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February 2021

Monthly Bulletin, February 2021

Media News

Media NGOs Condemn Legal Threat Against The "SP" Newsroom

According to the "SP" editorial office in Balti, after it published an article about traffic violations committed by a driver who drove around the Christmas tree in Balti, lawyer Catalina Galusca, who owns the car shown in the video, threatened to sue the newsroom if it did not take down the article. Eight non-governmental media organizations, including the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), signed a joint statement condemning Galusca’s behavior. The signatories requested the Ethics and Discipline Commission of Moldova’s Bar Association initiate disciplinary proceedings against the lawyer and urged those who consider themselves harmed by media activity to use legitimate and legal means of defending themselves rather than resorting to abuse and intimidation.

Statement on Peacekeepers’ Illegal Actions Against Journalists

Seven media organizations, including the Independent Journalism Center, issued a joint statement warning the authorities of serious interference with human rights and freedoms by members of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces. According to information published by TV8, on February 9, TV8 journalists Viorica Tataru and Andrei Captarenco were stopped by peacekeeping forces at the crossing of the Dniester in the village of Gura-Bacului. The soldiers asked the journalists to delete their videos and pictures and threatened to detain them if they did not comply. The signatories of the declaration asked the Delegation of Moldova to the Unified Control Commission (UCC) and Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Olga Cebotari to investigate the incident. They also called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor the process of investigating and punishing the perpetrators.

Media NGOs Demand Prosecution of Kirsovo Mayor for Intimidating Journalist

Nine media NGOs have condemned Serghei Sapunji, mayor of Kirsovo in Gagauzia, for attempting to intimidate journalist Mihail Sirkeli, editor of the portal, and called on law enforcement to bring charges against Sapunji. After the February 5 broadcast of the show Nokta Live, in which Sirkeli commented on the beatings at Kirsovo City Hall with the involvement of the mayor, his son, and some inhabitants of Kirsovo and Vulcanesti, Mayor Sapunji sent the journalist messages threatening revenge. Media NGOs condemned this attack and asked the Gagauz Prosecutor's Office to initiate a criminal procedure against Sapunji under Article 180 prim of the Criminal Code, which bans intimidation in retaliation for public criticism.

Still No Open Press Conferences at The Ministry of Health

In response to repeated requests from the Journalists' Crisis Cell to resume online press conferences with journalists’ participation, representatives of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection (MHLSP) officially replied that it would not do so. A statement signed by Secretary of State for Health Tatiana Zatic states that MHLSP "ensures the right of access to information for journalists by holding weekly conferences on the epidemiological situation, providing answers to journalists' requests, participation of specialists in webinars, briefings interviews, online broadcasts on topics of major interest.” However, journalists who report daily on the health crisis insist on organizing press conferences, which they say would facilitate efforts to inform the public. Earlier, the MHLSP had assured representatives of the Journalists' Crisis Cell that the press conferences would soon be held "in an updated format," which did not happen.

Police on PSRM Complaints Against RISE Moldova: Journalists Acted Legally

The National Inspectorate of Investigations (NII) concluded that RISE Moldova journalists acted legally in the "Desantul" investigation after examining complaints filed by Socialist Party MPs against the journalists last autumn. RISE’s "Desantul" investigation, published last November during the presidential campaign, covered a meeting between Socialist deputies, former President Dodon’s campaign spokesperson, and political consultants from the Russian Federation. The article mentioned that Igor Dodon's staff denied meeting with Russian consultants throughout the first-round election campaign. Socialist deputies Vlad Batrincea, Gaik Vartanean, Nichita Turcan, and Vladimir Odnostalco filed a legal complaint in response to the article, arguing that their privacy was violated and images used by RISE were taken illegally.
NII head Iurie Stoian noted: "within the control performed, nothing indicates that the images were made clandestinely or with the help of equivalent means, likely to make their publication illegal." According to him, on December 1, the case was closed and its materials were sent for archiving.

