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 diverse but extremely polarised, like the country itself, which is marked by political instability 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 has lost influence, but it was quickly supplanted by a new holding company tied to the pro-Russian Party of Socialists.
Some media risk taking on issues that embarrass the authorities, but many limit themselves to following the political line of the party with which they are affiliated. Until its suspension by the new parliamentary majority in 2021, the Audiovisual Council granted broadcasting licences to television networks tied to the Party of Socialists, who increasingly re-air propaganda 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. But, in reality, laws governing the sector are applied arbitrarily by politically oriented regulatory agencies. Access to information is regularly undermined, and frivolous defamation lawsuits are frequent.
Media companies with close ties to political figures and powerful oligarchs dominate the advertising market, to the detriment of independent media. In a difficult economic environment, the independent media outlets lack resources and experience financial hardship. As a result, they struggle to hire staff who are capable of quality work. Because of this, many seek support from foreign donors.
The socio-cultural environment rarely prevents journalists from doing their jobs, but some topics – such as the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis – are sensitive. Covering these topics can lead to self-censorship, as well as the disparagement of media on ethnic, religious or gender-based grounds.
Journalists are regularly insulted and intimidated by government officials and political leaders. Their militants often resort to cyber-harassment against reporters considered to be foes. Journalists’ access to Transnistria, a separatist eastern province backed by Russia, requires special accreditation.