Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breaking the media blockade

According to recently released estimates, 70% of Moldova's media is controlled, directly or indirectly, by the Communist party. This includes the important M1 TV channel and Radio Moldova, the only audiovisual media with nationwide coverage.

The communists are trying to extend their control further. Advertisers, who are the lifeblood of the remaining independent media, are being pressured to withdraw their support from the likes of Timpul, Unimedia & Jurnal de Chisinau. Journalists are being harrassed and labelled as 'traitors' for publishing material critical of the regime. A new law, coming into force at the end of the month, will make it an offence to 'offend the dignity' of another person.

And yet, with Moldovan democracy in peril and fresh elections on the horizon, a free media is vital. The opposition has to get its message across, especially with respect to the rigging of the 5/4 election and the subsequent human rights abuses, and especially to those in the villages whose brains are being constantly washed by communist propaganda.

Here's some ideas about what could be done to prreserve and extend the reach of the free media:

1. Provide baseline expense subsidies to those media organisations whose advertising base is coming under attack. Probably a job for the EU or Reporters without Borders.

2. Extend internet access in rural areas. More providers, more hardware, cheap connections. Maybe the Stati family could have a look at this. Romania and Ukraine could help by providing high bandwith radio transmissions into and out of Moldova.

3. Romania and Ukraine could also help by boosting their TV and Radio transmission assets along Moldova's borders. This would allow the likes of Romania's Antena 3 to reach more viewers inside Moldova. A further enhancement would be for Ukrainian transmitters to broadcast Romanian channels and vice versa.

4. There is an urgent need in Eastern Europe for a quality Russian-language TV channel to rival Russia's channel 1 in content and production values whilst carrying an independent news service free of Russian government interference. Perhaps George Soros could look after this one?

5. A book should be written chronicling the election and the post-election events. The book should contain detailed and well-written explanations of the election fraud. It should include descriptions and photographic evidence of rights abuses in the week of 7/4. It should include the full text of the European Parliament. Print a million of these and use the combined resources of civil society, independent media and opposition parties to get a copy into every Moldovan household. Foreign NGOs could provide funding.

This list is by no means exhaustive and other ideas would be welcome. Please use the comments facility for this purpose.

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