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Some MPs Want To Dismiss the Members of BC and SB by Changing the Law. Media Expert Ion Bunduchi Calls this Initiative ‘Dangerous’

16 August 2019
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Recently, Sergiu Litvinenco, the head of the Legal Committee for Appointments and Immunities, announced on Facebook that he and his colleagues from ‘ACUM’ block registered a draft law which proposes amendments to the legislation meant to make it possible to dismiss the current members of the Broadcasting Council (BC) and Supervisory Board (SB) of ‘Teleradio-Moldova’ Public Company. Acting members will be appointed until the appointment of new ones. The Executive Director of the Electronic Press Association (APEL) Ion Bunduchi strongly criticised this initiative and said it would be a dangerous precedent.

On 8 August, MP Sergiu Litvinenco announced on Facebook that he registered a draft law amending the Audiovisual Media Services Code and attached photos of the respective act. So far, however, the draft did not appear on Parliament’s website.
Inter alia, the authors of the draft law proposed to reform the BC and SB by reducing the number of their members from 9 to 7. It is also suggested to legally terminate the mandates of the current directors and members of the BC and SB when the law enters into force and to appoint acting members until competitions are organised for the restructured institutions’ members.
New members would be selected in a public competition. The media outlets will be able to propose 4 candidates, while the Parliament, Government and Presidency – one candidate. In order to select the 4 members from the media outlets, the proposal is to announce a public competition which would be held by a competition committee set up by the Parliamentary Committee for Mass-media.  The other candidates from the Parliament, Government and President of the Republic of Moldova would be selected by the competition committees separately established by each authority, according to the regulations approved by the specialised Parliamentary Committee, Government and President of the Republic of Moldova. 
As regards the SB members, the authors of the legislative initiative proposed to select them in a competition organised by the BC and held by a competition committee established by the BC, following mandatory consultations with the specialised Parliamentary Committee and representative media outlets.
The draft law states that the mandates of current BC and SB members would be terminated when the draft law becomes effective and authorities appoint people who will be in charge temporarily.
At the same time, the current SB and BC members, whose mandates would be terminated when the draft law enters into force, will be able to run for a new term.
APEL Director, Ion Bunduchi, strongly criticised the draft law made public by the MP Sergiu Litvinenco: ‘Both I and APEL believe that it is a dangerous initiative. If a government amends the law to dismiss people from the BC and the ones from Teleradio-Moldova, another government will not even need to amend the law – it will start with dismissing people’
In this context, the expert reminded about the experience of Teleradio-Moldova from another period:  ‘In our experience of legislative creation, we have already experienced what was proposed now almost immediately after the adoption of the first Broadcasting Law of 1995, when, after similar amendments, the heads of ‘Teleradio-Moldova’ knew that they still held the office in the morning, when they came to work, but they were not sure that they would still hold it in the evening’, the expert added.
Ion Bunduchi compared the current situation in the audiovisual with what is happening for several years in the Gagauz autonomy in this area: ‘Gagauz-Yeri ATU is still dealing with such a situation despite the fact that a ‘new’ Broadcasting Law was adopted in 2016, which was supposed to solve all issues. However, even more issues came up. So the temporary heads, who are at the mercy of MPs from there, continue to come and go, like a wildfire, through the high offices to date’, Bunduchi says.
At the same time, according to the expert and APEL, a solution much better than amending the law would be to develop regulations for appointing the members of the BC and SB and implement them. ‘We don’t like how the BC and SB work either and we publicly declared this incomparably more often than those who must supervise the way the state institutions work. I ask myself though: does the state have a pool of such watchers? Or maybe we should continue to pretend that laws will work on their own?!’, the expert asks.
Note that during the hearings held on 3 July 2019, the Parliamentary Committee for Mass-Media gave a negative review on the work of the BC and rejected the Broadcasting Council Activity Report. At the same time, certain members of the Parliamentary Committee asked the current members of the BC to resign, since they allegedly allowed the Government’s capturing of the media. Subsequently, at the beginning of the public meeting on 29 July, the Prime Minister Maia Sandu made a public request to BC members, urging them to resign.
On the same day, the BC voted for the proposal to dismiss all members of the Supervisory Board (SB) of ‘Teleradio-Moldova’ NPAI, however they still continue to work.
During the Media Azi talk show, the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Mass-Media, Adrian Lebedinschi, said that the MPs will propose in the plenary of the Parliament that BC members resign in corpore, while recognising that there were no legal instruments and that he did not support the amendment of the law in a way as to make it possible to dismiss BC members.