Analysis: ECtHR Finds 19 Cases of Violation of Freedom of Expression in Moldova in The Last 23 Years

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has found 19 cases of violation of freedom of expression in Moldova since our country acceded to the European Convention on Human Rights, according to an analysis by the Legal Resources Center of Moldova (LRCM). Last year, the Strasbourg Court made one on the violation of this right out of a total of 32 pending applications. Between 1997 and 2020, 19 violations of the right to freedom of expression were found in Moldova, 3% of the total number of cases examined by the ECtHR. According to LRCM’s analysis, our country is in 9th place out of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe by the number of cases addressed.

Journalists Could Be Prioritized for Vaccination Along With Police and Ministry Staff

Moldovan journalists could be prioritized for vaccination in the second stage of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign, according to a statement by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection (MHLSP): "Given that reporters, cameramen, and moderators perform tasks with close and frequent contact with the general public, but do not require contact with people known or suspected of being actively infected with the virus responsible for COVID-19, vaccination of this category of the population will be carried out as a matter of priority in the second stage, together with the employees of the structures for maintaining and ensuring public order, defense and state security, including embassies, Parliament, the Presidency, the Government, ministries and institutions subordinated to these institutions, agencies, trade unions, local public authorities and the workers of the penitentiary system.”

ROCK’s Radio Station Changed Its Name to Lite FM

One month after obtaining a broadcasting license and two frequencies in Chisinau and Varnita, the company Radio Lider, which owns radio station ROCK's, announced to the Broadcasting Council (BC) that it is merging with Pleiada Auto, the owner of the Lite FM radio station, which already broadcasts in Balti. On February 16, the BC approved the merger and allowed the name to be changed from ROCK’s to Lite FM. The administrators of Lite FM indicated in documents submitted to the Board of Directors that they intend to expand their broadcasting area by covering Chisinau, Balti, and the suburbs. Lite FM is described as a music radio station "with a relaxing music format with lyrical elements." The slogan of Lite FM is "Here you can find relaxation!" According to the project, after obtaining the frequency in Chisinau, the station's financing will be covered by loans, credits, allowances, and revenues from broadcasting commercials.

POB poll: Citizens Have The Greatest Confidence in National Press

According to a February poll from the Public Opinion Barometer (POB), Moldovan media enjoys the highest trust among citizens of Moldova, with a share of about 50%, followed by the media from the Russian Federation, trusted by almost 43%. European press is trusted by 40%, and Romanian by 33.5%. About 1/5 of respondents trust media from the USA and Ukraine.
Of sources of information, television is trusted most (28.7%). The Internet ranks second, with 23.6%, and radio (2.5%) ranked fifth, behind family and friends. The most watched channels are Prime TV with 44%, followed by public television station Moldova 1 (27.5%), Jurnal TV (24%), RTR Moldova (23%), and Publika (22%).
The survey was conducted by the Center for Sociological Research and Marketing "CBS-Research" and commissioned by the Institute of Public Policy (IPP). It was conducted from January 28 to February 14, on a sample of 1,108 people from 86 localities, excluding the Transnistrian region.

Media Legislation

A bill on Holocaust Denial Was Voted on in The First Reading

The legislature approved in the first reading draft amendments to the Criminal Code and the Law on Freedom of Expression prohibiting the spread of fascist, racist or xenophobic symbols, the promotion of these messages, and denial of the Holocaust. The authors of the document are four PSRM deputies, and the initiative was supported by the majority of MPs. According to the draft, the Law on Freedom of Expression would be amended in the section relating to restriction of freedom of expression by the following text: “... the dissemination and / or use in public of fascist, racist, or xenophobic symbols, propagation and / or the use for political purposes of fascist symbols, 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.” Under the law, denying the Holocaust or its effects is punishable with up to five years of imprisonment, with the deprivation of the right to hold certain positions and to exercise certain activities for up to five years; establishing or supporting fascist, racist, or xenophobic organizations will be punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Media Monitoring

