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Rodica Mahu, Editor-In-Chief, Jurnal de Chisinau: “Anyway, I Am Confident in the Future of Print Media. In a Truly Democratic Society, There Will Always be a Couple of Professionals Motivated to Start Over”

30 August 2016
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„Partially free", but how independent?

We record, at the end of August, 25 years of independence of the Republic of Moldova and the Celebration "Limba noastra". 25 years is adulthood. But how did the media from the Republic of Moldova evolve and to what extent did it grow up in this period? Which is the general state of press after 25 years of independence of the state Republic of Moldova?
Why do we have a press with a status of "partially free" at present, and our country continues to go down in the international tops regarding the press freedom? Why can't we talk about the existence of a genuine media pluralism in the situation when we have hundreds of media institutions in the Republic of Moldova? How to explain the fact that after decades of totalitarianism and censorship we continue to confront with the concentration phenomenon today? Finally, how much time do we need so the press to be also recognized in our country, as in the civilized world, the fourth power in the state?
Media Azi addressed this topic with its guests: media experts, opinion leaders, press managers and journalists. We will present their opinions daily, during this month, in order to outline together a more realistic picture of local media after 25 years of independence of our country.

Media Azi: Jurnal de Chisinau was one of the first newspapers in Romanian that appeared in Chisinau after proclamation of Moldova’s independence. Looking back, what years do you think were the best for the publication and, respectively, what times were the most difficult?

Rodica Mahu:  When Jurnal de Chisinau (“JC”) first appeared (October 29, 1999), it was the only independent newspaper in Moldova, with a clearly formulated editorial policy, free of any interference from outside, either ideological or economic. With the risk to upset some of the more recent colleagues, I’d say that the first members of the editorial team had an unparalleled eagerness and were joined by a connection that in recent years has been increasingly difficult to obtain. It is the effect of a united team, a feeling shared both by its members and readers. As for me, I was hired by “JC” twice. Of the 17 years that the newspaper turns this October, I’ve been here for 14. First, I worked for “JC” between September 2000 and November 2001. It was the beginning, a time of great financial difficulties, with months of salary delays. Curiously, no one left the newspaper because of that. I used to work with Val Butnaru and some other colleagues for Flux newspaper, too, but the most sensible left it before Flux became a party wreck.

Thus, Jurnal de Chisinau rose in a period of information vacuum, when the market was avid of independent press, after the disappointment of the regrettable fiasco of the several initially promising media “projects” of Romania expression. Beyond ethical rehabilitation of the journalistic craft brought by “JC”, Val Butnaru, an inspired manager, also came with a new breath in forms, formatting and genres of the media. Perhaps some people have forgotten, but it was “JC” that founded the first Internet television, before other news televisions appeared in Moldova.

But let’s return to the first years of “JC”. It was a special period in the journalistic life of Chisinau and Moldova. A period of emulation and uninhibited energies, which, looking back, I find delightful. I think in those early times the team soon became prominent on the media market: Val Butnaru, Aurel Cornescu, Nicolae Negru, Igor Nagacevschi, Mariana Arsene, Vitalie Cusnir, Virginia Prodan, Alina Gutu, Constantin Cheianu, Igor Panzaru, Natalia Hadarca, Ludmila Costin, Natalia Costas, etc.  In retrospection, as you say, I believe it was the most favorable and difficult period of this publication, which will remain in the history of Bessarabian media. Over time, a lot of very good journalists wrote and still keep writing here, and I’ll name just a few: Irina Nechit, Raisa Lozinschi, Mihai Jumuga, Nina Negru, Mariana Rata, Vitalie Hadei, Lena Negru, Svetlana Corobceanu, Victoria Popa, Carolina Chirilescu, Nina Tofan, Ilie Gulca, Svetlana Panta, Marina Lita, Nadejda Roscovanu, etc. Some took root in “JC”, others followed the law of circulation of journalists. Since 2004, after the strike at “Teleradio-Moldova”, in which I took part, I have been with Jurnal de Chisinau.

Media Azi: Are you confident in the future? How do you see the future of print media in Moldova, including the future of Jurnal de Chisinau?

Rodica Mahu:  Who is [confident], in this drifting world? Sometimes I feel as if the sarabande of digitalization, into which we seem to be drawn against our own will, emphasized the precariousness of our situation, speeding up the end. And the end consists in return to the classical form of newspaper, on paper. With news from verifiable sources, with true reports, with interviews taken from personalities, on the topic and sincere, without gossip and ill-spoken words, with shining editorialists, sought for the integrity of their opinions, based on objective phenomena and facts, not on directives and corruption that come from undeclared owners, who are nevertheless known by everyone.
Anyway, I am confident in the future of print media. In a truly democratic society, there will always be a couple of professionals motivated to start over.

Media Azi: How can you explain the fact that, after 25 years of our country’s independence, our media remains only partly free?

Rodica Mahu: I have worked in the media for 35 years. It is enough time to say that, ultimately, things haven’t changed a lot. First, there has been no lustration, which is absolutely mandatory. In fact, I doubt that in the near future there will be political will for such an act. Taboo topics still exist.

I think I could re-address this question to the Broadcasting Coordinating Council: How do its members explain the fact the Radio Sputnik has been granted a license, while Radio Vocea Basarabiei has been closed? Maybe because the former has a heavy Russian lobby that cannot be ignored, and the latter outlet dies as soon as its owner goes to jail?

So long as some journalists will accept (or will wish to accept) politicians as their godfathers, there will be no free press. And the websites that appear now in great numbers will die in anonymity, because of lack of interest in them or lack of electricity.

In other words, so long as a professional will wish to found a newspaper and edit it without compromising his own name, but will be unable to support it financially, we will have no free press. It is as simple as that.