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Moscow Accuses Moldova of ‘Russophobia’ Over Proposed Ban of Websites

Russia on Tuesday accused Moldova of taking a “Russophobic attitude” after the country’s Information and Security Service, SIS, sought the blocking of 22 websites whose content originates from the Russian Federation.

The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Moscow, Maria Zakharova, said: “The medium-term goal of such a policy is to eliminate Russian-language content and mass media from the information space of Moldova”.

She said the pro-Western authorities were violating “freedom of expression and the rights of their citizens to access information in Russian, which the vast majority of Moldovans speak.”

“It seems that official Chisinau, which unprovenly accuses Russia of meddling in the [November local] election campaign, is trying to improve its situation this way,” she noted.

Zakharova added: “The massive blocking of access to Russian-language news portals is a flagrant violation by the Moldovan authorities.”

Among the sites that the SIS wants blocked are the generalist and news channels Pervii Canal, NTV and RTR-Planeta, but also sites of the Russian army, such as Radio Zvezda and Zvezda TV, or those affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church, such as Tsargrad TV, owned by the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev.

No media watchdog or journalists’ association in Moldova reacted to the call to shut down the 22 Russian-linked media websites.

The SIS said closure of the sites was justified, citing “the content of the information disseminated in the public space by the public authorities of a state in military conflict and recognised as an aggressor state”, meaning Russia.

In June 2023, the Moldovan parliament voted to extend the powers of the SIS. Its abilities to fight external propaganda and foreign malign influences were boosted under a new set of laws on its activity.

On September 13, the SIS expelled the director of Spunik Moldova, Vitaly Denisov, who was banned from entering Moldova for the next ten years.

On February 26, 2022, two days after Russia invaded Ukraine, the SIS ordered blockage of two websites – Sputnik.md and Gagauznews.md that were accused of distributing false information.

Despite this, Sputnik continued its pro-Kremlin propaganda work and created media content for social networks, especially on Telegram.

Source : Balkan Insight

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