Who Speaks for Moldova?


I spent over a decade in Romania and even longer than that consuming news from Romania, and yet there is a surprising dearth of information in the Romanian press about what’s going on in Moldova.

This made me wonder – who is producing all the news about Moldova?

Everything we disagree with is a lie

Well, I spent a few hours going down the rabbit hole to find out. And the truth is that the majority of news coming from or about Moldova is financed by foreign governments and shadowy oligarchs.

Romania

Again, considering the fact that Romania and Moldova share a common official language, you’d think that there’d be a lot of crossover in terms of media. In practice, however, that’s simply not the case.

TVR or Romanian public television does broadcast in Moldova, but the vast majority of the content is identical to what Romanians see and doesn’t, therefore, really ever cover Moldova. Likewise, Romanian government radio also re-broadcasts in some cities in Moldova.

There are no Romanian newspapers printed in Moldova with the exception of Adevarul, which runs a special supplement about Moldova that is sometimes sold in Moldova. However, it’s really difficult to find and not sold at most news outlets.

Pro TV, which was formerly owned by an American media group but now is owned by a Chinese conglomerate, also broadcasts in Moldova. It does not, however, have a separate news desk for Moldova and so, therefore, focuses nearly exclusively on Romania.

Other than that, Romania’s influence on the media landscape is minimal.

Domestic

The Republic of Moldova, like Romania or Italy, has its own government press agency. There is also a public television channel (TRM) and two or three public radio stations, but that’s about it. And just like in Romania, the upper management of these agencies is appointed by whoever is in power in the government, so the coverage tends to be highly biased.

A group of oligarchs are the owners of most of the media produced in Moldova, although it’s hard to be completely sure because the law does not require a lot of transparency and many stations/newspapers are owned by shell corporations.

Nonetheless, the consensus is that Vlad Plahotniuc owns most of the private media in Moldova, including Publika (TV and website), Prime TV, Canal 2, and Canal 3. Other oligarchs like Victor Topa (Plahotniuc’s one-time friend but now archenemy in exile) owns Jurnal TV (and its news website). And a different family (Lucinschi) owns TV7 and N4.

That covers about 90% of all the privately owned media in the country.

The government publishes two newspapers (Moldova Suverana and Sfatul Tarii) but these are not really “news” papers and are rarely read. In fact, I’ve never once even seen either of these being sold anywhere although I did confirm with the Moldovan post office that they still exist.

There are also a handful of newspapers which claim to be “independent” but survive on grants from foreign governments. The only exception that I’m aware of is Komsomolskaya Pravda or “KP” for short.

Yes, it still uses its old Soviet name, but KP has the best coverage and the most in-depth reporting that I’ve ever seen in either Romania OR the Republic of Moldova. It’s easily my favorite news source in Moldova even if it is written in Russian.

As far as I am aware, KP is the only major media outlet in Moldova that is not owned by an oligarch or is not financed by a foreign government. KP does, however, sometimes run wire stories (with attribution) from Russian state media outlets.

Russia

Considering that the vast majority of people in Moldova speak Russian and get their news from Russian-language sources, you might think that the Russian government is heavily involved in producing news in Moldova.

However, this doesn’t seem to be true. There is a website (Sputnik) that produces news in both Russian and Romanian about Moldova that is owned by the Russian government, but that’s about it. And it does not have a print (hardcopy) edition. Furthermore, all television news broadcasts from Russia are banned by law in Moldova.

As far as I can tell, all of the other Russian-language media is entirely domestic in nature and therefore completely unrelated to the Russian government. The Moldovan government, for instance, publishes a Russian-language newspaper (Nezavisimaya Moldova), but it isn’t financed or controlled in any way by Russia.

There are rumors that Accent TV is being secretly financed by Russia, but I haven’t seen any proof. But even if it were true, Accent TV is a pretty minor player in the media landscape.

The United States

Considering Moldova’s tiny size, you wouldn’t suspect that the United States was all that interested in financing media in Moldova. But the truth is that the United States is the primary patron of news from or about Moldova.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

Balkan Insight

If you come across a story in English about Moldova on the internet, there’s a good chance that it’s from Balkan Insight (BI).