Teleradio-Moldova Presidential Performance Rated "Unsatisfactory"

A report evaluating the performance of Teleradio-Moldova (TRM) in the November 2020 presidential elections prepared by the Baltic Center for Media Excellence finds that since 1994, the public broadcaster has not changed its editorial approach, favoring incumbents and casting a worse light on the opposition, including during elections. "TRM remains dependent on any political parties in power," say the report's authors. Teleradio-Moldova was evaluated by five media experts and a representative of the Broadcasting Council on the behavior of public television and radio in the campaign for the 2020 presidential elections. Evaluation criteria included journalistic ethics, editorial policy, and the degree of accuracy and impartiality in covering the election campaign and the candidates. As a result, Teleradio-Moldova took an average score of 6 out of 10 points. The document mentions that the grade is "passing," but "unsatisfactory."

BC Criticizes The Annual Report of Teleradio-Moldova

Some members of the Broadcasting Council (BC) criticized the management of Teleradio-Moldova (TRM) during the February 16 meeting, at which they examined 2020 reports from TRM and its Supervisory Board (SB). BC member Larisa Manole, who previously worked for Teleradio-Moldova, argued the TRM report does not reflect the real state of affairs. Manole criticized the quality of the company's products, blaming its administration. BC chair Ala Ursu-Antoci also questioned the achievements of the TRM report. Artur Cozma, another member of the BC, suggested that civil society be involved in dialogue with TRM. Following its examination of the report, the BC stated that it will hold joint meetings with the TRM administration to assess the real state of affairs and seek solutions to existing problems.

TRM Ombudsman Recommends The Public Television Station Review The Concept of Some Programs

In the shows "Moldova Live," "Red Button," and "Good Evening" on public television station Moldova 1, "the same protagonists are invited" and addressed mainly "political issues." This observation was made by Carmelia Albu, the ombudsman of Teleradio-Moldova (TRM), during a meeting of the Supervisory Board (SB), at which TRM’s 2020 activity report was presented. Albu argued that there must be a clear delimitation between these programs to see "which of them is a political talk show, which is a debate show or which is a show that debates issues of education, health and culture." Albu recommended that TRM officials review shows’ concepts to delimit the topics addressed so that Moldova 1 offers viewers a diversity of media products that focus on cultural and socio-economic issues, not just political.

BC Fined Several TV Stations Tens of Thousands of Lei

At its February 24 meeting, the Broadcasting Council (BC) fined four television stations tens of thousands of lei for violating provisions of the Audiovisual Media Services Code. Cinema 1 and DTV were fined 10 thousand lei (approximately 500 euros) because they did not present recordings of programs they broadcast at the request of the BC. Stations Bravo TV, RTR Moldova, and Cinema 1 received fines because they did not broadcast the text of previously-applied sanctions. BC member Corneliu Mihalache repeatedly requested the Cinema 1 television station be monitored for compliance with regulations regarding subtitles and translation of films into Romanian.
Representatives of the fined stations did not express their point of view during the meeting.

PRO TV Chisinau Fined 5,000 Lei for Exceeding Legal Advertising Volume

The Broadcasting Council (BC) fined PRO TV Chisinau 5,000 lei (250 euros) for violating broadcasting regulations for commercial airtime within an hour. The BC monitored the station after being notified by the Employers' Association of Moldovan Broadcasters, which, in its own monitoring, found that the station broadcast more than 20% advertising airtime between 14-31 December 2020. BC monitoring confirmed that the cumulative legal duration of commercials in one hour was exceeded. However, PRO TV Chisinau representatives denied the allegations and announced that they would challenge the BC's decision in court.

