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Nadine Gogu, the Director of the Independent Journalism Center: "To Change the Things for the Better, It Is Necessary the Press and the Civil Society to Work Hand in Hand"

22 August 2016
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"Partially free", but how independent?
We record, at the end of August, 25 years of independence of the Republic of Moldova and the Celebration "Limba noastra". 25 years is adulthood. But how did the media from the Republic of Moldova evolve and to what extent did it grow up in this period? Which is the general state of press after 25 years of independence of the state Republic of Moldova?
Why do we have a press with a status of "partially free" at present, and our country continues to go down in the international tops regarding the press freedom? Why can't we talk about the existence of a genuine media pluralism in the situation when we have hundreds of media institutions in the Republic of Moldova? How to explain the fact that after decades of totalitarianism and censorship we continue to confront with the concentration phenomenon today? Finally, how much time do we need so the press to be also recognized in our country, as in the civilized world, the fourth power in the state?
Media Azi addressed this topic with its guests: media experts, opinion leaders, press managers and journalists. We will present their opinions daily, during this month, in order to outline together a more realistic picture of local media after 25 years of independence of our country.
Media Azi: The Indepedent Journalism Centre (IJC) was the first media non-governmental organization from the Republic of Moldova, founded in 1994. How would you characterize the role it had in the consolidation of the free press and the civil society from Moldova?
Nadine Gogu: In those 23 years of existence, IJC made dozens of activities to support the professional journalism, the freedom of press and the freedom of expression. During these years, hundreds of colleagues went through the "media laboratories" organized by IJC, starting from rookie journalists and finishing with media managers. We worked especially with those who understood that the role of press is other than to serve the governors' or politicians' interests. Or, namely so the IJC has seen and sees its mission: to help at the development of press from Moldova, supporting independent media and those journalists who do not compromise morally, trying to placate both the goat and the cabbage. We do this thing through different actions of professionalization, including through the School of Advanced Studies of Journalism; of promotion of journalistic standards and qualitative journalistic products.
In these years we also watched over the laws which control the domain, to make sure that these are not restrictive and provide adequate conditions for the press activity. Beside the bills and amendments which the IJC elaborated in the last two decades, we watched, that once in force, these to be implemented and respected so the journalists and media not to be intimidated, harassed or attacked. And the dozens of cases which we won, defending in court journalists accused of defamation, are more than eloquent.
Is it a lot, is it little, is it enough?  We can ask answers to these questions from our guild colleagues, but also radiographying the press to see what its state is. In fact, we and the colleagues from the international organizations do it periodically. But unfortunately, the result  is not exactly the one that we wanted. Or, we can talk only about a partially free press at the moment, affected by many ethical problems; a part of it exhausted due to chronic lack of resources, but the other one being well, beside the governors and politicians.
Media Azi: What prevented the press from the Republic of Moldova to become truly free and independent in the last 25 years in your opinion?
Nadine Gogu: If this question is addressed by one to authorities, media and the civil society, I am certain that we would get totally different answers. Each one will answer through the objectives that guide their activity. Or, the authorities, regardless of political colour, have always tried to subordinate the press through different ways, to make it a pocket one and, unfortunately, the press didn't always resist. At the beginnings, the media non-governmental organizations which have kept more independent on the political factor, kept an eye on the authorities. However, the media institutions have been the subject of concern of the civil society more in terms of respecting their rights, of professionalization and respecting the ethics. But the part that depends on the accountability of media remained uncovered.  In my opinion, that was an omission which we try to remedy in the last decade through monitoring projects, campaigns of encouraging journalists to join the ethical and professional standards, but also through projects of technical and financial assistance, having the aim to help the guild become healthier from the point of view of financial viability, not to depend on the politicians' money. Or, it is not sufficient to have only professional journalists to make professional press. For example, the graduates of the School of Advanced Journalism should have work where to be able to apply the principles they hear about at school daily. And when you find in the editorial "principles and values" different from those studied, it is difficult to stay in the guild to practice journalism.
To change the things for the better, at first it is necessary the press and the civil society that have the same objectives to work hand in hand; to identify together the necessities of different segments, starting with the legislation and till the human resources; to look together for solutions and to implement them, no matter how difficult these seem; to put pressure on the authorities when the problems can be solved only with their help. Otherwise, we will not get to have a truly free press, not in a century of independence.