Moldovan Efforts to Suppress Russian Media Continue After Passing “Anti-Propaganda” Law, Calling Purpose of Law into Question

By: Evan Bonnstetter



For several years now, at least as early as 2015, the Moldovan Democratic party has striven to eliminate Russian influence on Moldovan media—what it characterizes as “propaganda.”[1]  A new law has effected an outright ban on the rebroadcasting of Russian “news, analysis, politics, and military issues” programming in Moldova.[2]  While the law has been hailed by its supporters in the Democratic party for preserving Moldovan independence by eliminating pervasive Russian influence, Socialists and Communists have characterized the bill as a blatant attack on freedom of expression, as well as an affront to the Russian minority in Moldova.[3]


Others have characterized the bill as an effort by Moldovan media oligarchs and political figures to further concentrate control of the Moldovan media.[4]  It is therefore questionable whether these attempts to suppress Russian media and influence are genuine attempts to limit Russian propaganda; are an attack on the Russian minority and Russia’s influence over them; or are part of a broader purpose of consolidating Moldovan media and eliminating a broad section of foreign competition in this industry.


This post offers a brief history of Moldova’s attack on Russian media, new developments in Moldova’s continued efforts to suppress Russian programming, and some commentary on the ramifications of this legislation.




In June of 2017, the leader of the Moldovan Democratic Party—Vladimir Plahotniuc—announced a new bill that would effectively ban Russian propaganda.[5]  Plahotniuc has been characterized as “one of the most influential men in Moldova,” because of his government connections as well as his business dealings, which include media ventures.[6]  The bill was “forgotten about” after it was introduced, and attention to the bill was not revived until mid-November and December.[7]  This coincided with a visit by Plahotniuc to the United States, and one commentator has characterized the ban as a plot to court support from American by playing into the “Russian threat” narrative and pitting himself as the “West’s sole bulwark against [Russia].”[8]


After the law was enacted by Parliament, Moldovan President Igor Dodon, former leader of the Socialist Party of Moldova, announced that he would not promulgate the law and did, in fact, veto it.[9]  However, there is a law that prohibits the president from again vetoing the same bill, so the Parliament again passed the bill and it became law.[10]


The law operates so as to expressly recognize the right of broadcasters “to air foreign international, analytical, military, and political programs produced in the Member States of the European Union, in the United States, Canada, and in the countries that have ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television.”[11]  It also includes a new provision on “‘information security’ which is defined as a ‘set of measures to ensure the protection of people, society, and the state from potential disinformation and/or manipulative information from outside and non-admission of media provocations against Moldova.’”[12]  The law effectively targets Russian media because Russia is not a ratifying party of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television.[13]


The bill provides for enforcement primarily through a fine system, though non-compliant broadcasters could be subject to punishment including a revocation of their broadcasting license.[14] Moldova’s Audiovisual Coordinating Council (CCA) has already begun enforcing the law by fining radio and television stations as well as cable network providers that failed to provide an “overview of their programming output as required by [the new law.]"[15]


Renewed/Continued Efforts to Suppress


Recently, the Parliament has continued its efforts to restrict Russian-based broadcasting with new amendments aimed specifically at reigning in non-compliant channels in the Gagauzian Autonomy.  This conflict is representative of broader tensions between Moldova and Gagauzia.


Moldova has sought to abandon its Russian ties since the fall of the Soviet Union and has recently solidified its ties to the European Union when it entered into force the EU-Moldova Association Agreement on July 1, 2016.[16]  On the other hand, the Moldovan territory of Gagauzia remains strongly connected to Russia.[17]  Gagauzia is itself an “Autonomous Territorial Union” established by law through the Moldovan Parliament.[18]  A 2014 report indicated that 98.4% of Gagauzians “supported closer integration with the Russia-led Customs Union.”[19] 


In this context, the new media law could also be aimed at eliminating Russian influence on Gagauzia in an attempt to unify Moldova.  Irina Vlah, Governor of Gagauzia, has strongly denounced the new law and maintains that non-compliance with the law is permissible under local legislation because “[t]he laws of the autonomy allow Gagauzians deciding on their own on the access of information.”[20]




On major concern about the legislative ban on Russian-based broadcasting is the potential for it to set a dangerous precedent.[21]  Namely, it stands to reason that if the validity of the current law is accepted, there is nothing stopping a pro-Russian Parliament from enacting legislation to effectively ban other foreign media outlets from western Europe or the United States.[22]  In addition, the new law has the capacity to strain relations between Moldova and the European Union, which through ambassador to Moldova Peter Michalko has denounced the law as an inadmissible restriction on the free access of information.[23]  


Rather than acting unilaterally to ban Russian media, Moldova should seek to join broader conversations about Russian influence within the EU and with the United States.  Participating in a greater scheme to limit Russian influence would have the benefit of mitigating concerns that Moldova is acting to consolidate its media market by eliminating Russian competition or as an attempt to reign in Gagauzians.


[1] See Nicolai Paholinitchi, Why Moldova’s Battle Against Russian Propaganda Isn’t What It Seems, oDR (Jan. 29, 2018),

[2] Id.

[3] Moldovan Parliament Speaker Passes Law Against Russian Propaganda, RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty (Jan.11, 2018); see also Madalin Necsutu, Moldova Introduces Fines for ‘Russian Propaganda’, BalkanInsight (Feb. 13, 2018).

[4] Paholinitchi, supra note 1.

[5] Id.

[6] Josh Wilson, Moldovan Politics: The Rise of Vladimir Plahotniuc, Geohistory (Jan. 23, 2018),

[7] Paholinitchi, supra note 1. See Proiectul Legii cu Privire la Modificarea și Completarea Codului Aaudiovizualului al Republicii Moldova nr.260/2006 (art.2, 7, 9, ș.a.), Parlamentul Republicii Moldova, (last visited Apr. 8, 2018).

[8] Paholinitchi, supra note 1.

[9] The Law on Combating Foreign Propaganda Was Voted by the Parliament. President Dodon Says he Will Not Promulgate It, Media AZI (Dec. 7, 2017), [hereinafter Combatting Foreign Propaganda]; Megan Reiss, Moldova Bans Russian News Broadcasts, Lawfare (Feb. 14, 2018, 1:30 PM),

[10] Reiss, supra note 9.

[11] Combatting Foreign Propaganda, supra note 9.

[12] Id.

[13] Id. See also Chart of Signatures and Ratifications of Treaty 132, Council of Eur. (Apr. 4, 2018),

[14] Combatting Foreign Propaganda, supra note 9.

[15] Necsutu, supra note 3.

[16] EU-Moldova Relations, Factsheet, European Union External Action (Nov. 10, 2017, 15:08),,%20Factsheet.

[17] Vladimir Socor, Moldovan Sovereignty and Gagauz Autonomy: A Balance Vulnerable to Moscow’s Mischief, Jamestown Foundation (July 29, 2013, 7:12 PM),

[18] Gagauz Autonomy Marks 20 Years of Pride and Prejudice, Moldovan Politics (Dec. 22, 2014),

[19] Id.

[20] Moldovan Parliament to Make Tougher Law on Combatting “Russian Propaganda”, EurAsia Daily (Apr. 6, 2018), [hereinafter Moldovan Parliament to Make Tougher Law].

[21] Reiss, supra note 9.

[22] Id.