The SCJ Put An End to The Dispute Between The BC and TV8

In a January 27 decision, the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) rejected a request by the Broadcasting Council (BC) to reverse a decision to annul a fine it imposed on TV8. The 7,000 lei (350 euros) fine was levied last October, after the BC ruled that impartiality and balance of opinions had not been ensured in an episode of the talk show "Natalia Morari's Politics," and that the moderator had intervened with her own point of view. TV8 representatives challenged the Council's decision in court and obtained an annulment of the fine. The Court rejected the appeal submitted by the Broadcasting  Council, declaring it inadmissible given that "the Supreme Court of Justice is not vested with material jurisdiction to examine the nominated request for review."

The Media Azi Show

In recent years, dozens of media outlets have been sued by officials, dignitaries, public figures, or companies claiming that newsrooms have damaged their honor, dignity, and professional reputation. In 2020, the security of the press was affected by abusive legal actions against media professionals, according to the Index on the Situation of the Press in Moldova, recently launched by the Independent Journalism Center. The topic was addressed in the Media Azi show.

IJC and Internews Updates

IJC Index on The Situation of The Press in Moldova: Media Condition Worsens in 2020

Political instability, the economic crisis, and the pandemic have directly affected media activity, according to the Index on the Situation of the Press in Moldova (ISPM) in 2020, released by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) on February 15th. The document diagnoses the state of the press as a whole, identifying major problems and developments in the media in Moldova. The ISPM methodology includes seven indicators relevant to the media realities in Moldova: the regulatory legal framework; political context; economic environment; professional environment; the quality of journalism; information security from a media perspective; and journalists’ security. The report shows, among other things, that the media and journalists did not enjoy full security; they collided with threats from politicians or civil servants, who limited the media’s access to information amid the pandemic crisis. The author of the document, media expert Ion Bunduchi, proposes a set of recommendations to improve the situation.
The index is part of the project "Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion, and Accountability in Moldova" (MEDIA-M), funded by USAID and UK and implemented by Internews in Moldova, which aims to promote the development of an independent and professional media and the creation of a media sector more resistant to political and economic pressures.

Serge Sakharau of on How to Increase Online Audience

Representatives of ten media outlets that reached the second stage of the Independent Journalism Center’s (IJC) small grant competition within the "Understanding the audience through digital assistance" project benefited from an online training on increasing their online audience. The event took place on February 9 and 10, and Serge Sakharau, the founder and editor-in-chief of in Minsk, Belarus, was invited as an expert. Sakharau explained to the training participants how the media market can increase its audience during a pandemic, the importance of the quality of editorial content for increasing and maintaining a loyal audience, how the Google Analytics tool works, how to “read” online audience data (the main performance indicators of an information site), and how to use analytics data for day-to-day and prospective planning. Ina Grejdeanu, Director for Strategic Development of the IJC, offered participants a series of suggestions on successfully "packaging" project ideas so that they gain the interest of financiers and have a greater impact on the public. The project "Understanding the audience through digital assistance" is implemented by the IJC with the support of Internews and is funded by Sweden.

IJC Names Winners of Small Grants Competition to Support Media Institutions' Efforts to Increase Their Audience

The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) has chosen four media outlets to become partners in the "Understanding the audience through digital assistance" project, implemented by the IJC with the support of Internews and funded by Sweden. These are, Media TV Cimișlia, BAStv, and CU SENS. The winners were selected based on the originality of the projects, the degree of knowledge of the target audience and its needs, and the use of modern technologies for content distribution and online monetization. The four media institutions will obtain grants of 5,000 euros to implement initiatives to increase their audience and raise revenues over six months (March 1- August 31, 2021). During the project implementation, media partners will benefit from online consultations with the participation of two international experts and a local expert in areas such as audience analysis (Google Analytics, YouTube Analytics, etc.), content production planning, advertising sales, and online monetization.

Students from Five Russian-Language Schools Benefited from Online Media Education Lessons

In February, students from five Russian-language schools were introduced to the elective Media Education course. The lessons were moderated by journalist Dumitru Stoianov and a representative of the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Victoria Tataru. The five trainings were conducted by the IJC in partnership with Internews in Moldova under the project "Increasing support for independent Russian-language media institutions and efforts in the field of media education." The project is financially supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands and aims to develop the critical thinking of Russian-speaking students.

