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April 2021

Monthly Bulletin, April 2021

Media News

2021 Press Freedom Index: Old Problems for Moldova’s Media Persist

In the 2021 Press Freedom Index, an annual report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Moldova scored two points higher than last year, taking 89th place out of 180 countries the report surveys. In the report, RSF notes a number of problems facing the Moldovan media, including the influence of politicians on major media outlets and limited access to information, which worsened with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors of the report find that the press in Moldova is diverse, but "extremely polarized, like the country itself, which is characterized by chronic political instability and excessive influence of oligarchs."  The main challenges to more press freedom remain the concentration of media ownership and the lack of independence of the Broadcasting Council.

Ombudsman’s 2020 Report Warns Of Ongoing Deterioration of Freedom of Expression During the Pandemic

Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, Moldova saw an “ongoing deterioration” of the situation regarding freedom of expression and “lack of progress” related to respect for the right of access to information, according to a report compiled by ombudsman Maia Banarescu on human rights and freedoms in 2020. The report notes that long-standing problems in the sphere of freedom of expression “have remained unresolved, and in the context of constraints caused by the healthcare crisis, have even worsened.”

CoE Action Plan for Moldova Over the Next Four Years: Key Media Objectives

The Council of Europe’s 2021-2024 Action Plan for Moldova, made public on April 19 during President Maia Sandu’s visit to Strasbourg, aims to implement European standards on democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. In addition to human rights issues, non-discrimination and gender equality, the document also contains provisions on the media and the Internet. Over the next four years, the Council of Europe aims to support the establishment of a system for monitoring implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Code and the capabilities of the Broadcasting Council, increasing its capacity to conduct investigations and monitoring.  Assistance will be provided in areas such as combating discrimination, crime and hate speech and strengthening the independence of the media, in particular through support for regulatory and public broadcasting organizations.

Media NGOs Concerned about Increased Deadlines for Access to Information Requests

Non-governmental media organizations expressed concern about the Commission for Exceptional Situations’ (CES) decision to extend the deadline for resolving access to information requests during the state of emergency from 15 to 30 business days. A statement signed by nine media NGOs, including the Center for Independent Journalism, noted that media representatives already face significant difficulties in obtaining information of public interest, and doubling the deadline is a disproportionate and unjustified measure which will reduce the transparency of public institutions. The signatories called on members of the Committee on Exceptional Situations to reverse this decision and to apply emergency measures in strict accordance with the rights and freedoms guaranteed by law.
We note that the decision doubling the deadline for requesting information became null and void after the Constitutional Court’s April 28 decision declaring the state of emergency unconstitutional.

Media NGOs Send Public Appeal Against Plan to Raise Rents for Media Outlets Based in Public Buildings

Nine non-governmental media organizations, including the Independent Press Association, the Independent Journalism Center, and the Electronic Press Association, sent a public appeal to interim Prime Minister Aureliu Ciocoi and Secretary General of the Government Liliana Iaconi, in which they expressed concern with the State Chancellery’s plan to increase rents for media institutions based in publicly-owned buildings. Recently, the General Directorate for Administration of Buildings of the Government sent a letter to the editorial offices of media institutions renting space in the building of the Press House (22 Pushkin Street, Chisinau) announcing their intention to increase space-based rental calculations by 50% starting from May 1, 2021. The signatories of the appeal asked the interim prime minister and the secretary general to intervene to prevent the increase, which would further worsen the financial situation of media institutions already affected by the ongoing economic crisis.

State Chancellery's Response to Media NGOs’s Appeal on Raised Rents for Outlets Based in Public Buildings

The State Chancellery replied to the appeal from media NGOs about the plan to increase rents at the Press House, a building in which several newsrooms in Chisinau are based. The public authority explained "that it has exercised its right to initiate the renegotiation of the lease conditions, based on existing market prices."
According to the release, the General Directorate for the Administration of Government Buildings, which oversees the Press House, has started the process of renegotiating the rent by increasing space-based rental calculations not only with  media organizations, but with all tenants who rent premises inside the House.
Secretary General of the President's Office Andrei Spinu, who previously held the position of Secretary General of the Government, said that he will submit a request to reactivate an order by which media institutions could pay a lower price to rent buildings owned by the Government.

