Moldova struggling to curb Russian propaganda
Chisinau, Mar 27 (EFE).- Moldova, a former Soviet republic bordering Ukraine with just 2.5 million inhabitants, fears it will be the next target of Russia’s military expansionism but is struggling to curb the Kremlin’s propaganda.
Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the Moldovan government has invoked the emergency situation in the region to suspend news broadcasts and political debates produced by official Moscow channels.
These are available to the Moldovan audience on cable TV and even on local networks, Liliana Vitu-Esanu, the head of the Moldovan Audiovisual Council, told EFE.
Moldova has suspended strictly political shows and war movies as Russian television has been promoting the Kremlin’s own self-serving narrative about its war against Ukraine.
Although Russian is the mother tongue of only a fifth of Moldovans, the content produced by the large Russian networks tends to have more viewers than local fare.
The most attractive viewing for Moldovans are the Russian entertainment shows, but – following that – most people also watch the Russian TV news broadcasts, according to Vitu-Esanu.
Unlike official Russian media in other languages, now banned in the European Union, such as RT or Sputnik, the networks close to the Kremlin are not limiting their programming merely to discrediting Western democracies.
Many put out daily messages ranging from nuclear threats against rival powers to advocating the reconstruction of a Russian Empire that includes not only Ukraine but also Moldova, among other lands.
Moldova’s Audiovisual Council punishes disinformation about the Russian invasion of Ukraine with fines and administrative sanctions, motivating many pro-Russian television stations operating in Moldova to ignore the war.
Nearly half of Moldova’s population prefers to receive their news information in Russian, according to what Victor Ciobanu told EFE. Ciobanu was an expert on artificial intelligence during Soviet times who now has a weekly Russian-language show on the private TV channel Jurnal, having turned to journalism after the communist system collapsed in Moldova three decades ago.
For much of its three decades as an independent country, Moldova has been ruled by pro-Russian majorities and figures like Igor Dodon, now an opposition leader who is believed to control two of the country’s main private television stations.
Dodon lost the December 2020 elections to the current president, the pro-Western Maia Sandu.
Both Vitu-Esanu and Ciobanu are optimistic about the strength of the European-oriented course Moldova has been charting under the Sandu.