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August 2021

Monthly Bulletin, August 2021

Media News

Media NGOs call on Moldovan government to promote transparency, ensure access to public interest information and advance real reforms to facilitate media development

Nine media NGOs, including the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), have called on the new Moldovan government to ensure transparency in the work of public institutions and guarantee unrestricted access to information of public interest for journalists and media institutions. The signatories of the appeal recall that some good draft laws – written with the support of the European Union and the Council of Europe –  are still sitting in the drawers of parliamentary committees after the former government blocked them. The media NGOs are requesting the Moldovan Parliament's Committee on Culture, Education, Research, Youth, Sport and the Media to add a number of objectives needed to reform the media sector to its agenda and also to incorporate these reforms in the Action Plan for  the government's "Moldova in Good Times" program. These objectives include completing the legislative framework by amending and supplementing the Law on Access to Information, the Law on Freedom of Expression, the Law on Personal Data Protection, the Civil Code, the Contravention Code, the Law on State Secrets, the Administrative Code, and the Law on Real Estate Cadastre. The coalition of media NGOs also calls for the opening of databases for journalists, the adoption of the new draft Advertising Law and the draft supplement to the Competition Law, and for the Competition Council to more efficiently investigate and sanction cartel agreements and abuses of dominant positions in the media and advertising markets. Other demands refer to the following: the elimination of politically-motivated activities in the media sector; the streamlining of the activity of the Broadcasting Council (BC) and the Supervisory Council (SC) of the state-owned radio and television broadcaster Teleradio-Moldova; extensive reform of Teleradio-Moldova; the reorganization of the national postal service Post of Moldova in order to improve the distribution of local periodicals throughout the country; and the protection of the local information space from harmful external information campaigns.

UN: Implementing access to information has been a challenge throughout Moldova's three decades of independence

A UN study entitled "The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human rights in the Republic of Moldova” asserts that national provisions on access to information and freedom of expression "are largely in line with international standards,” but that effective implementation of the rules "has been a challenge throughout Moldova's three decades of independence.” The report, which was launched in early August by the UN Office for Human Rights in Moldova, also refers to legislation on personal data protection. Although this law allows journalists to request personal information of public interest, the report indicates that authorities have used this legislation "to justify their refusals to grant information of public interest, stating that the requested information cannot be disclosed without the consent of the subject concerned.”
According to a May survey of journalists released by the IJC’s Media Azi portal, personal data and the COVID-19 pandemic were among the reasons most often cited by authorities for refusing to respond to journalists' requests in 2020.

The Constitutional Court declares Tax Code article on tax secrecy constitutional

The article in the Tax Code governing tax secrecy is constitutional, according to a Constitutional Court (CC) ruling on August 10. The ruling came in response to a complaint filed by Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) MP Dumitru Alaiba that the rule violates the right of access to information.
The MP referred the matter to the CC in February this year after the Tax Service refused to provide him with information on the amount of taxes paid by Alexandru Dodon, brother of former president Igor Dodon, and the companies he founded or co-founded from 2017-2020. Tax Service officials replied that the data could not be provided because it "constitutes a tax secret.”  “Access to information of public interest is denied to members of civil society with the invocation of an abusive rule," Alaiba wrote in his complaint to the CC, asking that the article be declared unconstitutional.
The CC judges partially acknowledged Alaiba's complaint, considering that the article in the Tax Code on tax secrecy is constitutional "insofar as the tax authorities and the courts can verify, when examining cases concerning access to information, the existence of a legitimate purpose for restricting access to information constituting tax secrecy and can weigh competing principles". At the same time, the CC concluded that some information held by the State Tax Service cannot be classified as “tax secrets” and thus cannot be excluded from the public interest.
According to Media Azi’s internal survey conducted in May, tax secrecy was frequently cited as a reason for refusing to comply with journalists' requests for information.

Natalia Gavrilita on reform of state agency Moldpres: We will also develop a strategy for this enterprise

At an August 19 press briefing, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita announced that the government is currently identifying who will assume leadership of the State Chancellery and develop a new strategy for the state news agency Moldpres.
Asked by journalists whether the government intends to reform Moldpres, Gavrilita said, "For now, we have certain priorities, (...) but we will make appointments here as soon as possible, (...) we will also develop the strategy for the state enterprise [Moldpres].”
At the end of June, Media Azi wrote, with reference to information published by Ziarul de Garda, about a letter in which several anonymous Moldpres employees accused the agency's administration of "abuse of power" and accused the State Chancellery (the founder of the enterprise) of “an attack on the press” for drafting a new statute which no longer included the news department. Moldpres director Andrei Volentir denied reports of a draft amendment to the institution's statute, saying that this was "a misinterpretation of the document" in its early stages.