BI doesn’t exclusively focus on Moldova. In fact, its Moldova coverage is just a very small fraction of is total reporting. But when it does write about Moldova, it gets a (relatively) lot of play on social media. And they tend to write ridiculous pieces that aren’t even factually true and thus easily disprovable.

BI is published by BIRN which is financed by a consortium of governments and NGOs, including the German Marshall Fund, the British government, the EU, and the Dutch government. BIRN also receives substantial financial support from the United States both directly and indirectly (such as the fact that the US gov’t is the primary funder of the German Marshall Fund).

Moldova.org

The other biggest player in creating and promulgating English-language news about Moldova is the Moldova.org NGO. They have a very active presence on social media.

Officially, Moldova.org is entirely independent, but it is based in Washington, D.C. and operates from of the United States. Furthermore, despite one of their “journalists” arguing with me by saying that they aren’t financed by the United States, their homepage clearly states that they’re financed by both the American Embassy in Chisinau and the National Endowment for Democracy.

When I pointed this out, he blocked me on Twitter :)

Moldova.org is wholly owned and operated by the Moldova Foundation, which is incorporated in the United States and officially headquartered in Washington, D.C. Despite being a non-profit charity, their revenue sources are very unclear. Supposedly, they existed on an income of just $1,610 dollars in the year 2015, the last year for which public data is available.

Moldova.org consistently runs very strongly pro-American articles and essays.

Promo-LEX

Operating primarily in the Romanian language but also with some important English-language material, Promo-LEX is an organization based in Moldova. They regularly do legal analyses of current issues and have a number of lawyers on staff, and their white papers are often cited by foreign governments and international agencies.

Their official motto is “Advancing democracy and human rights.” They, too, claim to be completely independent but they are financed by a whole slew of western governments and organizations, including the Soros Foundation, Swedish government, German Marshall Fund, the British government, the EU, and, of course, the United States via several different agencies and organizations.

IJC

Known in English as the “Center for Independent Journalism” or in Romanian as the “Centru pentru Jurnalism Independent”, the IJC is based in Moldova and describes itself as a defender of…. well, you guessed it, independent journalism.

They claim to be independent, but they are funded by a host of western governments and organizations, including the Soros Foundation, Swedish government, German Marshall Fund, the British government, the EU, and, of course, the United States via several different agencies and organizations.

RFE/RL

Although RFE/RL’s coverage in Romania ended in 2008, RFE/RL has continued to broadcast in Moldova right up to the present day.

RFE/RL is entirely funded by the United States government. RFE/RL also publishes a (digital only) newspaper called Europa Libera in the Romanian language.

RISE Moldova

Based in Moldova, RISE writes in Romanian, Russian, and English. They are part of a larger RISE network which chapters in other countries, including Romania. They describe themselves as a “community of journalists, computer programmers, and activists,” and, of course, as completely independent.

RISE does do some pretty groundbreaking work, probably some of the best I’ve ever seen in Eastern Europe. But their slant is heavily anti-Russian and strongly pro-American.

RISE also regularly trains other reporters and news organizations on “how to conduct investigations” as part of a “national plan” to “coordinate journalists” throughout Moldova.

You have to dig pretty far through their financial reports to understand where their money is coming from, which is primarily in the form of grants. Grants from where? I don’t know.

RISE Moldova does, however, mention that they’re partnered with GIJN and OCCRP. RISE articles regularly appear in the mainstream media, including The Guardian.

OCCRP

The “Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project” (OCCRP) does not focus exclusively on Moldova but on activities all across the world. The OCCRP is funded entirely by the Swiss-Romanian Cooperation Program, the Soros Foundation, and the United States government.

The OCCRP also regularly trains journalists from across Europe, including Moldova, on how to do their jobs and “expand their professional network.”

The OCCRP also works with Bellingcat, the hysterically anti-Russian disinformation outlet.

From here:

USAID, working with currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society, also has funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption.

Yep.

GIJN

The Global Investigative Journalism Network is just what it says, a network of different media outlets. They cover news from the entire world in eight different languages.

