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ACUM Bloc Developed a Draft Law That Could Terminate the Mandates of the Current Members of the BC. The Council Remains Immune to These Attempts

30 October 2019
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The Broadcasting Council, the Supervisory Board of ‘Teleradio Moldova’, the Competition Council were often accused of failing to fulfil their job duties and of playing the game of the former governance. Recently, during a press briefing, the MP Sergiu Litvinenco, ‘ACUM’ Electoral Bloc, the head of the Legal Committee for Appointments and Immunities, reported on the registration in the Parliament of a draft law which provides, among other things, for the termination of the mandates of the current members of the BC, SB and CC. Sergiu Litvinenco and other MPs from the ACUM Bloc – Veronica Rosca, Igor Grosu and Vladimir Bolea, signed the draft law. The PSRM MPs are skeptical about the amendments proposed by the authors, which make some of the representatives of the media NGOs to doubt about the fact that the draft law will get the necessary votes in the Parliament.

The MP Sergiu Litvinenco announced, during a press briefing in Parliament, held on 18 October, about the need to amend several laws, including the Code of Audiovisual Media Services and the Competition Law. Litvinenco claimed that the new draft law drafted by the members of the ACUM Bloc contains important provisions, such as the assessment of the heads of several institutions, including the Broadcasting Council (BC), the Supervisory Board of ‘Teleradio-Moldova’ and the Competition Council (CC) and their dismissal in case they fail to fulfill their duties.

The draft of ACUM Bloc MPs provides for restructuring these institutions – reducing the number of members from nine to seven, and of CC members from five to three.

The new membership of the BC would consist of one member from Parliament, Government, Presidency and four members from media outlets. At the same time, the draft law provides for the dismissal of the members of the BC that represent the Parliament, the Government and the Presidency, by the authority that appointed them in case they fail to fulfil their duties or because of the inappropriate fulfillment of their duties. The document also provides for the termination of the mandate of the current members of the BC, SB and CC, once the law becomes effective.

Asked by to comment on the draft law of the ACUM Bloc, the head of the Parliamentary Committee for Mass-Media, Adrian Lebedinschi (PSRM) mentioned that he did not fully support this concept and that he was particularly against the termination of the mandate of the members of the BC.  ‘In my opinion, it is not fair that every political party that comes to power begins to change everything and appoint people that obey a particular party. Attention must be given to the areas where problems do exist. If the head of the BC fails to fulfill his/her obligations – he/she must be brought to account’, said Lebedinschi. Also, the head of the Parliamentary Committee thinks that changing the number of the BC members would be inappropriate. In his opinion, the draft law needs to be improved. He added that, at present, the Parliamentary Committee is gathering all the proposals regarding the need to amend the Audiovisual Media Services Code, so that, at the beginning of next year, to include them in a draft law that will be subjected to public debates.

Petru Macovei, the Executive Director of the Association of Independent Press (API) has a different opinion. He believes that, given the existence of clear evidence concerning the inactivity of certain public structures such as the Broadcasting Council or the Competition Council, legal mechanisms should be established in order to terminate the mandates of their members before their expiration. Macovei emphasised that such amendments to the law must be made with utmost care. ‘This is something like brain surgery, meant to remove any opportunities or gaps in the legislation that would allow other governments to abuse it’. In his opinion, all proofs which evidence the inaction and selective approach that the Broadcasting Council or the Competition Council still have, are there. Petru Macovei argues that some members of the current composition of the BC have not treated fairly all broadcasters.

Still, the API Executive Director believes there’s little chance for this draft law to be supported by the majority of MPs currently in the Parliament. ‘I am almost certain that the coalition partners of ACUM Bloc [PSRM – e.n.] will not accept to vote because if their positions are to be reconfigured in the Broadcasting Council, for instance, and on the media market in general, then their interests might change entirely’, said Macovei.

Remember that the MP Sergiu Litvinenco proposed back in August to have the current members of the BC and of the Supervisory Board of Teleradio-Moldova public company dismissed, and have acting members in place until new members are appointed. The Executive Director of the Electronic Press Association (APEL) Ion Bunduchi strongly criticised this initiative at that time. ‘Both I and APEL believe that it is a dangerous initiative. If a government amends the law to dismiss people from the BC and the ones from Teleradio-Moldova, another government will not even need to amend the law – it will start with dismissing people’ Ion Bunduchi said.

Dragos Vicol, Chiar of the BC, was sought to share his opinion on the legislative initiative of the MP Litvinenco regarding the dismissal of the Council members. His answer was that he didn’t have the right to give an opinion on the feasibility of such endeavour for as long as he was member of the Broadcasting Council.  He said, though: ‘To conclude – this initiative is 100% politically coloured and is based on some political arrangements resulting of a combination of current events that influence to an extreme degree the apolitical and independent nature of the broadcasting authority in the Republic of Moldova, which is regrettable’.

Note that during the hearings held on 3 July 2019, the Parliamentary Committee for Mass-Media gave a negative review on the work of the BC and rejected the Broadcasting Council Activity Report. At the same time, certain members of the Parliamentary Committee asked the current members of the BC to resign, since they allegedly allowed the Government’s capturing of the media. Subsequently, at the beginning of the public meeting on 29 July, the Prime Minister Maia Sandu made a public request to BC members, urging them to resign.