"Mihail Lomonosov" Theoretical High School in Orhei

On February 4, 62 students from the 9th-12th grades from the "Mihail Lomonosov" Theoretical High School in Orhei participated in an online media education lesson. The moderator of the meeting, journalist Dumitru Stoianov, analyzed several examples along with the students to help them understand what media education is and why it is important to study it. Victoria Tataru, IJC representative, informed students and teachers that they can benefit from this course at any level of education (primary, secondary, or high school). "The concept of media education has now become vital to your development. This optional discipline can help you to be safer, to make better choices, and to have responsible behavior in interaction with the media and social networks,” Tataru explained.

"Alexandr Pushkin" High School in Anenii Noi

On February 9, online media education lessons were resumed with students from the 8th-11th grades from the “Alexandr Pushkin” High School in Anenii Noi. Students learned about threats present in the online community, such as cybermobbing, flaming, cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and trolling. "Today you are on the high school benches, but tomorrow you will make important decisions for your future. The discipline of Media Education helps you to develop your critical spirit, to distinguish between truth and fake news, to be better aware of the dangers, and to show more discernment when you have to make important decisions," noted journalist Dumitru Stoianov. Victoria Tataru, the IJC representative, reminded students that the importance of media education is also part of the context of World Internet Security Day, marked this year on February 9.

"Alexandr Pushkin" High School in Balti

On February 10, 11 11th grade students from the "Alexandr Pushkin" Theoretical High School in Balti participated in an online Media Education lesson. Participants learned what critical thinking is, how to become responsible media consumers, and why it is important to study the elective Media Education course. The organizers explained how to use digital online tools and navigate the web without being misinformed or manipulated, how to distinguish real news from fake news, and how to feel safe on the Internet. The participants also learned about the Media Education platform of the IJC, where they can find textbooks for each level of education in Romanian and Russian, online games, tutorials, animations, and other media products useful for developing critical thinking.

Theoretical High School in Tetcani, Briceni District

On February 23, a group of 21 8th grade students from the Russian-language Theoretical High School in Tetcani village, Briceni district were acquainted with the notions of media education. “Critical thinking does not mean criticizing everything you encounter around you, but passing through a filter what you read, listen to, watch; ask questions and find answers to them; to distinguish the facts from opinions; to distinguish between a news that informs and another that misinforms," explained journalist Dumitru Stoianov. In turn, IJC representative Victoria Tataru urged students to access the Media Education Platform, where they can find a rich archive of media education materials for both students and teachers.

"Nicolai Nekrasov" High School in Straseni

On February 26, media education lessons continued at the "Nicolai Nekrasov" High School in Straseni, the only Russian-language institution in the area. 22 8th grade students who participated in the online meeting became acquainted for the first time with the Media Education elective course. During the lesson, students learned about the concept of the new course and its benefits for their personal development. Through practical exercises, they were taught how to cultivate their analytical skills in the information they read on the Internet. Ana Letcenea, a psychologist at the school, said that to inform children about the dangers they are exposed to in the virtual space, the school organizes various thematic activities, such as exhibitions on Internet safety.

Freedom House Updates

Freedom House Opens Competition for New ‘Media Forward’ Policy Brief

The call for proposals for the next policy brief in Freedom House’s ‘Media Forward’ series is now open. This brief will examine the theme of regulation of the online media sphere, draw upon best practices implemented abroad, and make recommendations for Moldova’s government to design effective regulations which respect freedom of expression.
Interested researchers should submit concept proposals to by March 15, 2021, with “Moldova Policy Briefs” in the subject line. The concept proposal should consist of an abstract of no more than 200 words, an outline of the argument and recommendations to be presented, and a CV of the principal researcher or researchers.

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