Moldova’s government press office has announced that the government is backing the ruling coalition’s draft bill to ban all Russian content in Moldovan media.
The draft bill includes changing the Moldovan “Audiovisual Code” to remove Russian television news and analysis programmes and increase the percentage of internal affairs and Romanian content on TV.
According to the bill, there will be fines up to 12,350$, and penalties such as the cancellation of licenses of the TV channels for 30 days for violating the ban.
The government has stated that the bill will protect “the national information space from foreign manipulation and propaganda.”
The bill is also backed by one of Moldova’s TV broadcast stations, TV7. TV7 has dropped all the Russian content from its stream.
Previously, the governing coalition parties - the Liberal Democratic Party and Democratic Party - presented the draft bill in April. Following this, the government did not allow Russian broadcast stations to report on Moldova’s local elections and canceled the visas of Russian journalists.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has accused Moldova’s government of being “openly discriminatory.”
Critics of the bill said that the law introduced censorship which would harm not only the freedom of speech, but also Moldovan democracy. The criticism had led the coalition parties to drop the bill until revising it with the input of journalist and civil society.
In May, Moldova’s US Ambassador James Pettit said that Moldovan ban on the broadcast of Russian content could harm Moldovan democracy in a journalistic forum. He stressed that "questions of media influence and the struggle against Russian propaganda are very important for the US government."
Since 2014, the Moldovan government has tried to remove Russian content from TV. The licenses of news hubs such as Russia-24, Channel One and RTR were canceled due to violating “the principle of pluralism in news programs covering events in Ukraine.
Moldovan citizens who back pro-European attitudes rallied last week in the capital city of Chisinau to demand the reunification of Moldova with Romania and chanted slogans against Russia.
Lately citizens who want Moldova to enter European Union have protested against their government because of the disappearance of 1.5 billion dollars from three banks and the inability of the parliament to apply reforms moving their country closer to European Union membership.
Moldovan politics has been in turmoil since officials from the Central Bank of Moldova said that three banks illegally gave out 1.5 billion dollar in loans, which according to some leaked documents was transferred to four Russian banks.
The alleged illegal transfer occurred just before parliamentary elections in November, when pro-European and pro-Russian candidates competed against each other for seats in the Moldovan parliament.
In 2013, the Moldovan government signed an association agreement with the EU. However, the current government does not favor the implementation of EU reforms in the near future.