Why this story matters:
The country's Russian broadcasting ban echoes the experience of its bigger and more vocal neighbor, Ukraine. Kiev banned Russian broadcasts in 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea and the war with the pro-Russian separatists started in its eastern regions. Ukraine then banned Russian social media sites in 2016.
Just like Moldova, Ukraine was criticized at the time, with civil society calling the ban a limitation on freedom of expression and international organizations such as the OSCE disagreeing with the move.
With an unrecognized Russian-backed separatist government in Transnistria region, some 1,200 Russian troops and peacekeepers in the area, and OSCE mediated negotiations between Tiraspol and Chisinau dragging on for years, Moldova seems to be heading towards the same kind of armed conflict as Ukraine. Hence the importance of keeping track of the rising tensions.
Details from the story:
- Moldova's parliament, dominated by the pro-EU Democratic Party, have banned all broadcasts produced in countries that did not ratify the European Convention on Transfrontier Television – namely Russia.
- The law, which took effect Jan. 10, followed a series of moves that escalated tensions between Moldova and Moscow: the government expelled five Russian diplomats, banned Russian journalists from entering Moldova, and bluntly asked Russian deputy prime minister Dmitri Rogozin to cancel a visit to separatist Transnistria.
- Moldova’s Audiovisual Coordinating Council already has fined 11 radio and TV stations and seven cable network providers 5,000 lei (around 240 euros) each because they did not deliver an overview of their programming output as required by the new "anti-propaganda" law.
- Russian MPs took the issue to EU institutions for arbitration, arguing that it affects Russian speakers in Moldova and accusing authorities of "Russophobia."
- The new law was strongly opposed by Moldova’s pro-Russian President, Igor Dodon, while the Socialists and the Communists in parliament accused the government, led by the pro-European Democratic Party, of violating freedom of expression.
- Native Russian speakers compose 15 percent of Moldova's population
- Georgia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have banned Russian-state broadcasting since 2014.