At the Request of the Journalists' Crisis Cell, Media Employees Were Included in the Priority Immunization List

Reporters, cameramen, and their colleagues from several media institutions in Chisinau were vaccinated  during the second stage of COVID-19 vaccination. This comes after the Journalists' Crisis Cell, set up by the Center for Independent Journalism on behalf of 22 newsrooms and media NGOs, asked the Ministry of Health to include front-line media representatives in the category of people eligible for immunization in the second stage. The first newsroom in the capital to be vaccinated against coronavirus was the People and Kilometers team. Soon, they were followed by employees from RISE Moldova, Radio Free Europe, Newsmaker, Pro TV Chisinau, TV8, Health Info, and TVR Moldova.

Bar Association Claims That Lawyer Catalina Galusca Did Not Violate the Law

The Ethics and Discipline Commission of the Bar Association (BA) examined a complaint by SP Balti against lawyer Catalina Galusca, who had threatened to sue the publication after it published an article about laws broken by the driver of her car. According to a statement signed by chairman of the BA Ethics and Discipline Commission Mihail Gafton, “the actions of lawyer Catalina Galusca do not fall under the incidence of art. 56 of the Law on Advocacy and constitutes actions within the limits of the law.”
Editor-in-chief of SP Balti Ruslan Mihailevschi claims that he presented an audio recording to the BA Ethics Commission which shows the lawyer threatening  journalists. In his opinion, through this decision the BA chose to prioritize the "dignity of the uniform" over principle.
Previously, the National Center for Personal Data Protection found that the editorial staff of SP Balti did not violate the law by publishing their article. Several media NGOs condemned Galusca’s conduct and asked the Bar Association to initiate disciplinary proceedings against her.

The ISS Requested Blocking of More Sites that Promote False Information About COVID-19

The Intelligence and Security Service (ISS) requested the blocking of the and portals, which it identified as sources that promote false news about the COVID-19 pandemic, prevention and protection measures. Since the beginning of April, when the state of emergency was announced, the ISS has requested the blocking of four sites that distribute fake news. On April 7, the ISS requested the blocking of the, "identified as a source of online content that promotes false news about the evolution of COVID-19 and protection and prevention measures." On April 9, the institution requested the blocking of the website ro.portal-news-24h.xyza, which published a fake news story according to which "since April 15, Moldova gives up the mandatory wearing of a mask."

Moldsilva Prohibits Filming Forest Clearing in the Absence of Foresters

Journalists and other persons will no longer have the right to film forest clearing without the presence of specialists in forestry. Upon request from Media Azi to provide some details of the decisions taken, Moldsilva representatives have stated that, on February 26 the authority approved an order prohibiting filming in forested areas where logging or other forestry works are conducted without the presence of foresters. According to Cristina Durnea, the IJC lawyer, this decision causes a number of questions. It is clear from the title of the document that it regulates intensification of communication in the sphere of forestry. “However, it is absolutely inexplicable why a document issued in order to regulate communication processes includes legal standards regulating the safety regime on forest sites,” she wonders. The IJC lawyer considers that “referring to ‘compliance with safety standards for protecting lives of visitors and staff involved in the work process’ is merely the authority’s attempt to justify its censorship steps.”

Moldsilva Published its List of Regulations. Journalists Complain about the Limitation of Their Rights

After Media Azi wrote that Moldsilva Agency limited journalists’ right to information by requiring them to film in the forest only in the presence of forestry specialists, the Agency published its list of regulations.  According to the document, which they previously refused to present to journalists, Moldsilva "allows and authorizes filming in the forest, in the areas where forestry works are carried out and at a distance of 50 meters from them, until the delimitation, with special tape, of the space adjacent to the works, in the presence of the forestry specialists.” At the same time, foresters are obliged to notify the Moldsilva administration and the Police about violations of these provisions, including attempts at unauthorized access and filming. Independent Journalism Center lawyer Cristina Durnea argued that the special filming regulations established by Moldsilva involve "a series of restrictions on the constitutional rights of citizens", and that the law guarantees everyone the right to free movement and freedom of expression.

