’s emphasis on appearances, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev appealed to journalists in January to refrain from tarnishing Moldova’s image abroad, asking instead that discussions of state abuses or violations be limited to domestic forums.
Although the government often infringes on legally protected press freedoms, libel is rarely punished with imprisonment, and in 2006 the parliament approved legislation designed to moderate excessive financial awards in libel cases. Few new libel lawsuits were reported in 2008, partly because a series of judgments against journalists have been struck down by the European Court of Human Rights in recent years. In February and July, the Strasbourg-based court found violations of freedom of expression in two libel judgments against the newspaper Flux in 2003 for having criticized the Communist Party and the former prosecutor general. In April, a court in the capital temporarily froze the bank account of the independent newspaper Jurnal de Chisinau due to a libel lawsuit filed by a former prosecutor whom the newspaper had criticized in 2003 and 2004. Journalists are often unable to obtain basic public information from the government because many officials ignore an existing Access to Information Law. Government officials sometimes deny accreditation to independent journalists and exclude them from press conferences. In February, the parliament passed a code of ethics for government officials that authorized only press officers to speak with the media, raising fears that public information would become even more inaccessible.
President Vladimir Voronin’s government controls the country’s public broadcaster, Teleradio Moldova, whose news programs consistently favored progovernment politicians and denied coverage to the opposition during the year. Owners of both state-run and private media houses continued to promote self-censorship, and police occasionally harassed journalists for reporting on politically embarrassing events. For example, in February police in Chisinau searched the independent television station Albasat without a warrant, claiming to be investigating labor violations, after the station criticized the Communist Party. In October, several police officers in Chisinau beat a cameraman with the Romanian station Pro TV after he worked on stories that criticized the police and covered an opposition rally.
In the separatist Transnistria region, media are highly restricted and politicized. Most local broadcast media are controlled by the Transnistrian authorities or companies, like Sheriff Enterprises, that are linked to the separatist regime. Several small opposition newspapers like Novaya Gazeta and Chelovek i Yevo Prava criticize abuses committed by the separatist authorities, and their journalists and advertisers are frequently harassed as a result. Print media in Transnistria are required to register with the local Ministry of Information in Tiraspol rather than the internationally recognized Moldovan government in Chisinau.Moldova’s print media were able to express diverse political and public views throughout the year, but faced increased harassment in retaliation for criticizing the authorities or exposing human rights abuses. In September, editors and journalists at the independent newspaper Ziarul de Garda received telephone threats after exposing a security officer who was trying to recruit young men to work as agents. Only government-controlled broadcasters have national reach; there is little private broadcasting, and most programs are rebroadcasts from either Romania or Russia. Distribution of broadcast licenses and privatizations of state outlets are politicized. In May, the broadcast media regulatory agency, the Audiovisual Coordinating Council, distributed radio and television frequencies only to progovernment broadcasters. The government’s disagreements with neighboring Romania clearly influenced the work of the council, which suspended the license of the Romanian television station TVR1 in September and tried to take Pro TV off the air in December, but backed off due to domestic and international opposition. The government also influences the media through financial subsidies. Internet access is not restricted by the authorities, although the underdeveloped telecommunications infrastructure has helped to limit internet services to just over 16 percent of the population. In June, prosecutors in Chisinau confiscated the computers of 12 teenage bloggers and questioned them in retaliation for posting comments that criticized the government.