Founded and run out of the United States, the GIJN is funded by the Soros Foundation, Google, the Omidyar Network, and several US-based thinktanks.

Southeastern European Times

Although it ceased operations in 2015, it’s important to remember that the American military financed a newspaper for many years that covered Eastern Europe, including Moldova.

Jamestown Foundation

Primarily focused on “international relations”, the Jamestown Foundation does occasionally write articles about Moldova which are heavily skewed with a pro-US, anti-Russia point of view. These articles are frequently cited and reposted.

The Jamestown Foundation was founded in 1984 by partnering with Arkady Shevchenko, a Soviet defector. Later, Ion Pacepa also worked for the Jamestown Foundation. It is unclear who is financing the Jamestown Foundation, but their board of directors and active contributors is a long list of virulently anti-Russian people, including many members of the U.S. military.

LCRM

It’s not often that you read something from the LCRM or the “Legal resources centre from Moldova”, but they do sometimes provide legal analysis in both Romanian and English of issues in the news in Moldova.

Founded and run from Moldova, LCRM is financed by the Soros Foundation, the Dutch government, the EU, the government of Sweden, and, of course, the United States government.

Digital Communication Network

Another one of those international networks of “independent” journalists, the DigiComNet seems to primarily focus on training “digital influencers” and working to combat “disinformation.” They rarely write about Modlova but are primarily focused on Eastern European affairs.

DigiComNet is partially financed by the American government.

Moldova/Media Azi

Publishing in Romanian primarily but also Russian and English, Media Azi (“Media Today” in English) is based in Moldova and advertises itself as an NGO that focuses on “journalistic integrity.”

Moldova Azi is financed by the United States government, the Dutch government, and the government of Sweden.

StopFals

This is a website which is supposed to combat “fake news” in the Moldovan media. StopFals (which means “stop fake news” in Romanian) publishes articles from contributors, including from the CJI (Center for Independent Journalism). StopFals publishes in both Russian and Romanian.

StopFals heavily advertises around Moldova on billboards and via other media. StopFals is financed by FHI 360 and the United States government.

FHI 360

FHI 360 is unique in that their main focus is not on journalism but on “the science of improving lives.” Founded in the United States 40 years ago, they’re now a non-profit charity. FHI 360 has an office in Moldova and their primary work in the country is operating the StopFals website.

FHI 360 is a very well-funded organization that gets a lot of their income from the United States, particularly USAID.

ICFJ

Yet another one of those “international networks” of independent journalists, the ICFJ or “International Center for Journalists” rarely write anything about Moldova.

They do, however, work with the OCCRP, administering a US government grant of 6.3 million dollars. The ICFJ is based in Washington, D.C.

Finding who funds the ICFJ isn’t easy, but it looks to be mostly Google and big American media companies like Fox News and CNN. They also receive money from the United States government, including USAID and the NED.

Fundatia Est-europeana

The Eastern European Foundation or FEE was founded in Moldova in 2009. They write almost entirely in Romanian although they do occasionally produce some Russian-language content.

FEE is financed by the government of Denmark, the government of Sweden, the government of Switzerland, the government of Britain, the EU, FHI 360, and the United States government, including the NED and USAID.

ONG.MD

Frankly, I never see anything that ONG.md produces in the mainstream news, but I have to assume that someone out there is reading their articles in Romanian. They’ve got a really old-looking website and use a Yahoo email address for correspondence.

Nonetheless, they must be doing something considered worthwhile as they are financed by the American government (including NED) and the Soros Foundation.

IRI

IRI or the International Republican Institute is tasked with “advancing democracy worldwide.” Founded in the USA and set up as a non-profit organization, the IRI is specifically concerned about fighting “Russian soft power and propaganda.”

The IRI rarely writes about Moldova, but they do occasionally conduct surveys and do other research in Moldova when paid to do so by the NED (American government).

Centrul de investigatii jurnalistice

Founded and operated in Moldova, Investigatii or CIJM is another one of those so-called independent journalist organizations in Moldova. CIJM journalists also contribute to the StopFals website.

