Moldova’s media are divided into pro-Russian and pro-Western camps. Oligarchs and political leaders strongly influence their editorial stances.
Moldova’s media are extremely polarised, like the country itself, which is marked by political uncertainty and excessive influence by oligarchs. Major media, such as TV6, NTV Moldova and Prime TV, are in the hands of political leaders. The media empire built by former billionaire and Democratic Party of Moldova boss Vladimir Plahotniuc and the media holding company tied to the pro-Russian Party of Socialists lost influence and were quickly supplanted by a new media holding company tied to the party led by Ilan Shor, a pro-Kremlin oligarch who has gone into self-imposed exile to escape prosecution on corruption charges. The licences of six pro-Russian TV channels were nonetheless suspended in December 2022.
While some media risk taking on issues that embarrass the authorities, many limit themselves to following the political line of the party to which they are affiliated. The state of emergency imposed due to the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine and measures taken by the Broadcasting Council have tightened control over disinformation and hate speech, and have undermined media outlets that carry propaganda content produced in Russia.
Freedom of the press and the right to information are guaranteed by law, and best practices are encouraged by a journalistic code of ethics. Access to information is sometimes undermined, and arbitrary defamation lawsuits are frequent.
Groups close to powerful politicians and oligarchs dominate the advertising market to the detriment of independent media. Faced with a difficult economic environment and weakened by the collapse of the advertising market due to the war in Ukraine, independent media outlets lack resources and experience financial difficulties. As a result, they struggle to recruit qualified staff capable of providing quality work, and many seek financial support from foreign donors.
While the socio-cultural environment rarely prevents journalists from doing their jobs, some topics – such as the war waged by Russia in Ukraine and the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic – are sensitive. Covering these topics can lead to self-censorship, as well as to disparagement of media on ethnic, religious or gender-based grounds.
Journalists can be the target of insults and intimidation by politicians. Their supporters sometimes resort to cyber-harassment against reporters deemed hostile to their ideas. Journalists’ access to Transnistria, a separatist eastern province supported by Russia, is subject to special accreditation. Although a war is taking place in neighbouring Ukraine, Moldovan journalists lack training in covering conflicts.