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August 2020

Monthly Bulletin, August 2020

Media News

TRM Ombudsperson: In June 2019, Moldova 1 Did Not Fulfill Its Role as a Public Broadcaster

At an August 7 meeting of its Supervisory Board, Teleradio-Moldova (TRM) Ombudsperson Carmelia Albu reported that the Moldova 1 television channel did not act in a professional and ethical way in reporting on the June 2019 transition of power from the Democratic government to the PSRM-ACUM coalition. The Ombudsperson, who collects and analyses the complaints of TV viewers and radio listeners, argued that the channel failed to fulfil its duty as a public broadcaster to inform the public about key events by broadcasting a concert while other television channels were covering the transfer of power. 

TRM Director Ecaterina Stratan did not attend the online meeting for technical reasons. She did not respond to requests from Media Azi for comment on the Ombudsperson’s statements.

Information on Website Owners Remain Inaccessible

Information on individuals and legal entities which own .md domains is still not available to the general public. In a response letter sent to Media Azi, the Information Technology and Cyber Security Service (ITCSS) claimed it is “taking measures” to ensure that that information is made public.

The letter, signed by ITCSS head Serghei Popovici, says that the institution “started taking measures required to make public information on legal entities that own domain names”. It is worth mentioning that in a similar letter sent last year, representatives of MoldData, the former national registrar of .md  domains (which was reorganized and absorbed into ITCSS), promised full access to information on legal entities that owned domains they managed ‘in the near future’ - which they never provided.

Information about .md domain owners, including their name, address, and contact data, was once accessible via the WHOIS service, but access to it has been restricted since the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) entered into force.

Cotidianul TV Channel Launch Rejected by the BC for the Third Time. The Administration Will Challenge the Decision in Court

The Broadcasting Council (BC) for the third time rejected Cotidianul TV’s (CTV) broadcast license application, filed by the People For Free Media Civic Association, which owns the portal. The first application was filed with the BC in early March, but the BC postponed examination of the application because of issues with the broadcasting grid. On July 15, representatives filed a new license application, but the BC was not satisfied with it. The hearing on the third application took place at the August 11 BC meeting, where People For Free Media administrator Cristian Cobuz argued that they had fulfilled all the BC’s conditions and suggestions, including changing the proposed channel’s classification from general to informative-analytical. However, the BC again rejected the application, on the grounds that some information remained the same as in the previous application. Cobuz told Media Azi that the BC was acting deliberately and that he would take the issue to court.
Until mid-2019, was managed by the Expresiv Media enterprise, founded by Cristian Cobuz and Alexandru Machedon, owner of StarNet and former Chief of Staff to PPDA leader Andrei Nastase during local elections in Chisinau. According to Cobuz, Exclusiv Media is now a separate entity from the People For Free Media Civic Association, and it is meant only for commercial activities. The administrator explained that the Cotidianul TV channel was to be funded from grants and advertising.

A New Training for ‘Education for Media’ Secondary School Teachers

A group of 19 secondary school teachers attended an online media education training organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) from August 14-16. The training was run by Natalia Griu, Secretary of State, Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, and Dumitru Stoianov, journalist and fact-checker. During the three days of training, the teachers developed their skills in teaching the ‘Education for Media’ course to secondary school students based on the curriculum and textbook developed by IJC experts. Griu, who co-authored the textbook, encouraged participants to understand the importance of the relationship they establish with their students. In her opinion, teachers should be aware of the risks young people face online and pay attention to possible signs of aggression or abuse. Stoianov offered similar advice, urging teachers to keep up with technologies used by students.

Media Monitoring

New IJC Monitoring Report Shows That Ethical Standards Are Being Violated More and More Often

A report released on August 13 shows that biased or ironic headlines are being used more and more often by media outlets monitored by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), and that several of these outlets continue to cover subjects of public interest with a political slant. The report emphasized that the most common ethical violations are the mixing of facts and opinions, failure to ensure the right to reply, labelling, generalization and references to sources which are impossible to verify.
The monitoring effort focused on how 12 media outlets covered five key events of public interest between May 1 and July 31: Romania’s provision of coronavirus-related humanitarian aid, the release of Veaceslav Platon, Parliament’s declaration condemning party switching, the motion of no confidence against the Chicu Government, and MP Stefan Gatcan’s temporary exit from the PSRM and resignation. The authors of the report concluded that, compared to the first four months of the year, the number of ethical violations and use of manipulative techniques has increased. The report draws journalists’ attention to the need to inform the public in a fair and impartial way, and recommends the Broadcasting Council take action to monitor TV channels which broadcast manipulative information.