The CIJM’s current funding is a little unclear, but they have been financed by the American Embassy, USAID, and the Soros Foundation in the past.

Transparency International Moldova

The local chapter of an international organization, Transparency doesn’t write “news” articles, but it does publish reports that are widely cited by news outlets.

Transparency is financed by the governments of Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland, the EU, Germany, and the United States, including the NED.

NDI

The National Democratic Institute is a non-profit, US-based organization that “supports democracy” around the world. They very rarely write about Moldova but occasionally do cover events in Moldova.

NDI is almost entirely entirely funded by the American government, including the USAID and NED.

CSIS

The Center for Strategic and International Studies is a DC-based American thinktank that is virulently anti-Russian. They rarely write about Moldova, but when they do, it’s a doozy about how Russian media is taking over the country.

It is really hard to figure out exactly where their financing is coming from, but at least a quarter (25 percent) is coming directly from the American government. They also have a huge staff of 220 full-time researchers and scholars.

CSIS also gets called on “regularly” to report to the American government and explain “the day’s events” to improve American strategy.

MoldStreet

Theoretically a “business” newspaper, MoldStreet writes about all kinds of things in Romanian, English, and Russian.

Mold Street, despite having a lot of advertising on their site, is at least partly financed by the American government (NED) and the European Foundation for Democracy.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the primary agency in America that donates money and funds projects internationally.

This year (2018), USAID has spent 17.4 million dollars in Moldova. They have also coordinated with other American agencies to disburse an additional $9 million.

The biggest recipient of USAID money was Chemonics, a company about which I know very little. They do seem to be the company that has done the most to modernize and upgrade Moldova’s customs agency in order to align with the European Union.

VEGA

The Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance or VEGA is one of those organizations that you rarely hear from or know much about. Nonetheless, VEGA is involved in Moldova, especially in projects like providing technical assistance to the National Bank of Moldova.

VEGA receives money from the USAID to do things like help Moldova “realize its full economic potential,” whatever that means.

Millenium Challenge Corporation

The MCC is yet another American government agency that funds international projects. In Moldova, the MCC has spent around 3.5 million dollars

NED

The official slogan of the National Endowment for Democracy” is “supporting freedom around the world.” A “private,” non-profit organization officially dedicated to “strengthening democracy,” the NED has a very shady and controversial past, including implementing CIA-orchestrated coups.

In a multitude of ways, NED meddles in the internal affairs of numerous foreign countries by supplying funds, technical know-how, training, educational materials, computers, faxes, copiers, automobiles, and so on, to selected political groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, other media, etc. NED typically refers to the media it supports as “independent” despite the fact that these media are on the US payroll.

Exactly. Despite constantly talking about how they themselves are “independent,” the NED is almost entirely funded by the US government.

Atlantic Council

Much like the Jamestown Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment, the Atlantic Council is an America-based thinktank that works hand in hand with the American government. The Atlantic Council rarely deals with Moldova, but when it does, it is virulently anti-Russian and strongly pro-US.

The Atlantic Council gets its money from a variety of sources that include the British government, UAE government, and American companies. Its board of directors is a who’s who of the most powerful people in the United States, including two former Secretaries of State.

Carnegie Endowment

Officially the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Carnegie Endowment was founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1910.

Weirdly, the Carnegie Endowment is a thinktank financed by the British government, Australian government, and a host of American companies.

Of all of the English-speaking organizations on this list, the Carnegie Endowment is the most active of them all in Transnistria. Their “expert” on the region, Thomas de Waal, writes all of their reports on Transnistria.

And while he gets more right about Transnistria than anyone else, he still gets a lot of basic facts screwed up.

European Union

Although less involved than the United States, the European Union is also active in financing media and reporting from and about Moldova.

Oameni si Kilometri

Looking much like a simple blog, Oameni si Kilometri (“people and kilometers”) publishes primarily in Romanian but also in English and Russian. Their mission is self-described as “telling stories from outside the capital.”

Although they ask for donations from readers, they are almost entirely funded by the European Endowment for Democracy.

Watchdog

Publishing in both English and Romanian, Watchdog is published by a think tank that is concerned with promoting “democratic development” in Moldova. Watchdog has a very strong pro-US, anti-Russian bias.