The Court Portal Has Been Updated

The National Portal of Courts has been perfected, according to the Agency for the Administration of Courts (AAC). The site has been updated with a map of the territorial jurisdiction of courts and a new mechanism that allows searching for scheduled court hearings, judgments, conclusions, public summons in all courts and courts of appeal, studies and analyses, and public surveys. The site’s new interface allows users to report any mistakes or omissions related to the content of court decisions or to propose improvements to the content of the site.
Previously, journalists had repeatedly complained that the search engine on the courts’ page was malfunctioning, and some judgments were anonymized abusively or unjustifiably. To defend the right to information and keep the site accessible, several journalists protested.

Two Vacancies in TRM’s Supervisory Council

The Broadcasting Council (BC) announced a contest to fill two vacancies on the Supervisory Council (SC) of Teleradio-Moldova, as the mandates of two current members, Veaceslav Vlad and Alexandru Vasilache, expire on May 26. The competition is open only to people from outside Chisinau, as legislation stipulates that at least three representatives of administrative units other than Chisinau should be appointed to the SC. The new members would be appointed for a term of six years. Entries must be submitted within 30 days of the publication of the BC decision announcement. The deadline for submitting the files will soon be published on the BC website.

The Mandates of Three Broadcasting Council Members Expired. Parliament Did Not Announce a Competition to Replace Them

The mandates of Broadcasting Council (BC) members Ion Robu, Dragoș Vicol and Artur Cozma expired in April, but Parliament has not yet initiated a competition to find new members, although the Parliamentary Commission for Culture, Education, Research, Youth, Sports and the Media was obliged to initiate a competition to elect new board members 60 days before the expiration of their terms. Chairman of the commission Adrian Lebedinschi claims that this did not happen due to uncertainty regarding the activity of Parliament going forwards. According to legislation, the BC consists of two members proposed by the Parliament, one member proposed by the President, one member proposed by the Government and five members proposed by civil society organizations.

Media Legislation

Draft of the National Media Development Strategy for the Next Nine Years Presented to Deputies

Experts from the non-governmental sector have developed a National Media Development Strategy for the next nine years. The document was presented in April to the Parliamentary Committee on Media and other authorities. Representative of the Electronic Press Association (APEL) and one of the authors of the project, Vasile State, listed three key objectives of the document: developing a functional regulatory framework, creating an economic environment that stimulates media activity, and professionalizing the journalistic community. Each objective contains a list of concrete actions that should be fulfilled by 2030. Among them are the planning and realization of scientific research with practical applicability in the media field; updating ethical norms that regulate the entire field, including the online press; and strengthening the role of the Press Council and the Ombudsman.

Holocaust Denial and Promotion of Fascism, Racism and Xenophobia in the Press Will Be Criminally Punished

With 53 votes, Parliament passed in the final reading a draft law amending the Criminal Code and the Law on Freedom of Expression. The Law on Freedom of Expression will be supplemented in the part related to restriction of freedom of expression with the following text: “... the dissemination and / or use in public of fascist, racist or xenophobic symbols, propagation and / or the use of fascist symbols for political purposes, as well as the promotion of fascist, racist or xenophobic ideologies and / or the denial of the Holocaust, actions that are sanctioned in accordance with the legislation in force.” The bill also contains penalties for violating these prohibitions. For example, denying or publicly contesting the Holocaust or its effects can be punished with up to five years imprisonment, with the deprivation of the right to hold certain positions or to exercise a certain activity for a term of up to five years; the establishment, membership, or support of fascist, racist or xenophobic organizations will be punishable by imprisonment for up to ten years.

