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March 2021

Monthly Bulletin, March 2021

Media News

State of Emergency Declared in Moldova

Parliament voted on March 31 to introduce a state of emergency for two months,  from April 1 - May 30, 2021. The authors of the legislative initiative, PSRM deputies Vasile Bolea, Alexandr Suhodolski, and Ala Dolinta, argued the state of emergency was necessary because of the deteriorating epidemiological situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, based on the report of the Commission for Exceptional Situations and the recommendations of the Supreme Security Council.
One section of the document refers to "coordinating the activity of the media." It aims to inform the population about the causes of the state of emergency, the measures taken to protect the population, and new rules imposed during the state emergency; it also introduces special regulations on the media.
Similar provisions on media activity were also contained in Parliament's decision declaring a state of emergency last year (March 17 - May 15, 2020). During that period, the Intelligence and Security Service blocked several websites (1, 2, 3) which promoted false information about COVID-19, and the deadline for examining information requests was extended from 15 to 45 days.

Journalists’ Crisis Cell Calls on the Ministry of Health to Prioritize Media Representatives for Vaccination

In a joint statement, 22 media institutions and NGOs, including the Independent Journalism Center, called on the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Protection (MHLSP) to revise its Order no. 93 of February 5, which excluded journalists from the list of priority groups eligible for the second phase of vaccination. Earlier, in an official answer given by the ministry on February 12, MHLSP Secretary of State Tatiana Zatic claimed that the media representatives would be immunized along with employees of organizations responsible for maintaining and ensuring public order, defense and security. Given that the work of journalists poses an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 infection, the Journalists' Crisis Cell called on the Ministry to include front-line journalists and editorial staff in direct contact with them in the second stage of immunization. The Crisis Cell was launched by the  Independent Journalism Center to defend the rights and legitimate interests of media representatives during the pandemic.

Media NGOs Condemn Intimidation of NewsMaker Journalists by Police Employees

According to NewsMaker (NM), after it published of an article covering a criminal case filed against two police officers, the editorial staff was sued by the subjects of the article. The two officers filed complaints with the police requesting that the article’s author, journalist Alexandra Batanova, be held liable for libel. The NewsMaker editorial office found out about these complaints from the head of the Police Sector no. 1, Nicolae Cornescu, who appeared in person at the Newsmaker offices to speak with Batanova. After being told Batanova was not in the office at that moment, Cornescu left his phone number so that the journalist could call him later.
Eight non-governmental media outlets issued a joint statement calling Cornescu’s actions abusive. The statement notes that the Police are obliged to summon the journalist in writing to appear at the police headquarters, and argues that Cornescu’s appearance at NewsMaker’s headquarters was an illegal attempt to intimidate the press. The signatories requested the Ministry of Internal Affairs to take note of Cornescu’s abusive actions and communicate openly about the measures taken in response. At the same time, they urged law enforcement agencies to stop attempting to intimidate journalists.

Deputies Examine 2020 Report on the Broadcasting Council’s Activity

Several topics were addressed by members of the Parliamentary Committee on the Media during a hearing on the Broadcasting Council’s (BC) 2020 activity report. Deputy Lilian Carp from the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) asked, in reference to the recent election of new members to Teleradio-Moldova’s Supervisory Council (SC), why PSRM sympathizers became members of the SC. BC President Ala Ursu-Antoci, who previously served as head of the cabinet of PSRM, answered that  "all candidates met the conditions required by law."
Maria Ciobanu of the Dignity and Truth Platform (DA) asked why some media service providers are able to change their name and rebroadcast content from abroad without needing a new license approval. This remark was made in the context of a recent decision to approve the renaming of the Cryptbox radio station to Record. BC representatives replied that the administration of the station did not change their editorial concept, but only the name.
Socialist  deputy Adela Răileanu was interested in actions taken by the authority in the fight against political advertising, and PDM deputy Monica Babuc voiced concerns about the quality of language used in TV shows, which leaves much to be desired. However, compared to the previous report, most of the parliamentarians described the work of the Board as satisfactory.

Prosecutors Resume Criminal Investigation of Former Internal Affairs Official Who Allegedly Assaulted Journalist

Prosecutors recently resumed a criminal investigation into former head of Directorate no. 6 of the National Investigation Inspectorate Anatolie Macovei in a case regarding his alleged assault of journalist Nichita Perestoronin during January 2016 protests. According to an official statement from the Prosecutor General's Office (PGO), the case was resumed after being suspended for four and a half years. Macovei pleads not guilty in this case and states that the investigation was resumed in the context of a February court decision ordering he be reinstated to his position.
Macovei was fired in September 2019 by then-Minister of Internal Affairs Andrei Năstase after he allegedly used his service car for personal purposes and was absent from work without a reason. According to the press service of the Ministry, Macovei has not yet been reinstated as an employee.

