A view from Moldova | Journalism’s financial free fall

by Liliana Botnariuc
Wednesday, 13 January 2021 11:33 GMT

REUTERS/Vladislav Culiomza

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International rankings continue to place the Republic of Moldova, just as during the communist government, among the states with a “partially” free press. One of the causes – and probably the most important reason behind this ranking – is that a lack of financial resources creates the dependence of some media institutions on political factors.

Independent media institutions that survive from international grants and projects are not sure they will have the money to pay their employees. They have to constantly apply for project funding, but they also have to learn to survive on their own, from advertising that is dependent on views. And here comes the dilemma between ethics and fairness and the need to survive.

For example, two years ago, TV8 Television – which reported numerous times on how the foundation of the politician and oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, ‘Edelweiss’, offered donations of obscure and non-transparent money – broadcast an advertisement for the foundation he owned.

Ziarul de Gardă, the first and only investigative newspaper in the Republic of Moldova, is reluctant to include advertisements in the newspaper. Each time they had to check who was behind a construction company that placed an advertisement, to see if the owner was not listed in corruption or fraud cases. That is why it was a long period in which newspaper advertising was practically non-existent or too little to cover the expenses of the editorial office.

This made the dependence on projects and grants even greater because the money coming from newspaper subscriptions was too small even to cover the circulation. That is why diversification of income sources is a problem for those who refuse dubious advertising.

In the Republic of Moldova, the only national television in the state budget is ‘Moldova’, which should report objectively. On 8 June 2018, while people were protesting, the channel broadcast songs and dances. In recent years, there have been several cases when biased materials have been observed on the part of those in charge.

The state has no interest in cultivating press freedom and developing a truly equitable and non-partisan press. And according to polls, television stations that are politically controlled enjoy the greatest popularity, which leads to misinformation and manipulation of the population.

There is also the issue of transparency in media funding, as opposed to the editorial independence that we can estimate by analysing the content.

- Liliana Botnariuc, journalist, Moldova, Thomson Reuters Foundation Alumnus

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