Media Monitoring

Irregularities in Gagauz Media Sanctioned by the Broadcasting Council

Broadcasting of news from 2020 and unlicensed television channels have been identified by the Broadcasting Council (BC) in Gagauzia. Following monitoring of the ATV television station, based in Comrat, it was found that the channel broadcast the necessary volume of production, but materials from last year were broadcast by the station without indicating they were reruns as required by law.
The BC also found that local cable operator Oguzsatlink retransmitted 81 television channels without permission to do so. Among stations transmitted by the distributor was the television station Pervii Narodnii, which does not hold a broadcasting license from the BC.
 ATV was sanctioned with a public warning, while Oguzsatlink and Pervii Narodnii, which operated without permission, were fined 20,000 lei each (approximately 1000 euros).

ITV Moldova Publicly Warned for Broadcasting "Discriminatory Statements” about Igor Dodon's Ethnicity

The Broadcasting Council (BC) sanctioned ITV Moldova television station with a public warning because it broadcast "discriminatory statements" by former President Vladimir Voronin, who suggested that former President Igor Dodon came from a Roma family. A petition on this case was submitted to the Broadcasting Council by the president of the non-governmental organization Bare-Rom, Robert Cerari.
BC monitoring found that in an ITV interview, Voronin stated: “The mandate has ended, you have to get up and leave this chair to whoever it belongs to, that is to the people. And in Dodon this can be something gypsy, because his father's name is Fysu, and that's a gypsy name. His father, in fact, was a gypsy." The members of the Broadcasting Council concluded that the media service provider was obliged to exclude this defamatory and discriminatory content from the broadcast.

Cinema 1 Fined 10,000 Lei for not Producing Documents Proving its Right to Broadcast TV Series

The Broadcasting Council (BC) fined the Cinema 1 television station 10,000 lei (approximately 500 euros) for not presenting documents that confirm its right to broadcast some TV series. BC was notified on this case by GMG Production, which mentioned that the Cinema television station had illegally broadcast the series "Кассирши" (Cashiers), "Зеркало Любви" (Love Mirror) and "Домик у реки" (House by the River). Cinema 1 representatives said that they have exclusive rights to distribute these products in Moldova under license agreements with Epic Media. The BC obliged the television station to present documents proving this within five days, but it failed to do so.

The Media Azi Show

Moldsilva’s order banning journalists from filming cutting down trees in forests in the absence of forestry specialists is seen as illegal by both lawyers and the media community. Moldsilva representative Petru Rotaru explains on the Media Azi show the need for the order, while lawyer and Freedom House representative Tatiana Puiu discusses its legality.

IJC Updates

IJC Launches the 2021 Press Freedom Days

On May 4, the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) launches the Days of Press Freedom,  which  will take place under the slogan “Information is a public good. Support the quality press!”. Respectively, on May 4, the IJC will organize a virtual flash-mob, encouraging media organizations, media outlets, journalists and media consumers to share on the social network Facebook a cover photo with the message “Information is a public good. Support the quality press!” and use a special frame for profile photography with the urge # SustinemPresa. On the same day, the Memorandum on Press Freedom between May 3, 2020 - May 3, 2021 will be launched. Other media events see here.

A Group of Primary School Teachers Ready to Teach the Optional Media Education Course

22 primary school teachers were trained in the field of media education in a new training organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) from April 2-4. The course trainers were Loretta Handrabura, PhD in philology, and Natalia Grîu, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research.
At the beginning of the trainings, Anastasia Nani, deputy director of the IJC, mentioned the support that the organization offers to teachers. "The IJC understands how important the role of pedagogues is in educating the critical spirit among students. We want you to join this initiative to promote critical thinking," she said. Mila Corlăteanu, representative of Deutsche Welle Akademie in Moldova, noted that DW Akademie supports the activities of promoting this optional course.
Participants were urged to select useful and truthful information from the avalanche of information that dominates the media and social networks and to guide their students to do the same, starting in primary school.

26 Middle School Teachers Trained by the IJC to Guide Their Students in the Field of Media Literacy

During an online event held from April 9 -11, the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) trained 26 middle school in the field of media education. For three days, the participants in the training formed new media skills. Particular attention was paid to online safety, a current and sensitive topic that participants will now be able to discuss with their students with more confidence. The training program was developed based on the Media Education curriculum and textbook for grades 7 and 8. IJC deputy director Anastasia Nani expressed hope that after this training, teachers will convince even more young people and parents about the importance of media literacy.
The trainers of the course were Natalia Grîu, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, and Dumitru Stoianov, journalist and fact checker.
Both trainings were organized by the IJC within the project "Strengthening media education skills in the Republic of Moldova," implemented with the support of Deutsche Welle Akademie and funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ).

