Extract from the Report on the situation in Moldavian Media dedicated to Transnistria

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The Center of Independent Press of the Republic of Moldova (Centrul pentru Jurnalism Independent) presented the Report, dedicated to the situation in Moldavian Media in 2012.

The report (PDF) was prepared by Elena Candu for the Independent Journalism Center with the financial support of the Civil Rights Defenders, Sweden.

DNIESTER brings to your notice the chapter dedicated to the situation in Transnistria.

Freedom of the Press in Transnistria

Mass Media in Transnistria in 2012

The overall current situation regarding the freedom of expression in the media of Transnistria is disappointing. If at the beginning of the year the position of the new secessionist authorities on the media of all forms of ownership and the implementation of legal norms inspired moderate optimism, gradually the hopes for legally regulating media processes by observing democratic principles crumbled. By late 2012 a clear opinion was formed that the new unrecognized government had set even tougher limits on the freedom of expression and equal access to information and had sought to establish total control over the media, social networks, and Internet portals dedicated to sharing opinions.

• Violations of journalists’ rights

According to Transnistrian “legislation,” every person has the right to receive and impart correct information in which he or she is interested, including information about public authorities, unless such information is a “state secret” or “secret information.” In practice, however, these rules are ignored, selectivity is applied to the media, and the real situation in some areas is concealed. The propaganda machine of the “state” has gained momentum, and an interesting fact is that amid
apparent confrontation between the “legislative branch” (Supreme Soviet) and the “executive branch” (government), it is the latter that monopolizes access to the media and creates new obstacles to the emergence and development of independent and private media outlets.

Thus, according to the “legislation” in force, the registration of online media requires notificationpermission; however, when trying to register such a media outlet (a portal of information and analysis), two journalists received a refusal without explanation. At the same time, another online source, Zercalo-TV, was granted the right to exist.

Also, private media outlets in Transnistria are denied accreditation for public events without explanation, for example, the refusal to accredit Televidenie Svobodnogo Vybora (Free Choice Television), the Russian news agency Novy Region and other media outlets to publicize the arrival in Transnistria of the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin in February 2012.

The “state-owned” media outlets also were subjected to a “cleansing” of staff. Thus, the central newspaper of the region, Pridnestrovie, without solid or objective reasons dismissed all the journalists who used to provide impartial coverage of events. Instead, following an order by the head of the specialized department, it was to employ “necessary” persons, thus paralyzing the work of this publication.

Some journalists at the “state-owned” news agency Novosti Pridnestrovia (News of Transnistria, former Olvia-press) were dismissed unexpectedly in violation of the law. They were forced to sign the necessary documents although the law requires that employees be warned in advance of upcoming changes in the work of a public institution. In this case, there was a flagrant violation of the rules of the Labor Code, while journalists lost their jobs and were subjected to immense psychological stress.

• Violations of legislation

During the year, along with the growing confrontation between the branches of power in Transnistria, all media outlets paid with public funds were instructed not to provide airtime on TV or radio nor the 300 lines per month in the relevant publications provided by the law to the deputies of the Supreme Soviet. To monopolize broadcasting frequencies and strengthen propaganda positions by merging the region’s public TV and radio stations, the Transnistrian “state-owned” broadcasting company was created, reporting directly to the leader of the region. Thus the idea of creating public television on the basis of the “state-owned” television was buried.

In addition to transforming “state-owned” media outlets, changes were made to the electronic media as well, including free platforms for the expression of opinions. Popular online social resources are controlled by the authorities. In particular, the Transnistrian social forum (forum.pridnestrovie.com), which contributed in 2011 to the coming to power of the current leader’s team, is now subject to “cleansing.” Topics discussing the errors of the new administration are removed. It has been repeatedly mentioned by participants active in the forum.

Among electronic media, the media outlets of opposition to the team of the Transnistrian leader were repeatedly subjected to DDOS attacks, and access to some Transnistrian websites was closed on the left bank of the Nistru. According to a representative of the sole provider, it was done at the behest of the authorities. To date, the websites of the Russian news agency Dnestr (www.dniester.ru) and of the political analyst Mr. Roman Konoplev cannot be accessed from Transnistrian IP addresses. He himself is actually hiding, according to some sources, in Russia. For criticism of Yevgeny Shevchuk, he was subject to pressure and prosecution by the state security committee of the Transnistrian region.

