Ion Bunduchi: While free press can be both good or bad, non-free press can only be bad

“What interest would a ruling party have in appointing members on the Audiovisual Council (CA) or the public broadcaster’s Supervisory Board who don’t have the expertise or are not specialists? To ruin their image, to lower the party’s rating? And what has prevented governments of all times from appointing specialists? Nevertheless, it never happened and why would it happen this time? Is there any guarantee that things will play out differently now?”, said Ion Bunduchi, executive director of the Electronic Press Association APEL, during a debate organized by IPN.

Commenting on the fears of the opposition, but also of a part of civil society that the amendments proposed to legislation that governs the public broadcaster Teleradio Moldova the would be “an assault on freedom of the press and expression through political interference”, the expert said that one should rather look at the essence of the matter. All the more so because in the past the current opposition said one thing and did another: “Sure, the opposition usually says the right words. But let us recall the times when the law forbade political interference, in particular on Teleradio Moldova, and the company’s management insisted it was strictly abiding by the law. But soon enough the (TRM) managers invariably ended up on party lists, winning seats in the Chisinau Municipal Council or in Parliament”.

At the same time, the expert admits that the proposed amendments pose a genuine threat to the freedom of the press. “There is no little or a lot of independence. It either exists or it doesn’t. And while free press can be both good or bad, non-free press can only be bad. If we apply this to Teleradio-Moldova, the regulatory and supervisory bodies can either be free and functional – doing a good or bad job, depending on the human factor – or they are not free and then they will inevitably do a bad job”.

It all depends on the competence and dedication of the people who make up the regulatory bodies and who enforce the rules for the audiovisual. “How come the best connoisseurs of the field have never made it there until now? Will they be appointed this time around?” the expert asked rhetorically.

Ion Bunduchi also criticized the proposed formula for making up the Audiovisual Council: three members appointed by Parliament, one by the President and two from civil society. “Those from civil society will have a greater responsibility because, what, they know the field better? What will they will be able to do in relation to others? It’s just a way of saying that you don’t represent the interests of the one who delegates you, but in reality… If PAS wants to promote this amendment, it should make it clear that those who got there are a responsibility of PAS”.

“If Teleradio Moldova returns under parliamentary oversight, there will be double subordination: if it violates the law, sanctions come from the Audiovisual Council, if it does not achieve its proposed objectives, the punishment will come from Parliament … I don’t think it’s a fair formula to have two masters, and the experience of being under parliamentary control prior to 2018 did not make the public broadcaster any freer or better”, said Ion Bunduchi.

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