The Free Press, the Autocratic State, and Space

The Free Press, the Autocratic State, and Space
03 May 2020 | 10:23

In Moldova, two months passed since the Government isolated itself from the independent media. For almost eight weeks, the Government has stopped holding press conferences, avoiding to answer the journalists’ questions. I wonder if the Government’s behavior can be explained by the pandemic, the quarantine, the isolation, or the other extraordinary conditions. 

On April 10, 2020, I watched a press conference with the crew from the International Space Station. The team of astronauts from the International Space Station located hundreds of kilometers above the Earth made time for the conference and stood in front of the cameras willingly answering questions. However, the reporters were not in space. They were in different parts of the globe, in their offices at the Washington Post, Reuters, CBS, and other mass media outlets. 

The questions were good, yet challenging. Chris Cassidy arrived at the station just a few hours before the conference. Maybe he felt sleepy, or he needed time to adjust or wanted to look at the Earth through the porthole or write an e-mail to the family. However, he stood for an hour and answered calmly the reporters’ questions.

Since September 2019, Jessica has been on the International Space Station. She was supposed to return back home in a few days.

She may have needed time to pack or complete some projects. However, she answered calmly questions about what she might feel like when she gets back to Earth and cannot embrace her loved ones, because of quarantine.

People organize live press conferences with the crew from the International Space Station, but the Government in Chișinău can’t cope with such a necessary mission. Maybe it is easier to be an astronaut than a government member. 

On April 23, 2020, I received an invitation through e-mail to participate in a press conference and give questions to the President of the Parliament. However, it was not about Moldovan Parliament’s President Zinaida Greceanîi nor Vice President Batrîncea. 

The e-mail came from the press service of the European Parliament informing me that David Sassoli will hold a press conference, following the consultations with European leaders on the measures taken against the pandemic. Why does David Sassoli need my question? What does the European legislature’s press service have to do with me?

In Brussels, they surely know that I neither live nor work in the European Union (EU), nor do I pay taxes in the EU. Therefore, why should I have any questions to ask them? David Sassoli has no idea about Ziarul de Gardă in Chișinău. And the press service did not send me this e-mail as a courtesy. The invitation was an act of equal treatment of all reporters who signed up to the list of journalists interested in the EU’s work. It has been a long time since I subscribed to their press events. And since then I have been receiving messages about conferences and other information, without any discrimination.

In Chișinău, we face information isolation. ZdG is a media organization that has been informing citizens, creating jobs, and paying taxes in Moldova for more than 15 years. All governments as well as the opposition and including those who have now isolated themselves from the independent press have appreciated ZdG’s investigations. Most of them have used the data from our investigations for judicial cases, settling scores with their political adversaries, or acts of justice including those that are now isolating themselves from the independent media. 

Recently, together with colleagues from other independent media and colleagues from media NGOs, we had to create a “crisis cell” through which we could request a press conference! We did not ask the state for support during the pandemic. We requested some answers to the questions sent to us by the citizens. We didn’t receive any answer yet. 

On May 3, we celebrate World Press Freedom Day. Will we continue to receive answers from any government in the world, including from the crew on the International Space Station, easier than from the Government in Chișinău?

AUTHOR MAIL eng.zdg@gmail.com

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