Watchdog is funded by the European Endowment for Democracy even though they do not disclose their funding on their own website.

CPR

Founded and based out of Moldova, CPR (the “Center for Politics and Reforms”) claims that its mission is to promote good governance and fight against corruption. They also claim they are “nonpartisan.”

However, CPR receives funding from the Soros Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, the government of Finland, and the European Endowment for Democracy.

IPN

IPN or Info-Prim Neo bills itself as an independent press agency in Moldova. First founded in 2005, IPN regularly publishes articles with a strong pro-USA, anti-Russian slant. One of their journalists, Dionis Cenusa, is virulently anti-Russian and very active on social media.

Despite their claims of being completely independent, I found several articles sponsored by agencies such as the Hanns Seidel Foundation (Germany) that are very pro-EU. And although they don’t disclose it anywhere on their site, IPN is also funded by the European Endowment for Democracy.

TV8

Not to be confused with TV7, TV8 is a brand-new channel (and news website) in Moldova that purports to be completely independent. Most significantly, the jailed ex-PM Vlad Filat’s wife is TV8’s star journalist. Filat was staunchly pro-EU.

Weirdly, TV8 is always asking for donations even though they’re funded by the European Endowment for Democracy.

SEENPM

The South East European Network for Professionalization of Media or SEENPM is yet one more “network” of journalists and media outlets in Eastern Europe, including Moldova. The IJC in Moldova is a member of SEENPM and receives funding from SEENPM. SEENPM occasionally writes about Moldova, particularly Transnistria.

SEENPM is funded by the European Union, the German Marshall Fund, and the Soros Foundation.

The Duck Show

Interestingly, the Duck Show doesn’t have a website. Instead, it’s a YouTube channel that produces videos on topics such as “election education” and civic responsibility. Mostly though, it’s a comedy program that covers topics like “how to be a real Moldovan.”

The Duck Show is financed by the European Endowment for Democracy for reasons I don’t quite understand.

European Endowment for Democracy

The EED is an official body of the European Union. It describes itself as “giving grants” to support “local actors of democratic change” in Europe “and beyond.” It was founded in 2012.

The EED is firmly committed to “combating Russian disinformation” across the region.

IPRE

The Institute for European Politics and Reforms or IPRE was founded in 2015 as a non-profit, independent organization dedicated to “accelerating the European integration” of Moldova.

In reality, it is a strongly pro-EU thinktank headed up by Iulian Groza, the former deputy foreign minister of Moldova. It is practically impossible to figure out where their funding comes from, but it looks to be mostly in the form of grants from the European Union.

Soros Foundation

It’s considered fashionable in some circles to reject any criticism of George Soros as simple anti-Semitism.

Well, I disagree. The Soros Foundation has been caught red-handed breaking the law in trying to seize control of the government of Moldova. Remember how they did it? By funnelling slush money through think tanks.

Nonetheless, the Soros Foundation continues to operate in Moldova and often coordinates with the US government and the EU. The Soros Foundation is also heavily involved in promoting “independent” journalism in Moldova.

They also sponsored a Mass Media Forum in November 2018 that 150 journalists attended.

Let’s also not forget that George Soros is incredibly stupid and was dead wrong when he predicted a Russian invasion of Transnistria in 2014. It’s easy to laugh now, but at the time, his prediction was taken quite seriously.

Conclusion

You may not have heard of all of the media outlets that were listed here today, but that doesn’t mean they’re not very busy.

Just now, I did a search on Google News of all of the most recent stories in English about Moldova.

Here’s what I found:

Except for the AP office in Bucharest (helmed by the indefatigable Alison Mutler) and the oddball Times of Israel article (which is a local article to Israelis), you can see that all of the top stories about Moldova are coming from media outlets that are heavily biased and completely non-partisan.

Week after week, month after month, year after year, it’s exactly the same. The bulk of everything you have ever heard or seen about Moldova in the news is more or less paid propaganda. It might be well-written (although it often isn’t), it may be based on facts, and it may be persuasive, but it sure as hell isn’t independent.

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