T(V)E Privește!: A New Tool for Reporting Non-Compliant Radio and TV Content

Starting on July 30, Moldovan citizens can report cases where radio and TV stations broadcast content inconsistent with journalistic ethics or law via T(V)E Privește!, a platform launched by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) within the project “Strategic Communication and Media Support in the Republic of Moldova” financially supported by the European Union. Through this platform, the IJC aims to contribute to increasing media consumers’ involvement in monitoring media content, and to enhance public accountability of regulatory authorities. The IJC will collect and verify the complaints consumers file, send petitions on them to the Broadcasting Council, and monitor how the Council reacts to the petitions and informs the public of the decisions made. T(V)E Privește! is an integral part of the Mediacritica portal and is available in Romanian and Russian.

Enterprises Affiliated With StarNet Fined Millions of Lei by the Competition Council

The Competition Council (CC) fined enterprises affiliated with ‘StarNet Solutii’ more than MDL 2.2 million (EUR 112,247) and those associated TV BOX SRL enterprise MDL 169 thousand (EUR 8,622) for abuse of their dominance of the TV retransmission market in Chisinau’s Buiucani district from 2014-2018. The decision was made on July 16 following a complaint filed by the analog television provider ‘Alfa’ Commercial Technical Centre (CTC Alfa).

The CC was first notified of the issue by CTC Alfa representatives in May 2017. They complained that StarNet had set a ‘dumping price’ (MDL 30 (1,5 EUR) for 71 TV channels) in Buiucani district, causing CTC Alfa to lose many clients who switched to StarNet. According to the company, these prices cannot cover the costs of providing the services.
Having investigated the matter, the Competition Council concluded that “the pricing policy of StarNet Solutii SRL and TV BOX SRL was an attempt at restricting competition and it led to the decrease of CTC Alfa SA market share, introducing the risk of removing it from the market altogether.”
According to the CC, Alexandru Machedon and his wife, Dina Machedon, control StarNet Solutii SRL and TV BOX SRL enterprises. In a comment for, Machedon described the CC’s decision as ‘bogus’.

TVC 21 Publicly Warned Following a Complaint from ASM Scientists

TVC 21 channel received a public warning following a complaint sent to the Broadcasting Council (BC) by the Advisory Board of Academicians of the Academy of Science of Moldova (ASM). The scientists were unhappy with the performance of the ‘Important’ show moderator, who, per the complaint, had a biased attitude. The journalist denied the accusations.

The complaint accused moderator Margarita Raducan, host of a show about ASM, of having called for the resignation of the current management of the Academy in a July episode. In the scientists’ opinion, the journalist did not make a clear distinction between facts and opinions and did not show impartiality. During the BC meeting, ASM President Ion Tighinean criticized the TV channel, and said that academicians refuse to come on the show because the moderator is not fair. Raducan replied she did not discredit anyone and did not violate anyone’s right to freely express their opinion. In a 6-1 vote, the BC members decided to sanction TVC 21 channel with a warning.

Several TV Channels Belonging to the GMG Holding Sanctioned by the BC

The Broadcasting Council (BC) sanctioned and issued public warnings to Publika TV, Canal 2, Canal 3 and CTC Mega TV channels – to some for broadcasting an insufficient amount of local programs in Romanian, to others – for not broadcasting the required amount of such content during prime time. The sanctions were decided on at an August 11 meeting, after the BC had monitored the channels from July 17-23. According to law, the minimum duration of local programming for private regional providers is four hours, 80% of which must be in Romanian, and at least 75% of which must be broadcast in prime time. Monitoring results showed that Canal 3 violated all these provisions, while CTC Mega, Prime and Publika TV failed to meet the Romanian language requirement, and Canal 2 is behind on broadcasting local programing in prime time. BC Chair Dragos Vicol said that the thematic monitoring will continue this year for all television broadcasters.