It is also forbidden and impossible to access the website of the news agency Lenta PMR (tiras.ru) affiliated with Mr. Dmitry Soin, MP and head of the party Proryv that was banned and liquidated in 2012. The story of survival of the website of the news agency PMRInform is interesting and eloquent. It began to work actively in early 2012, offering the public an objective picture of events on the left bank of the Nistru; however, after a series of cyber attacks that according to experts were caused by
the government team, access to the website was blocked, depriving the public of information. As a result, website managers requested a platform from a Ukrainian partner—vesti.ua. Thus, access to the blocked website was secured, but the story of this agency does not end here. Currently, the owners have created a new domain, prinform.com, which allows the work to continue and the public to be provided with information about events in Transnistria.

The website of the popular Transnistrian political analyst Andrei Safonov (safonovpmr.com) was also subject to repeated attacks and blocking. He has been critical of Transnistrian authorities and is sure that what happens to his website is part of a strategy of “cleansing” Transnistrian mass media of unwanted information.

• The situation of relations between Moldova and Transnistria in mass media

There are still very few newspapers from Moldova in Transnistria. Experts have three reasons for this fact. First, there was previously a markup of 100% on Moldovan products, including newspapers and magazines, so the public on the left bank stopped buying (because of cost) publications from the right bank. Now it is difficult for Moldovan publications to re-enter the Transnistrian print media market. The second reason is the language in which publications appear. It is known that in Transnistria the Russian language is widespread, and Romanian in Latin script was replaced with “Moldovan” in Cyrillic script. The third reason is the relatively inexpensive and broad access to the Internet. Young people up to 35 years old prefer electronic media and virtual versions of publications as they are fast, convenient, cheaper, and easier to read.

As for broadcasting, as a trust-building measure in negotiations, Transnistria offered viewers free access (both via cable networks and Internet TV packages) to two Moldovan TV stations: one private, Publika.tv, and one state-owned, Moldova 1. According to a representative of the alleged ministry of foreign affairs of the Transnistrian region, there was an agreement on the mutual exchange of air times. Thus, it was expected that cable networks on the right bank would include TV stations from the Transnistrian region as well; however, no Transnistrian TV stations appeared in Moldova. In response, Transnistria removed Moldovan TV stations from the viewing grid: Publika TV ceased to be aired on 1 November, and Moldova 1 stopped on 1 December 2012, thus depriving Transnistrian residents of the opportunity to learn about events in Moldova via television. This fact, however, does not prevent Transnistrians from finding news from the right bank on the Internet, including by viewing the websites of Publika TV, Moldova 1, and other broadcast media outlets.

In addition to these measures, broadcast television in Transnistria is actively developing. A project was launched with the experimental title “People’s Television.” Within the next two years Transnistrian authorities will supposedly provide, as they state, a multiplex consisting of 12 to 16 TV stations. Viewers will be required to purchase a DVB-T decoder, which is already supplied in Transnistria by a private firm. A possible favorable political result might be a Moldovan TV station included in the multiplex.

• Mass media trends in Transnistria

Having observed the events in the information space of Transnistria, the region’s media experts find it necessary to formulate conclusions that may indicate trends that are emerging in the development of the media in the region.

Firstly, the media are clearly being divided into “our” (which are close to the current leader’s team and praise their actions) and “foreign” (criticizing unpopular and idealistic decisions).

Secondly, all public authorities (“ministries,” “departments,” and “public administrations”) are creating press services and websites. They did not exist previously. Journalists hope that in the future such websites will contain information on budget expenditures and will enable participation in discussions on adopting decisions.

Thirdly, the concentration of the most influential information resources in the hands of the government is obvious.

Fourthly, in 2012 for the first time in the history of the region, the public service of telecommunications, information, and mass media tried to subject a new version of the law on mass media to open debate. The draft was sent to media representatives for examination and to formulate suggestions. Only time will tell if the suggestions of media practitioners will be considered in preparing the final version of the draft law.

Fifthly, free access to information became more difficult. All “state agencies” require a written request in order to obtain any information, a fact that delays the preparation of articles. Authorities sometimes give answers that are not related to the subject of the request. In this regard, the administration made the decision that public officials would be held accountable for late presentation of information and responses that are not related to the subject of the request, and this decision was approved by the head of the region. There have been no precedents so far. Journalistic practice will show whether this law will work or if it, like many others, will remain only on paper.


Дата публикации: Чт 21 Фев 2013

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