Six TV stations suspended. With whom do we sympathise?
It’s been a few weeks since six TV stations controlled by corrupt politicians, their affiliates or entities in the Russian Federation were suspended. During all this time, there have been many accusations in the public arena that the media guild and the civil media society are not showing solidarity, that they do not care about the rights of the journalists employed at these stations, that they do not fight for the rights of all reporters, but are selective.
First of all, if you look at who the owners of these TV stations are, the first question that comes to mind is what kind of state do we have and how did it come about that such a bunch of tainted owners control most of our audiovisual space? But it’s a question that, with all the obvious controversy, is now being answered with: if the law allowed it, they had the right.
I won’t get into legal polemics here, I want to draw attention to ethical issues that are so important in journalism that they have ruined hundreds of careers and big names, even if those reporters had the law on their side. No one is above the law, but ethics in journalism are above all else.
Note that the 6 stations are no longer broadcasting terrestrially, but are still very active on websites, along with a lot of other Moscow-controlled media entities, on social networks, on Youtube. Do a check on any of these 6 stations’ pages, compare what is written on them about Putin, Russia, Ukraine and in what context the word “war” is pronounced. At the same time, check what is said about corruption in Moldova and about the heroes of the criminal cases related to the theft of the billion, about the “kuliok” operation, about the fortunes and interests of Shor, Dodon, Furculita, and, of course, of the people they are dealing with in Moscow – Putin, former prosecutor Ceaika and his two sons, other people in the Russian government involved in the war.
Let’s also open NTV Moldova’s home page, the one in Russia. Putin and his murderous war in Ukraine is glorified day after day, occupation of foreign territories is considered the norm, killing people in the neighbouring country is considered an act of heroism.
After this exercise one thing becomes clear – you can’t evaluate a TV station only on the basis of the material it publishes, you can’t say: well, TV6 is controlled by Shor, but the news bulletins are fair, even-handed, the opinions of all parties involved are given. The crucial question is – what kind of topics are tabooed, not covered at all, not at all, and whether or not the avoided topics are of public interest, even more – which topics are of greater public interest, those covered or those avoided?
Of course, long discussions can follow, with selected arguments about the editorial policy of each station, about editorial autonomy, about the different audience of each station that may not want news about war and bank robbers, but wants concerts and good times, wants shows like “Let’s get married” (Давай поженимся), because life is hard and oppressive in Moldova as well.
Throughout the 30 years of the Republic of Moldova’s existence, the media outlets supported by politicians and the Russian Federation have always been the largest and most influential, while the independent media outlets have always been small, few and always in difficulty. These independent institutions pioneered all the hard journalistic work: they initiated and developed investigative journalism, they did investigations about the corrupt, stories and reports about victims of the system, of injustice, of corruption, of politicians’ carelessness, about victims of violence, aggression, trafficking in people or human organs. They have done the hardest, toughest work, which leaves reporters with lifelong scars because of the difficulties before and after publication: threats, lawsuits, chronic fatigue.
How could a journalist who has written for years about the corruption generated by Ilan Shor, Igor Dodon, Vlad Plahotniuc, etc., sympathise with journalists who have taken money from these corrupt people precisely in order not to inform the public about their economic crimes? And why do people who work at media outlets owned by corrupt politicians under criminal investigation and accused of laundering billions, or at media outlets run by shady entities in an aggressor state, claim to be journalists? Is there a need for this kind of journalism in society, especially at a time of war that is affecting us all, each and every citizen, in the most painful way, from physical to economic, financial and psychological security?
The big truth comes from citizens. They have learned some things. Look at the web pages and social media pages of the Moldovan media. Investigative projects, independent media pages are gaining more and more ground, growing in audience rapidly. The most significant increase in the audience of independent media projects started with the pandemic and continued with the Russian war in Ukraine, and the internet audience of the stations controlled by obscure, corrupt, fugitive politicians is decreasing.
This means that when difficult situations happen in society, citizens choose to get their information from independent editions, they are the ones they trust the most and the public interest is based on them, and journalists who serve the public interest cannot work on politicians’ TV stations, nor on those founded by obscure entities from Russia or other warring states or with serious integrity problems.