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Provisions of the draft law allowing the dismissal of BC members and comments of media experts

09 September 2021
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In the process of considering the grounds for dismissal of members of the Broadcasting Council (BC), the respective parliamentary commission might hear BC members or any of the BC employees in order to draw up a report that could serve as a basis for annulling the mandates of current BC members. This proposal is part of a draft law signed by 27 MPs from the Action and Solidarity Party, which was registered in the Parliament on September 2. Some media experts believe that the initiative was developed, among other things, so that “the government can change the BC composition in its favor.”

The proposals to amend the Broadcasting Code in the part regarding the manner of dismissal of BC members were approved at the meeting of the Parliamentary Commission on Legal Issues, Appointments, and Immunities on September 8.

THE ALGORITHM OF BC ACCOUNTABILITY PROPOSED BY MPs: CONTROL, FINDING, DISMISSAL

MPs propose supplementing the article concerning cases when a position of BC member becomes vacant. One paragraph states that vacancy takes place in case “improper performance or non-performance of their obligations, prerogatives, or duties is found,” and another paragraph – in case “defective activity is found as a result of parliamentary control carried out in conditions of the law.”

According to the document, when a position is deemed vacant due to improper performance of duties or due to the authority’s activity being found defective, the respective parliamentary commission will have to analyze, “objectively and transparently, institutional management, the authority’s decisions, its activity reports, audit reports, complaints, grievances, petitions, individual activity objectives and performance indicators of the assessed person, or other relevant data and information collected or presented to the commission.” Subsequently, the parliamentary commission should draw up a report analyzing the managerial and professional competencies of the BC member, the way in which they perform their official obligations and duties, or, as the case may be, the efficiency of the institution’s activity. The MPs also propose that, in the process of examining the grounds for dismissal, the parliamentary commission may hear BC members or any employee of the institution in which they work, as well as request and receive any relevant information from individuals or legal entities.

If the commission finds that there are grounds for dismissal, a motivated report shall be submitted to the Parliament, which, through the vote of the majority of MPs, may decide on dismissal.

At the same time, the authors of the draft law provided for a way to challenge the Parliament’s decision in court.

ARGUMENTS OF MPs

According to the explanatory note to the draft law, the national legislation does not provide for mechanisms for holding accountable the governing bodies of authorities such as the Broadcasting Council in case their activities are improper and contrary to the purpose for which they were established. “The Parliament’s monitoring of public authorities is an indicator of good governance,” the authors said. “A mandate obtained through the vote given by the Parliament cannot be considered a ‘gift’. The functional autonomy of public authorities does not exclude their accountability before citizens, first of all, and a possible dissatisfaction of the public is to be materialized in the withdrawal of the vote appointing the heads of these authorities,” the draft says.

PARTY INTEREST v. PUBLIC INTEREST

Media expert Aneta Gonța reminds that the current Code of Media Services already provides for parliamentary control of the BC’s activity. “If this control was actually conducted in accordance with the law, it would allow the sanctioning of those who fail to do their job there. Eventually, it is possible to amend Article 87, supplementing it with the mention that the Parliament’s rejection of the annual report gives the Parliament the right to dismiss the head of the BC. That is how it is done in Romania, for example,” she explains.

According to the researcher, the members of an autonomous authority “are non-dismissible in a country that wants to be democratic.” “How can MPs prove that the members of the BC do not perform their obligations or that their activity is defective? Any court will annul arbitrary decisions, motivated politically,” Aneta Gonța believes.

Moreover, she admits that MPs’ proposals are dictated by political interests. “I believe that the proposed amendments do not really change the quality of the BC, but they are made so that the government can change its composition in its favor. We, however, want a responsible appointment of members to the BC, so they would act in the public interest, and the current law allows this,” Aneta Gonța added.

The executive director of the Electronic Press Association (APEL), Ion Bunduchi, also believes that any institution in the state, including the BC, should be held accountable, but he does not believe that the formula proposed by MPs is a solution. “We had such precedents, when the Law on broadcasting of 1995 was amended and the heads of Teleradio-Moldova, for about two years, were appointed and dismissed as if on a conveyor belt. This is what we might achieve through the proposed initiative. Why? Because any government will be able to easily ‘prove’ an ‘improper performance’ of the BC’s duties or ‘defective activity,’ since the phrases in quotation marks do not have an exact legal definition,” Ion Bunduchi said.

The media expert is convinced that “an independent BC can work well or poorly, and a non-independent BC can only work poorly.” “The question remains: do the proposed amendments guarantee the Council institutional and decision-making independence?! Will they not make the BC, as before, act in the interests of the government and not the law?! I’d like to be wrong, but we will find out very soon, in the next electoral cycles,” concluded Bunduchi.