Media Legislation

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office Closed the Criminal Case Regarding the Privatization of the ‘Press House’

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (APO) decided to close a 2019 criminal case regarding the rent and privatization of the ‘Press House’ state enterprise and a former State Chancellery cafeteria, on the grounds that no evidence of illegal activity was found. In early 2019, RISE Moldova reported that several state properties in Chisinau, including the ‘Press House’ and the cafeteria, were privatized for well below market price. then reported that the buyer was a relative of Democratic leader Pavel Filip. Filip denied these allegations.
The APO mentioned in a press release that following their investigations, they found no evidence that money used to purchase government assets was laundered or obtained illegally. However, prosecutors did find that several involved civil servants deliberately overstepped the bounds of the law during the privatization process. Thus, several people have been charged with abuse of power, including six members of the Direct Negotiations Committee for Renting Unused Assets of the ‘Press House’ and of the State Chancellery, six members of the ‘Press House’ Board, and nine members of the Privatization Committee of Non-Residential Premises for Rent.

MEDIA-M Project Updates

Teams Developed Critical Thinking Projects at the ‘Fifth Power’ Media Hackathon

The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) held the sixth ‘Fifth Power’ Media Hackathon from August 7 to 9, on the theme of ‘Media Literacy: Analyze, Raise Awareness, Create.’ Nine teams put their knowledge and creativity to the test to develop new tools to help develop students’ critical thinking. IJC and Internews representatives, journalists, and mentors joined the hackathon online and participated in its launching event, broadcast live by MediaHub. Participants were greeted by IJC Executive Director Nadine Gogu, USAID Mission Director Scott Hocklander, and Internews Moldova Director Corina Cepoi.

In this year’s hackathon, participants were tasked with creating tools to develop critical thinking skills of students taking the ‘Education for Media’ elective course. While developing their projects, the nine teams were able to tap into the experience of expert mentors - Svetlana Izbas and Tatiana Ivanova from Ukraine, Radio Free Europe journalist Diana Raileanu,  Press Council Chair Viorica Zaharia, ‘Education for Media’ teacher Cristina Cernei and IT specialist Dan Iftodi.

The jury announced the four winning teams on Sunday, August 9: Evrica, which came up with a website which builds critical thinking through games, quizzes and exercises; PRIMUS, which created an online game for ‘Education for Media’ courses; ‘Tinerii Abraziv Online’, with an educational TV series explaining ‘Education for Media’ topics; and Between the Lines, which created an interactive application for teachers. The teams were each awarded USD $4,250. Their projects will be completed and publicly launched in the next few months.

The sixth edition of ‘The Fifth Power’ Media Hackathon was organized under the ‘Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova (MEDIA-M)’ Project, funded by USAID and UK Aid and implemented by Internews in Moldova.

Teachers of the ‘Da Vinci’ School Were Trained in Teaching the ‘Education for Media’Elective Course

A group of 23 teachers from the ‘Da Vinci’ school in Chisinau attended a training organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) from August 18-20 on teaching the ‘Education for Media’ course to lower- and upper-secondary school students. The course was run by Loretta Handrabura, Philology PhD and one of the co-authors of the ‘Education for Media’ textbook, and Aneta Gonta, Political Science PhD, media researcher and university lecturer. The participants were welcomed by the Internews representative in Moldova, Oxana Iutes, who encouraged them to never stop working on their critical thinking skills and discussed  Internews’ projects around the world.
For three days, the teachers explored the contents of the ‘Education for Media’ textbook (which was developed by the IJC), learned new teaching techniques, and developed new digital skills using several web-based tools. The training course was organized by the IJC under the ‘Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova (MEDIA-M)’ Project, funded by USAID and UK Aid and implemented by Internews in Moldova.

Freedom House Updates

Freedom House Highlights Struggles and Achievements of Moldova’s Female Journalists

A new Freedom House blog focuses on gender equality issues in Moldovan media. Media Policy Research Fellow Joseph Bistransky reveals how the COVID-19 pandemic has made challenges for women journalists even more glaring and complex, both in Moldova and globally. The blog showcases the important investigative work of female journalists at Cu Sens, Ziarul de Garda and the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJM) and other outlets who are working under an added burden that threatens to limit their ability to advance democracy and keep citizens informed.

The Media Azi Show

The Ministry of Justice recently announced that it was collecting proposals for the drafting of a new law on fighting the dissemination of false information related to national security. What should such a law look like so that the right to the freedom of expression is not violated? Legal expert Tatiana Puiu, Local Representative of Freedom House in Moldova, answered this and other questions in a new edition of the Media Azi show.

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