Saturday, November 27, 2010

Moldova's Berlusconi


A difficult and complex subject.  One doesn't want to appear to be siding with the flip-flopping and discredited Sergiu Mocanu, whose every breath seems to be taken with the goal of demeaning Vlad Plahotniuc.  One doesn't want to disparage wealth or discourage enterprise.  One doesn't want to give the impression that philanthropy is a bad thing, or that media outlets should self-censor.

And yet:
  1. We still have no reason to believe that Plahotniuc's wealth was acquired legally (and many reasons to believe that it wasn't)
  2. The charges levied against him by Mocanu have not been satisfactorily addressed
  3. It appears that Plahotniuc has undue influence in state agencies such as the prosecutor's office and the economic courts
  4. He appears to have direct or effective control over excessively large sections of the Moldovan media
The last point is in some ways the most worrying.  Plahotniuc controls directly two out of four national channels - Prime, which rebroadcasts Russia's channel one, and 2-plus, which rebroadcasts Romania's channel one.  This concentration is a breach of both the audiovisual code and competition law, but for some strange reason no-one seems to care.

And now the concentration is getting worse, with reputable media outlets such as "Timpul" and the "Unimedia/Publika" group transforming themselves into cheerleaders for Plahotniuc.  The image of Constantin Tanase in a pleated skirt waving pom-poms around is one that I would rather not have in my head, but as long as the three agencies keep writing gushy articles about Plahotniuc's Edelweiss Foundation or his Association of Business People it's not going anywhere.

The media agencies should instead be writing critical articles investigating the sources of the money Edelweiss is using to bestow gifts on schools and old-folks homes.  They should be asking what Plahotniuc is trying to achieve through the businessman's association.  They should be observing the mechanisms that he has used to build his image ahead of his (open) entry into the political arena.

At the very least Timpul, Publika and Unimedia should be disclosing any monies received from Plathoniuc or his associates so that their readers can make up their own minds about editorial bias, and patronise other sources of infomation if necessary.

At the very least, the Audiovisual Council should force Plahotniuc to relinquish one of his nationwide channels and bring out into the open his other media interests.

Moldova has only just escaped from monopolisation of the media by Voronin and his entourage.  Now, Moldova runs the risk of reconcentrating media power in the hands of a single man, who is also likely to fill a high political office following tomorrow's election.  Let's hope that the PL and the PLDM have sufficient character not to allow Plahotniuc to become Moldova's Berlusconi.  Let's hope also that teh Audiovisual Council and the management of 'independent' media wake up to the peril before it is too late.

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