Igor Ceaika has quit Moldovan TV. Who are the new owners of Primul in Moldova and Accent TV

Igor Ceaika, a businessman and son of a former Russian prosecutor general, and businessman Vadim Ciubara no longer own the television stations Primul in Moldova and Accent TV. In a statement to Media Azi, the BC announced that the new beneficiaries of the stations are Russian citizens Samvel Grigorian and Natalia Ermilova. Russian company Media Invest Service founded Mobile Telesystems, which held the broadcasting licenses for the two channels previously owned by Ceaika (51 percent) and Ciubara (49 percent). The BC noted that changes in the company’s shareholding structure earlier this summer shifted complete ownership of Media Invest Service to the holding company Obedinenniye Resursy (“United Resources”). Ciubara has consequently lost his shares in the company's ownership structure but has kept his position as a director.
Businessman Samvel Grigorean is also listed as the founder of the St. Petersburg-based construction company Tandem, which has the same legal address as Obedinenniye Resursy.
It should be noted that civil society and BC monitoring reports have shown that these posts have favored the Socialist Party and former President Igor Dodon in recent elections.

New Historical Option Party leader fined for libel based on journalist's complaint

New Historical Option Party (PNOI) Chairwoman Svetlana Chesari has been fined for libel based on a complaint filed by journalist Mariana Rata, reports The journalist complained that the politician "knowingly spread false information on social networks.” After examining the evidence, the General Police Inspectorate issued a report on Chesari and fined her for libel.
Chesari told Media Azi that she had not received the report: "I was not properly summoned, I was not heard and I did not receive the report. As soon as I receive it, I will take all necessary measures.”
According to the Contravention Code, libel is punishable by either a fine of 2,400 lei to 3,600 lei  (200 – 250 euro) - or unpaid community service of 20 to 60 hours. Law enforcement officials did not specify the amount of the fine imposed on the politician.

Audiovisual Media Services Code interpreted in an explanatory commentary for media and providers

The Council of Europe's office in Chisinau has published an explanatory commentary on the Audiovisual Law, emphasizing that understanding media laws is "a first condition for their proper application. Four Moldovan media experts - Ion Bunduchi, Vasile State, Alexandru Dorogan, Eugeniu Ribca - and one from abroad - Jean-François Furnémont - prepared the commentary. The document covers the reasoning behind the name of the law and the concepts used in the text, as well as information about different types of advertising (e.g., interactive, split-screen advertising, virtual advertising).
Media services subject to the Audiovisual Media Services Code could also read separately the comments on the provisions on ensuring fair information. The experts argue that "the requirements of this article are intended to contribute to the effective realization of every person's right to information [not misinformation]" – a right which "also marks the limits of the media service provider's freedom of expression.” For example, the authors argue that the demands placed on news outlets "are justified on the grounds that the news is based on concrete and real facts.” The document states, "The law cannot compel citizens to believe the news, not even the correct news, but the law can and must compel the media to inform accurately, because this is the motivation for the existence of this social institute and gives it social legitimacy."

Audio Recordings of Teleradio-Moldova Supervisory Board Meetings Will Be Published Online

Journalists and other interested persons will soon be able to access the audio recordings of Teleradio-Moldova’s SC meetings. The SC made this decision at a meeting on August 12. SC member Larisa Calugaru introduced the proposal to publish the audio recordings of the public meetings. She justified her initiative by stressing the need to ensure transparency in the decision-making process. "The audio recordings of our meetings should be placed together with the link or on the website, so that anyone who wants can listen to them", said Calugaru.
Earlier, BC Chairwoman Ala Ursu-Antoci criticized the performance of Teleradio Moldova’s SC in ensuring the transparency of meetings. "Why aren't the Supervisory Council meetings public, aren't they transmitted directly, just like our meetings are transmitted?" asked Ursu-Antoci during a discussion of Teleradio Moldova’s annual activity report at a February 16 SC meeting.
SC Chair Violeta Cojocaru said that SC members will further examine the issue in order to amend the regulation and establish the technical details.

BC will extend competition for selection of new member of Teleradio-Moldova SC

The BC has announced that the application deadline for the competition to fill a vacancy in Teleradio Moldova’s SC expired on August 23. Only one person - Iulia Dimitroglo - entered the competition. For this reason, the deadline will be extended at a future public meeting. In previous competitions for membership in the SC, the deadlines were also extended several times due to a lack of applications and failure of candidates to attend interviews. In the previous competition cycle, the BC nominated Balti musician Ian Mihailevschi to be the newest SC member, making him the eighth member of the Council. At least three representatives of administrative-territorial units outside of Chisinau are appointed to the SC.

Broadcasting licenses for two new TV channels. One will be an entertainment channel, the other a justice channel

Two new TV channels could soon be launched in Moldova, after the Broadcasting Council (BC) granted nine-year broadcasting licenses to SFC Media's GN TV and Legal TV. GN TV would broadcast mainly entertainment programs, while Legal TV would focus mainly on justice and law. SFC Media was founded in January 2021 by Dan Pascari, who is also listed as the company’s administrator.
At a BC meeting on August 11, Pascari said that GN TV would produce 28 percent of its content locally and that, apart from entertainment programs, it would also broadcast socio-economic and less political news. The station's management has already discussed possible hires with those who will run its comedy programming. According to Pascari, some Legal TV programming will be sourced from US partners An SFC media representative stated that the networks will be on air within a month. The BC members granted broadcasting licenses for both TV channels by a majority vote.

