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The Civil Society Asks the President of Moldova Not To Sign the Law on Modifying the Broadcasting Code

Media NGOs condemn the lack of transparency and violation of legislative procedure in the process of amending the Broadcasting Code on February 26, 2016, qualifying these actions as an attempt to mime reforms and to protect the private interests of some media owners.

The draft law on modifying and supplementing the Broadcasting Code was voted on February 26, 2016 in two readings, only 9 days after it was registered as a legislative initiative by a group of MPs from the Party of Socialists. According to the explanatory note to the draft law and to the report of the parliamentary commission on mass media, the purpose of amendments was to reduce monopolization in mass media. Thus, it was proposed to modify article 66 p. (3), reducing from 5 to 2 the number of licenses that can be held by an individual or a legal entity in one administrative-territorial unit. Also, amendments concerned article 66 p. (4), reducing from 2 to 1 the number of broadcasters of different types in which a person can be majority shareholder or investor.

It should be mentioned that the draft law was not accompanied by the Government’s opinion, and the civil society representatives that are part of the advisory group at the specialized parliamentary commission were not informed about the examination of this draft law in the commission. The only available information, which was also referred to by the majority of media outlets that covered this topic, was the draft published on the Parliament’s website. Furthermore, on February 26, the plenum of the Parliament also examined an amendment to this draft law, proposed by one of its authors, by which the initial text was modified. The new amendment concerned the validity of the licenses that are currently in force, specifying that current media owners will have to comply with the requirement about the number of licenses after expiry of the validity of the licenses that they currently have. At the same time, according to the new amendment, an individual or a legal entity can be majority shareholder in not more than 2 broadcasters. Thus, the authors of the draft law returned to the formula of the current code, having excluded, however, the term “investor.” Practically, this modification will create conditions for continued monopolization of the media market, because the real owners of broadcasting companies will be able to formally comply with the law and keep only two licenses after expiry of their current licenses and at the same time to be “investors” in an unlimited number of broadcasters.

Media NGOs support reduction of concentration on the media market, and in recent years undertook different actions in this regard. The legal regime of ownership in broadcasting needs to be regulated by limiting the number of licenses that a person can have, prohibiting real owners of broadcasters to use the names of other people, limiting market share, regulating situations that might generate some broadcasters’ dominant positions in creation of public opinion, etc. The haste with which the draft law on modifying the Broadcasting Code was voted on February 26, 2016, the lack of transparency in the process of its examination, and the ambiguous provisions in its text intensify the feeling of distrust in the honesty of the country leaders’ intentions to limit media concentration. The speaker of the Parliament arguing that the draft law is in line with the recommendations of the EU Council of Ministers is ill-founded, because those recommendations must be implemented in good faith and in strict compliance with the rules on ensuring transparency in decision making.

We qualify this action of the Parliament as being an attempt to mime reforms and to protect the private interests of some media owners, and we are asking the President of Moldova not to sign the law on modifying the Broadcasting Code, adopted on February 26, 2016, returning it to the Parliament for re-examination.

Independent Journalism Center
Association of Independent Press
Association of Electronic Press APEL
Center of Journalistic Investigations
“Acces-Info” Center
Association of Independent TV Journalists
Committee for Press Freedom
Institute of Public Policies
Center of Legal Resources of Moldova
Promo-LEX Association

This declaration is open for signing/adhering to the institutions and organizations that share the opinion of signatories

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