CHISINAU: The broadcast licenses of six television channels in Moldova have been suspended over accusations of misinformation, inaccurate coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine, and "attempts to manipulate public opinion", authorities said.
The decision to revoke the licenses of the channels First in Moldova, RTR Moldova, Accent TV, NTV Moldova, TV6 and Orhei TV was announced late on Friday by Moldova's Commission for Exceptional Situations, which was established after Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
The commission said the suspensions were made after a review by Moldova's Audiovisual Council found a "lack of correct information in the coverage of national events, but also of the war in Ukraine".
It also said the suspensions aim to "prevent the risk of disinformation … or attempts to manipulate public opinion".
Four of the six suspended channels — First in Moldova, RTR Moldova, NTV Moldova, and TV6 — regularly re-transmit programmes from Russian TV channels that on Friday were banned by the European Council as part of a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia.
The banned Russian broadcasters, the EU's Council said, are under the "direct or indirect control of the leadership of the Russian Federation and have been used by (the) latter for its continuous and concerted disinformation and war propaganda actions".
TV6 called the suspension "totally unfounded" and "an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression, editorial freedom (and) freedom of journalists".
The commission's argument ''is not only totally unfounded but also downright false", the channel said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Some of the suspended channels are owned by people close to Ilan Shor, a fugitive Moldovan oligarch who leads the Russia-friendly Shor Party.
The party in recent months has organised large protests in Moldova's capital, Chisinau, against the pro-Western government.
Moldovan President Maia Sandu hailed the suspensions, saying they are "an important step to prevent attempts to destabilise" the country.
"We cannot accept that in this challenging period, the security of the state and the peaceful life of citizens are endangered by fugitives who want only one thing — to escape justice," she said in a statement.
Shor has been implicated in a USD 1 billion bank fraud and other illicit schemes, and last week the United Kingdom added him to an international sanctions list.
He is also accused of bribery to secure his position as head of a Moldovan bank in 2014 and was recently named on a US State Department sanctions list as working for Russian interests.
Moldova, a former Soviet republic of 2.6 million people, is one of Europe's poorest nations. It is struggling with skyrocketing inflation and an energy crisis, including widespread power outages last month after Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy grid, to which Moldova's systems remain connected.