Russia and Eastern Europe

Moldova Bans Russian News Broadcasts

By Megan Reiss
Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 1:30 PM

In an attempt to curb Russian propaganda efforts, the pro-European Union government of Moldova has begun implementing a law banning television channels from broadcasting news from Russian news stations. The law, originally passed on Jan. 10, gave media companies 30 days to come into compliance. Moldovan television stations will be subject to random checks and will face fines for violations.

The law faced hurdles from within the Moldovan government. In fact, the sitting president, the pro-Russian Igor Dodon, originally vetoed the law before parliament sent it back to him. The courts in Moldova then temporarily suspended Dodon’s powers to bypass his veto and allow Parliament to enact the law. That court’s decision stems from a law that prevents a president from twice vetoing the same piece of legislation; in cases in which a president refuses to sign a twice-passed law, the president can be temporarily suspended until the law’s enactment. Dodon was suspended only until the legislation came into place.

The anti-propaganda law is part of a broader push to constrain Russian influence in the small, landlocked country. The Moldovan Parliament also recently enacted a declaration condemning Russian attacks on its cybersecurity and for interfering with its domestic politics.

European news outlets report that Moscow has critiqued the law, calling it an attempt to stir up anti-Russian hysteria and accusing Parliament of violating Moldovans’ right to access information.

The law may be problematic, but not for the reasons Russia cites. While Moldova asserts a need to combat the Russian disinformation campaign, a legislative ban on information stemming from a specific country could set a problematic precedent. If the political situation were one day reversed, a pro-Russian Moldovan Parliament might point to this law as a precedent for banning Western news outlets.

The law brings up the question of the best ways the U.S. and its Western European allies can support the development of anti-propaganda efforts in Eastern European states. The U.S. should encourage further incorporating countries like Moldova, which is not yet an EU member, into larger European discussions on how to combat Russian propaganda. This would support the development of best-practice efforts and legislation and help decision makers avoid pitfalls of novel legislation.