IJC and Internews Updates

Activities within the MEDIA-M Project

During April, the Independent Journalism Center and Internews in Moldova organized several joint activities under the project "Press in Support of Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova" (MEDIA-M), funded by USAID and UK Aid and implemented by Internews in Moldova. Among them were the launch of the Media Hackathon, trainings in the field of media education for high school teachers, as well as continuing lessons on access to information for civil servants at the Academy of Public Administration.

Media Hackathon "The Fifth Power" Reached its Seventh Edition

The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) announced the organization of the seventh edition of the media hackathon "The Fifth Power," which will take place online from June 25-27. This year, newsrooms from across Moldova that want to improve their interaction with the public are invited to participate in the hackathon. Media institutions are encouraged to come up with ideas for online tools to interact effectively with media consumers. The winning teams will integrate the tools created on their platforms. Only media outlets from Moldova can join the event, but they can include IT specialists from abroad in their team. Information about the participation rules can be found on the IJC’s website:

A New Training in Media Education for High School Teachers

As part of a new training program, 20 high school teachers were trained in Media Education. The online training took place from April 9-11.
IJC program manager Mariana Tabuncic noted in the opening of the event that IJC puts a special emphasis on cultivating critical thinking, and the Media Education elective helps develop students' critical thinking skills. Internews representative Oxana Iutes mentioned that “the skills of analysis and critical thinking help students to understand why certain people with positions of responsibility manipulate us and mislead us. They are doing this to put our vigilance to sleep and make important decisions for them. That is why we must think critically and not allow them to decide for us."
The trainers of the course were Loretta Handrabura, PhD in philology, and media researcher Aneta Gonta, PhD in political science.

High School Teachers Teaching in Russian Have Learned to Meet the Challenges of the Information Space

Between April 16-18, the IJC organized a new training in the field of Media Education, helping 16 high school teachers who teach in Russian to improve their media skills.
IJC program manager Mariana Tabuncic noted that "we live in a huge information space, and to properly assimilate this information we need knowledge that is learned in the discipline of Media Education." Internews representative Oxana Iutes highlighted the importance of conscious consumption of information, emphasizing that this allows us to become more responsible: "If we have enough media skills, we will be able to feel safe both offline and online."
The trainers of the course were Loretta Handrabura, PhD in philology, and media researcher Aneta Gonta, PhD in political science.

Partnership Between IJC and the APA Continues: New Training Sessions on Access to Information

A group of 36 junior civil servants from the central public administration participated in a training organized on April 2 by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) in partnership with the Academy of Public Administration (APA). Through the training, APA audiences were informed about how they should apply legislation on access to information. The training session is part of a series of lessons that the IJC has organized at APA starting in 2019, following a collaboration agreement signed between the two partner entities. The aim of the activities is to increase the skills of civil servants at all levels, improve their understanding of media legislation, and to overcome current problems faced by journalists in their interactions with information providers. Participants in the program discussed the legal issues that civil servants should be guided in their work when they respond to requests for information from journalists. The trainers of this course were Cristina Durnea, legal adviser at the IJC and expert in media legislation, and RISE Moldova investigative journalist Nicolae Cuschevici.

Another 27 Civil Servants Trained on how to Provide Journalists with Information of Public Interest

Another training for junior civil servants took place on April 16 with the participation of 27 civil servants with management or executive positions in public administration. This time, the two trainers -  IJC legal adviser and media legislation expert Cristina Durnea, and RISE Moldova investigative journalist Nicolae Cuschevici - told APA audiences about the legislation that applies in the procedure for providing information of public interest, the rules for receiving, registering and forwarding the request for information, as well as cases in which a provider is entitled to refuse a request for information. At the same time, participants were informed about sanctions for cases of violation of legislation on access to information, as well as about lawsuits faced by institutions that refused to provide answers to journalists' requests for information.

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