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from "Partly Free" to "Not Free" : press freedom in Moldova

A report released by Freedom House in advance of World Press Freedom Day reveals press freedom suffered a decline in Moldova in 2003. Moldova’s rating changed from "Partly Free" to "Not Free" due to the enactment of restrictive new media laws. Freedom House explained the change of status as follows:

Press freedom in Moldova deteriorated in 2003 as government authorities maintained tight control over national broadcast media while at the same time intensifying pressure on independent print media. Although Article 32 of the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the press, existing legislation prohibits insults against the state and defamation of senior government officials. These provisions have allowed for a multitude of lawsuits against journalists in the dozen years since independence, and self-censorship is common.

The new civil and criminal codes, which went into effect in January 2003, contain still harsher penalties for libel, including prison sentences of up to five years. In March 2003, a new Law on Combating Extremism was enacted, providing the government with another possible tool of media repression. The majority of print and broadcast media are financed directly or indirectly by various political or ethnic interests.

The state-run television station, Moldova 1, is the only station with national reach. Government efforts to fortify the heretofore-nominal independence of the formerly state-run Teleradio Moldova, catalyzed by international and employee pressure, have not produced clear results.

Since the beginning of 2003, direct and indirect pressure on Moldovan journalists has intensified. There is general lack of transparency in media ownership, and Russian-language media receive a disproportionate share of advertising revenue vis-a-vis the Romanian-language press".