Moldova Media: Fact Check - Fake News on Licences

The Moldovan government refutes claims that eight media outlets, including GRT, the public television station in Gagauzia, are on the verge of losing their broadcasting licences.

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Prime Ministerial advisor Daniel Vodă dismissed the information circulating on social media since May 7th as "fake news" and "disinformation." However, he confirmed that on April 26th of this year, the Council for the Promotion of Investment Projects of National Importance requested information from the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (PA) regarding the beneficial owners of eight media trusts in the country.

The Council for the Promotion of Investment Projects of National Importance, which in late March 2024 temporarily suspended the permits of SRL "Media Content Distribution," the founder of TV channel Canal 5 and radio station Maestro FM as a preventative measure, convened on April 26th. The Council members decided to request additional information from various sources, including the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (PA), to initiate financial investigations into the operations of eight media outlets. These outlets include GRT, the public television and radio station in Gagauzia; REN TV; Cinema 1; Exclusiv Media; N4; TV9; Retro FM; and SRL "Real Radio," which owns the Mega TV and Familia channels. On May 7th, a portion of the meeting minutes containing a list of the eight media outlets was distributed on several social media platforms, falsely suggesting that these outlets were at risk of losing their licences.

Government Rejects Disinformation Campaign

On May 8th, government spokesman Daniel Vodă addressed the rumours circulating online, calling them "fake news" and "disinformation."

"A fabricated story was spread yesterday (May 7th) on anonymous Telegram disinformation channels, claiming that the activities of several media sources in our country would be halted," Vodă explained during a press conference on May 8th. "This information is demonstrably false. A snippet from minutes published by the Investment Agency was circulated, containing a table with a list of stations. However, the context or origin of this document was not provided."

Vodă clarified that the April 26th meeting was a continuation of discussions held in December 2023, where the beneficial owners of media investments were examined. "In other words," he continued, "all media institutions operating in our country submitted information to the Commission regarding their beneficial owners. The Commission then thoroughly examined this information, and the process is documented in the minutes published in full on their website."

The Prime Minister's advisor explained that the Commission requested further information due to inconsistencies or "outstanding questions concerning the data presented" by some of the targeted media outlets. Vodă confirmed that the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office was also involved in investigating certain media institutions. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office will inform the government if the beneficial owners of these media trusts are under investigation.

"I want to reiterate that the broadcasting licences of the eight media institutions have not been revoked, as suggested by the disinformation channels," Vodă emphasised. "They have merely been asked to submit additional documentation to facilitate a more thorough evaluation of their case. This evaluation process is not unique, and other media institutions have undergone similar scrutiny, ultimately resulting in their authorization."

Vodă concluded by highlighting the Council's primary objective: "to safeguard national security in the context of media market investments and to ensure that such investments are not undertaken by individuals or criminal organisations. It is crucial to understand that the Council does not, at any point, evaluate editorial policies or directly placed content. We are not concerned with freedom of expression; our focus is on beneficial ownership. The government requires transparency regarding the owners of these media trusts and seeks to ensure they are not affiliated with criminal groups."

The government spokesman reiterated the importance of citizens relying solely on official sources for information.

Background on Media Scrutiny

In late December 2023, the Council for the Promotion of Investment Projects of National Importance initiated an investigation into the beneficial ownership of companies operating in the television broadcasting and audiovisual services sector. The government announced that media beneficiaries would be vetted for involvement in money laundering, serious or particularly serious crimes, corruption, or activities that could jeopardise state security or public order.

At that time, the government also confirmed that six media companies – SRL "Telesistem TV," SRL "Media Resurse," SRL "Archidoc Group," SRL "Media Pro Group," SRL "General Media Group Corp," and SRL "Telestar Media" – would be temporarily stripped of their permits due to "serious deviations" from legal regulations and for "ignoring restrictions on investments in areas critical to state security."

The licences were suspended for the period necessary "to collect and examine information by the Council regarding discrepancies in beneficial ownership and potential indications of non-compliance."

Translation by Iurie Tataru

Ecaterina Arvintii

Ecaterina Arvintii


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