In early March, Chisinau hosted an International Forum on the topic “What do the Media Need?” The purpose of the event was to present a study analyzing independent Russian-language media in Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, identifying independent Russian-language media in the EaP countries and determining their needs.
The results and conclusions of the study caused controversial debates, especially among Chisinau journalists writing in Russian. But let’s take things one at a time.
To begin with, I will mention some of the study findings that led to accusations and criticism from some representatives of Russian-language media.
First, Russian-language media (just like Romanian-language ones) in Moldova are underdeveloped. It is not surprising. Everyone knows that. This fact has been confirmed by media ratings, according to which the most popular outlets are none other than Russian televisions, radios or newspapers, rebroadcast or republished in Moldova, which are “obliged” by the Broadcasting Coordinating Council (BCC) to “season” the Russian content with up to 20% of domestic product (shows, newscasts, articles, reports, etc.). In broadcasting, these outlets are Prime TV – Pervy Kanal, NTV Moldova, Radio Hit FM, Radio Evropa Plus, and in print media – “Komsomolskaya Pravda (v Moldove)”, “Argumenty I Fakty”, and “Trud” (Russian newspapers with supplements that contain information about Moldova).
Second, the (independent) Russian-language content produced by Moldovan media is really... scanty. However, it is important to note that it (I mean the content of independent Russian-language media) is, according to some experts, technically better and more popular than the content of Romanian-language media. At the same time, it attracts a larger audience. The reason is simple and largely due to the fact that the Russian-speaking population is looking for alternatives to the propaganda of Kremlin media.
Third, there are currently very few local independent media that produce high-quality content in the Russian language. And those that exist just cannot cover this information gap. Moreover, available Russian-language content is often nothing more than a translation of the content originally produced in Romanian.
And fourth, there is the language factor. The main problem of Russian-speaking journalists in Moldova (even if they don’t admit it) is that they are strongly influenced by Russian media. This influence is harmful from the point of view of their integration into society, but also from a professional point of view, for the simple reason that there is a risk (quite serious, by the way) that this influence might turn into a tool of propaganda. The other aspect mentioned by the experts who participated in this study is that Russian-speaking journalists are exposed to a certain additional stress caused by frustration due to poor knowledge of the Romanian language.
So, the main problem for Russian-language journalism and journalists in Moldova is that there are no(t many) independent domestic media outlets working in the Russian language doing quality journalism and serving as examples of high-quality independent journalism. And, in general, the media in Moldova are practicing “parasitic journalism”. Russian-language media are not an exception (see figures in “first” above. Independent Russian-language media in Moldova can be numbered by the fingers of one hand: Newsmaker.md, Gagauzmedia.info, SP, Russian version of "Ziarul de Gardă" and ... looks like that’s all.
What is the reason? Media is a business that needs investment and money. In addition, Moldova cannot boast of clear and equal rules for all players involved in this sector. We have a media trust (or, more recently, two trusts), and we have the rest of the media trying to survive. Also, we have monopolization on the market of advertising – the main source of income for independent media, – which significantly hampers the development of healthy and democratic media.
The over-politicization and monopolization of the media by certain interest groups are the very things that forced journalism in Moldova to be done from “barricades” and to represent “voices” (rather than the VOICE of the people, as it should). There are many who do it based on the criteria of native language, ideology or politics. And only few do it based on universal ethical criteria: fairness, neutrality, transparency, impartiality, etc.
The article was published within the Advocacy Campaigns Aimed at Improving Transparency of Media Ownership, Access to Information and promotion of EU values and integration project, implemented by the IJC, which is, in its turn, part of the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society project, implemented by FHI 360.
This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content are the responsibility of author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.