Journalism without fear or favor

World Press Freedom Day is marked annually on 3 May, established by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a 1991 UNESCO resolution which recognised that a free, pluralistic and independent press is an essential element of a democratic society.

In 2020, on the occasion of Press Freedom Day, UNESCO launched the global campaign Journalism without fear or favour.  In the context of the “Journalism without fear or favour” campaign, API asked several journalists and media experts, including Vasile State, director of APEL, to answer two questions:

  1. Why is Moldova lagging behind and even regressing in press freedom? (In the ranking of the international organization Reporters Without Borders, Moldova was ranked 55th out of 180 countries monitored in 2013, and in the following years fell to 91st place in 2019 and 2020). Who is to blame for this: the authorities, but the journalistic profession?
  2. This year, UNESCO is marking World Press Freedom Day with a campaign under the slogan “Journalism without fear or favour”. How do you understand this principle? Is this possible in Moldova? If not – why?

Vasile State, news editor at Radio Chisinau, director of APEL:

  1. Freedom of the press in Moldova has been in a continuous degradation for the last eight years, and the culprits of this state of affairs are politicians, first and foremost and with few exceptions, both those who are or have been in power and those who are or have been in opposition. The interests of politicians in connection with the media are more than obvious if we look at the results of the parliamentary elections at the beginning of last year. Three of the four political-electoral parties that have reached the Chisinau Parliament (PDM, the Shor Party and the PSRM) have benefited generously from media support from the three main media holdings, those controlled by Vladimir Plahotniuc and Ilan Shor, as well as from people close to the entourage of the socialists, supporters of President Igor Dodon. Beyond the harmfulness of this phenomenon, which has had oscillating developments over the past year, what is more serious is that in 2019 the concentration of ownership in the media continued to be alarming. Thus, against the backdrop of a certain stagnation with regard to the first two holding companies or the weakening of a political pole, a new media empire, the one controlled by the PSRM government and the head of state, has been dangerously consolidated.  Of course, the executive authorities also bear a large part of the blame, because they were unable or unwilling to draw up policies to prevent the increase in political control of the media or to take measures to at least limit the extent of this phenomenon. Here too, we must remember that ensuring freedom of expression and media independence are commitments in the Moldova-EU association agenda. However, there has been little action and little change. Yes, it is true that at the beginning of the year the Audiovisual Media Services Code came into force, which is a relatively good document, we dare say, but so far no one has made an analysis of how the new law is being implemented. Normally, the press freedom index does not expressly measure the quality of journalism, although it is very difficult to put this aspect into context when editorial policies are correlated with the interests of owners/oligarchs.
  1. I appreciate the fact that UNESCO chose this slogan to mark World Press Freedom Day. At the same time, I believe that respecting this slogan would be a great challenge for the press in Moldova. In order to meet this challenge, we must have and increase the number of professional and strong journalists who exercise their profession with verticality, fighting for freedom of information and press independence. These journalists from the few independent media outlets in Moldova are, unfortunately, the favourite targets of intimidation and harassment by the authorities and politicians. Let us recall the reprehensible gestures made by some politicians during the past year, as well as some hostile statements against the press by some high-ranking state officials, such as President Igor Dodon, who earlier this year, in March, urged the press not to make “shows” out of reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Similarly, an attempt to “close the mouths of the press” was the order issued on 24 March by the chairman of the Audiovisual Council, Dragos Vicol, with immediate enforceability for radio and TV stations, on how to cover stories related to the spread of the Coronavirus, which provoked criticism among journalists and experts in the field.
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