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Veaceslav Perunov, Director of SP Newspaper, Balti: “We Survive Solely Due to Grants”

29 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: How difficult was it for SP to maintain its editorial independence over years? Did anyone try to “buy” you, subdue you to political or economic interests, censure you?

Veaceslav Perunov: There have been no serious offers to “buy” SP as long as it exists, but personally, I have been more than once offered to join a party in order to enjoy its protection. Independence is a big luxury. Consistently following its editorial policy has always been a complicated thing for the newspaper, first of all due to financial difficulties. But because of many other reasons, too. Local authorities have set all sorts of obstacles to us, such as destruction of our outdoor advertising, pressure on the people from whom we rented offices, blocking of access to information, spreading of compromising rumors about us, including information that we allegedly belonged to some political group… Some public officials and business people affiliated to them sued us, demanding millions from SP. If we lost those lawsuits, we would have disappeared from the media market. After the newspaper published critical materials concerning certain officials, there was repeated pressure on us. We were telephoned, threatened, but when none of it had the expected effect, intimidation stopped.

Media Azi: In the absolute majority of cases, print media in Moldova failed to become profitable businesses. What is the reason, in your opinion? And what is the situation in this regard with the publication that you manage?

Veaceslav Perunov: It hasn’t become a profitable business, because in the 25 years of the country’s independence, we didn’t have a developed economy, healthy competition or fair advertising. In addition, the majority of media outlets still have no professionals in their advertising departments, who could convince businesses to grant them advertising. Today, SP is not a profitable business, either, because the country is in crisis, which made some businesses renounce the advertising they used to offer us. We survive only due to the grants we win. If there were no longer this opportunity of funding, SP would go bankrupt. Of course, there are other factors, too, which make the circulation of newspapers decrease year after year, for example, the spread of the Internet. Unfortunately, newspapers haven’t yet learned to make money in the Internet.

Media Azi: What does the media, including journalists, in Moldova lack in order to assert itself as the Fourth Estate?

Veaceslav Perunov: First of all, we lack money, without which there can be no quality journalism. Serious materials, such as investigations, data journalism or media coverage of problems – all these need important funds, and Moldovan media has no such funds. Financial poverty and fear of bankruptcy made some entire media outlets engage in the service of some political forces. In these circumstances it is very difficult to say that the media in Moldova is the Fourth Estate. We have professional journalists in Moldova, but not all of them have the possibility to prove themselves.

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