Journalist and sports commentator Dumitru Antoceanu launches TV news channel

At an August 4 meeting, the BC issued a nine-year broadcasting license to a new TV station, Global 24, to broadcast its programs via media service distributors' networks. The project belongs to the private company Television Studio "Viziunea Libera," (Free vision) which was founded in March this year. The company's director is journalist and sports commentator Dumitru Antoceanu, who has also commentated on the European Football Championship final on Canal 3. During a telephone conversation with BC members, Antoceanu said that he and his team intend to focus mainly on news. "We want to broadcast as much independent (...) news as possible, involving different opinions and political actors in Moldova," the director said. He added that Global 24 will focus on creating informative-analytical content instead of broadcasting films and music and that the institution will operate from funds raised by advertising. Six BC members voted for the project, while one voted against it.
Antoceanu is a former sports commentator for the public TV channel Moldova 1 and currently works for the radio station HIT FM and the channel REN Moldova.

Media Monitoring

Public warning for Jurnal TV after it did not offer right of reply to former and current policeman

The BC has issued a public warning to Jurnal TV for not allowing a former and current policeman from the Dubasari Police Inspectorate the right to reply to a report in which they were mentioned. Journalists reported that the two officers – Alexei Vizdan and Ion Tarna –  allegedly forced their way into Jurnal TV's headquarters after they appeared in three TV reports.  Alexei Vizdan and Ion Tarna filed four complaints with the BC against Jurnal TV.
With reference to the first three complaints, the BC monitoring revealed that the journalistic investigation concerned several aspects of the two policemen's work, including the circumstances in which they were promoted to the position at the Dubasari Police Inspectorate, the ways in which the two policemen obtained their wealth, the assets they have indicated in their asset declarations, and the origin of the properties they own. The BC’s investigation of the first three complaints also detailed the status of a criminal case brought against the two policemen. In this case, the two officers are accused of enriching themselves through illegal means (cigarette smuggling, swindling, and corruption). BC monitoring found that Jurnal TV ensured the presentation of the main opposing views of both the petitioners and the persons who were mentioned in the three stories.
In the fourth complaint to the BC, the petitioners cited a report entitled "Targeted in a series of investigations, former policeman Alexei Vizdan and policeman Ion Tarna forced their way into Jurnal's headquarters.” BC monitoring of this complaint noted that the defenders were not able to present their position in this report. Therefore, a majority of the BC members decided to sanction the station with a public warning for violating the rules on fair reporting. BC member Larisa Manole voted against the sanction.

Moldova 1 sanctioned after jamming Parliament sessions live on air. Teleradio-Moldova: It happened "because of stress and confusion"

The BC has publicly warned Moldova 1 for violating fair information rules. The sanction was imposed following a self-complaint by Council member Larisa Manole, who reported that the public broadcaster, instead of airing footage of the July 29 parliamentary session, aired footage of the July 26 Parliamentary session for 15 minutes. Moderators and guests commented on the earlier session’s footage, which Moldova 1 aired under the false heading "live.”
The Teleradio-Moldova administration confirmed that it had broadcast footage from the previous parliamentary session and found that "the gaffe in question was caused by technical faults in the live equipment.” According to the station's management, the program’s producer and engineer selected the link on the Parliament’s Facebook page to the July 26 parliamentary session "due to stress and confusion caused by the July 26 and July 29 parliamentary sessions having the same name.”
"This is an unacceptable mistake,” commented BC Chairwoman Ala Ursu-Antoci.

The Media Azi Show

How do the visually and hearing-impaired access information? At the end of 2019, the BC adopted a regulation that obliged TV and radio stations to make their programs as accessible as possible to these groups. Two years after the adoption of the document, Victor Koroli, executive director of the INFONET Alliance, explains to Media Azi how the regulation works and what recommendations he made to the authorities to strengthen information access for people with visual and hearing impairments.

IJC Updates

Journalists from both sides of the Dniester want to surprise the public with unique multimedia products

From August 17 through August 26, journalists from both sides of the Dniester River took part in the second phase of a mentoring program on new technologies. The IJC organized the online program within the framework of its project "Promoting Media Dialogue on Both Banks of the Dniester River," which is funded by the OSCE Mission to Moldova.
The aim of the program is to help journalist teams from both sides of the Dniester River to develop and finalize their multimedia projects that they have worked on since participating in a training entitled "Journalists from the left and right banks of the Dniester create multimedia content". Program evaluators selected three teams out of seven to receive financial support of €1,500 each for the production of multimedia content.

The teams were guided by two journalists with extensive experience in the digital technology field. Gulim Amirkhanova, TV journalist and conductor of TV and online journalism training programs in Kazakhstan, and Ana Gherciu, the executive director of, served as the trainers for both teams. The experts also provided advice and assistance to the members of the joint teams during the first phase of the mentoring program, which took place in July.

The mentoring program was organized by the IJC with financial support from the OSCE Mission to Moldova within the framework of the project "Promoting Media Dialogue on Both Banks of the Dniester River".

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