Moldova’s independent media ends tomorrow. The first signal of warning

“Yesterday” when we thought it was bad, in fact – it was good…

It has been two years since we started learning how to mobilize and show solidarity while facing COVID-19, and now the repercussions of the present war in Ukraine. The resilience of the Ukrainians has passed in an impressive way to the Moldovans, where all the state and its people have got involved in the humanitarian crisis, giving a hand to the Ukrainians so they could escape the horrors and plagues of the war that we knew only from the history books.

Certainly, this war will affect the planet in a destructive way from all points of view, will redistribute the power in the world, will change the way of life, will generate new priorities, dangers, approaches and will generate other decisions with global impact. From an economic point of view, major crises await us – rising inflation, rearrangement of energy security principles and approaches, living standards will fall, regional and global migration will overwhelm many countries, etc., etc., etc.… States in the region will have to cope with the multiple tough challenges.

For sure this war is already affecting our country multilaterally. Our readiness to deal with it is uncertain, but I am glad that we have the enthusiasm not to give in to the unpredictable difficulties. The submission of Moldova’s application for EU membership gives us hope that we are not alone in all these circumstances, and all the official visits that were done by now confirm this fact.

However, I did not expect that during this crisis we, the independent media, would take the first hit. I have been watching with fascination in the last weeks my colleagues from realitatea.md, bani.md, rupor.md, rlive.md and RLIVE TV – a multinational and inclusive team whose aim is to inform as quickly as possible the citizens of the country and the diaspora, to fight the wave of misinformation and fake news, a team which forget about time, the need to eat or call their mother.

I am really confident and I would like to assure you that the financial independence of the free press is in jeopardy. The advertising market situation worsened after the start of the war in Ukraine. Already today, over 50% of advertising clients have suspended or completely withdrawn their advertising campaigns. The general tendency is that it will hit 70% – 90% in the next two weeks. This directly jeopardizes the sustainability of many media institutions. A few days ago, I talked to my colleagues from Jurnal TV, TV 8, PRO TV, abrir.md, nordnews.md, ziarulnațional.md and they are all very worried.

Advertising and PR agencies have confirmed that the tendency of international and domestic customers is to limit advertising campaigns or to withdraw advertising campaigns altogether for an indefinite period.

There are three main reasons:

Clients do not want to appear in the context of war;

Dependence of customers on the supply of goods from Ukraine or Russia, or dependence on commercial logistics through Ukraine;

Reduction or exclusion of advertising budgets by medium and small customers due to short and medium term uncertainty.

At the same time, although they are aware that their sales will decrease, they do not have any other choices left. 

This situation is becoming critical every day and is constantly worsening. It directly influences not only the sustainability of media institutions, but also creates a certain path to their bankruptcy. The crisis most directly affects the information security aspect of our country, given the imminent risk of extinction of the independent press in the Republic of Moldova – televisions, news portals, newspapers, both national and regional.

The whole country needs to be aware that the media is an area of ​​strategic national importance, which ensures freedom of expression and pluralism of opinion, and which directly contributes to the democratic development of the Republic of Moldova.

Applying for EU membership demonstrates the cohesion of our country to media pluralism – the guarantee of democracy for any state. The effort of the state and its partners on development  to diversify national and regional sources of information, strengthen the sustainability of media institutions, professionalize local content, is a confirmation of the will for the media in the Republic of Moldova to be independent and free.

Now more than ever, the press needs the support of the state and its development partners. Now more than ever, the media’s effort to inform society correctly, to combat fake news, trolls and misinformation campaigns, and to keep society calm – needs to be sustained… The press needs direct financial support, to be able to pay salaries and maintain operational activity. I do not call them heroes, although the effort is at its peak during this period. It is an unconventional war and the independent media is in the forefront. Moreover, the role of free journalists in democratizing the Republic of Moldova is essential, no matter whether you admit it and agree with me or not. 

Dear leaders of the country,

Dear development partners,

Dear business people,

It’s time for action. Right now, your direct and urgent support is a must. It is the time when discussions about principles and values ​​have turned into – resistance and survival. Even if it does not have direct support tools, the state could intervene with facilities and guarantees, it could take steps towards the international community. Development partners could intervene with an emergency fund to directly support media institutions. Businesses could pay for future campaigns or provide direct support to media institutions. These are just some of the possible emergency interventions.

Media pluralism is the guarantee of democracy!

Don’t forget about this, because post-factum discussions and expertise will no longer be able to help those who will disappear.

Dumitru Țîra

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