Moldova to temporarily ban six TV channels over broadcasts about war

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CHISINAU, Dec 16 (Reuters) - The small ex-Soviet state of Moldova will temporarily ban six television channels for airing "incorrect information" about the country and Russia's war in Ukraine, authorities said on Friday.

The channels - some of which broadcast in Moldovan and some in Russian - are closely tied to politician and businessman Ilan Shor, who fled in 2019 after the election of pro-Western President Maia Sandu. Shor, in exile in Israel, has backed protests in Chisinau demanding that Sandu's government resign.

The ban will start on Dec 19 and last for the duration of a state of emergency that Moldova declared after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24.

The channels will lose their licences "for disseminating incorrect information when covering events in Moldova and the war in Ukraine", a special commission overseeing the state of emergency said in a statement. It did not give details.

The six channels include some of the most popular in Moldova. Shor owns three of them; another two belong to his close associates while the sixth sympathises with him.

"Moldova must be protected from propaganda and lies," Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu wrote on his Telegram channel.

The six channels, he said, had covered Moldova and the war "in a biased and manipulative manner".

Moldova has repeatedly condemned the invasion. Bilateral ties are also strained by the presence of Russian peacekeeping troops in Moldova's breakaway Transdniestria region.

TV-6, one of the channels owned by Shor, said the commission's arguments were unfounded and false.

"The channel has never received any comments about its coverage of events related to the war. The commission's decision is illegal ... this is an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech," it said in a statement.

Moldova's initial 60-day state of emergency has been renewed several times and is due to expire in February 2023.

Reporting by Alexander Tanas, writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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