Moldova has suspended the broadcast licenses of six television channels, accusing them of misinformation, inaccurate coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and “attempts to manipulate public opinion,” according to the authorities.
Moldova’s Commission for Exceptional Situations, which was established after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, announced late on Friday that licenses of the channels First in Moldova, RTR Moldova, Accent TV, NTV Moldova, TV6 and Orhei TV would be revoked.
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The decision to suspend the channels was made after Moldova’s Audiovisual Council found a “lack of correct information in the coverage of national events, but also of the war in Ukraine.” It also said the suspensions aim to “prevent the risk of disinformation … or attempts to manipulate public opinion.”
Four of the six suspended channels — First in Moldova, RTR Moldova, NTV Moldova, and TV6 — regularly re-transmit programs from Russian TV channels that on Friday were banned by the European Council as part of a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia.
The EU’s Council decision to ban the Russian broadcasters was based on the “direct or indirect control of the leadership of the Russian Federation and have been used by (the) latter for its continuous and concerted disinformation and war propaganda actions.”
TV6, one of the suspended channels, called the suspension “totally unfounded” and “an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression, editorial freedom (and) freedom of journalists.”
The commission’s argument “is not only totally unfounded but also downright false,” the channel said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Some of the channels are owned by people close to Ilan Shor, a fugitive Moldovan businessman who leads the Russia-friendly Shor Party. The party recently organised large protests in the capital against the pro-Western government.
Moldova’s President Maia Sandu welcomed the decision, saying they are “an important step to prevent attempts to destabilise” the country.
“We cannot accept that in this challenging period, the security of the state and the peaceful life of citizens are endangered by fugitives who want only one thing — to escape justice,” she said in a statement.
Last week the United Kingdom added Shor to an international sanctions list as he has been implicated in a $1bn bank fraud incident and accused of bribery to secure his position as head of a Moldovan bank in 2014. The US State Department has also recently placed sanctions on Shor for working for Russian interests.
The former Soviet country has been struggling with skyrocketing inflation and an energy crisis including power outages after Moscow’s attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure to which Moldova’s systems remain connected.
The war in Ukraine has been sensitive for neighbouring Moldova but especially for Russia-backed breakaway state Transnistria which is internationally recognised as part of Moldova but is home to Russian troops. The breakaway territory runs 400 kilometres (250 miles) along the border with southwest Ukraine where the majority of residents identify as Russians.