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Igor Dodon’s Trips to Moscow and Brussels, between Manipulation and Disinformation

15 February 2017
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Corneliu RUSNAC, Editor-in-Chief of “Radio Chisinau” station

Some of the latest examples of media manipulation in our country are related to President Igor Dodon’s trips to Moscow and Brussels, namely, to the way they were covered by the media and presented to the public by the President’s entourage.

All media were focused on those visits, covering them massively. In the absence of other important topics, they dominated Moldova’s information space for several weeks, being praised by some and criticized by others.

So, we could say that those who take care of Igor Dodon’s relations with the public did reach their goal. For instance, the trip to Moscow was widely discussed, though it did not actually solve anything and involved nothing but an exchange of opinions between Igor Dodon and Russian decision makers, starting with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

But let’s take matters one by one. What did our media write about in the coverage of that trip? Here are some of the main topics: the map of the so-called historic Moldova that Vladimir Putin gifted to Igor Dodon; territorial claims addressed to Romania; intention of abolish the Association Agreement with the European Union; recognition of the Transnistrian gas debt as a debt of the Republic of Moldova. Sure, the media affiliated to the President tried to present these declarations as achievements of the visit, as a revival of relations between Moldova and Russia, etc.

But what happened in fact, apart from the confidential discussions that Igor Dodon had in Moscow, of which I doubt we will discover much any time soon? Was any important document signed? Did Russia open its market for Moldovan production? Did it raise the ban for wine and fruits? Nothing of the kind. So, it was overall an ordinary visit that brought nothing essentially new to relations between Chisinau and Moscow.

However, on television realities appeared to be quite different, and most of our compatriots either learned from the press that from now on relations with Moscow would be much better and Moldova would renounce the Association Agreement with the EU, or were scared that Moldova intends to join the Customs Union. Almost no one said that this trip, while was not a failure, brought nothing new to relations between Moldova and Russia except certain political messages, mostly personal or party, voiced by President Dodon, of which everyone already knew.

Presentation of missed opportunities as success is nothing but a form of manipulation.

As for the visit to Brussels, it was also attempted to be presented as a success of President Dodon, a realization of his election promises.
Here is how “Sputnik Moldova” agency titled a story on President Dodon’s discussion with President of the European Council Donald Tusk: “Trenchant Statements by Igor Dodon in Brussels”. So, from the very beginning it is suggested that the statements mentioned in the news were trenchant. The text then reads:

… Dodon said that following ordinary or early parliamentary elections or an eventual referendum it will be decided that the Association Agreement with the EU needs to be annulled. He, as the president, will come up with this initiative. (…) The president thanked for the unprecedented financial support offered to our country over the past eight years, but he said that it did not better people’s welfare.

Now, what conclusions should an average information consumer reach after reading this news in the Internet or hearing it on the radio or television? That Moldova owes its poverty mostly to the European Union? That the European Union feeds institutional corruption and decay in Moldova? That Moldova does not need an Association Agreement with the EU?

And, just to fully realize how “trenchant” the statements were, let’s see what the head of the state said immediately on return from Brussels during another meeting, this time with the U.S. Ambassador in Chisinau James Pettit. According to a message posted on the U.S. Embassy page in Facebook, “They discussed Mr. Dodon’s trips to Moscow and Brussels. President Dodon reassured Ambassador Pettit that he does not intend to initiate the cancellation of the Association Agreement.”

Coming back to our questions: How should an information consumer react to such news? What exactly is he supposed to learn from it? How can he distinguish the truth from lies? How can he protect himself from manipulation and disinformation?

There is probably only one way: to never rely on information from a single source and every time seek for alternative sources.

The article was published within the Advocacy Campaigns Aimed at Improving Transparency of Media Ownership, Access to Information and promotion of EU values  and integration project, implemented by the IJC, which is, in its turn, part of the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society project, implemented by FHI 360.

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content are the responsibility of author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.