Privesc.Eu Becomes a Television Channel

A new television station will appear on the media market in Moldova: Privesc.Eu TV, owned by Navinfo. At its March 16 meeting, the Broadcasting Council (BC) approved its application for a nine-year broadcasting license.
The new station will produce its own content, including in livestream format. The station's representative, Veronica Eșanu, stated that initially it will broadcast shows from its archive, but in the future, it will show live broadcasts of events of public interest from Parliament, Government, weekly City Hall meetings, etc. Cultural and educational shows will be broadcast over the weekend.
This format is not new in Moldova: businessman Dumitru Tira’s R LIVE TV channel has a similar concept, with live broadcasts of several public events in the country.

New Programs on Moldova 1 and Radio Moldova From the TRM Ombudsman

Teleradio-Moldova’s (TRM) Ombudsman's Service will soon launch two programs on the Moldova 1 public TV channel and Radio Moldova. According to TRM Ombudsman Carmelia Albu, these programs will inform citizens about their rights and how the Ombudsman's Service can help them be respected. The format and frequency of the shows have not yet been established, and Albu says she may not be the host of the program. Instead, she wants to involve representatives of civil society and people with experience in the media.
TRM’s Ombudsman's service was established in July 2013 by a decision of the Supervisory Board after several requests from civil society.

Media Monitoring

Moldova Remains a "Partially Free" Democracy: Freedom House Report on Press Freedom in 2020

According to Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2021 report, published in March, Moldova has seen no changes in press freedom in 2020 compared to the previous year, and the most influential television channels continue to be affiliated with political parties. With a score of 61 points out of 100, Moldova remains in the list of "partially free" countries. According to Freedom House experts, the way authorities managed the COVID-19 pandemic affected the freedom of the press in Moldova. One notable incident in this regard was the Broadcasting Council’s abortive attempt to limit journalists’ right to cite unofficial sources during the state of emergency. The press also encountered difficulties in receiving timely responses to requests for information from state institutions due to the extension of the legal deadline for examining these requests. At the same time, Freedom House mentions that in some media institutions there was promotion of hate speech against minorities.
The report does not reflect the situation in the Transnistrian region.

BC Advises Journalists Not to Spread Unfounded Information About COVID-19

The Broadcasting Council (BC) will monitor television and radio stations for fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic. At its March 19 meeting, BC members adopted a decision advising media service providers and online publications not to encourage the dissemination of scientifically unfounded statements on COVID-19, so as not to increase citizens’ insecurity. Also, media service providers are urged to disseminate information taken from official national and international sources to help combat the spread of fake news and prevent public distrust and panic.
BC members claim that they approved the decision after assessing coverage of the fight against the pandemic promoted in the audiovisual environment.

Sanctions for Three Channels Which Did Not Broadcast Required Volume of Local Content

At its March 2 meeting, the Broadcasting Council (BC) fined television stations RTR Moldova and ITV 5,000 lei (250 euros) for their repeated violation of the requirement to broadcast at least 4 hours of local audiovisual programs, including in Romanian and partially in prime-time. Bravo TV received only a warning for violating the same requirement, given it was its first violation. The complaints to the BC came from the Employers' Association of Broadcasters of Moldova. BC monitoring confirmed that Bravo TV produced "0% of local audiovisual programs, including 0% of local programs in Romanian and during prime time." RTR Moldova and ITV broadcast local programs with a duration of less than 4 hours, with less than 80% of programs in Romanian and less than 75% in prime time. The BC members gave the sanctioned channels three months to bring their local broadcasting in compliance with regulations and obliged them to submit monthly reports on measures taken.

DTV and Cinema 1 Publicly Warned About the Lack of Local Programming and Lack of Translation of Films

The Broadcasting Council (BC) members publicly warned the Cinema 1 and DTV television stations for not broadcasting enough local audiovisual programs and failing to translate films. The sanctions were applied following complaints from the Employers' Association of Broadcasters of Moldova and two members of the BC, Corneliu Mihalache and Lidia Viziru. BC monitoring confirmed violations by both TV stations, which are classified as regional private channels and so are required to broadcast at least two hours of local programs daily, at least 80% of which must be in Romanian and 75% of which must be broadcast in prime time. According to the BC, Cinema 1 and DTV television broadcast fewer local programs in prime time than required. At the same time, films broadcast by DTV were not accompanied by subtitles or dubbing in Romanian as required by regulation.

CTC Mega Fined for Broadcasting Cartoons Without Romanian Translation

The BC imposed a 5,000 lei (250 euros) fine on the CTC Mega television station (STS Mega) for not dubbing children's films into Romanian. The Broadcasting Council was notified of this violation by lawyer Alina Palii. Following its monitoring, the Council confirmed the violations, noting that the station broadcast cartoons with Romanian subtitles, while regulations require media service providers to dub children's films into Romanian, not just subtitle them. As a result, the channel was fined 5,000 lei (250 euros) because it is was not its first violation. In her complaint, Palii also requested the BC monitor the Primul in Moldova and Canal 3 channels, which she claims are guilty of similar violations.

Media Legislation

SCJ Upholds Broadcasting Council Sanction Against Prime TV, Applied for Violation of Children's Rights in the Show Vorbeste Moldova

In a March 26 decision, the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) rejected an appeal filed by General Media Group (GMG), owner of the Prime TV channel, against a fine imposed by the Broadcasting Council (BC) for broadcasting an episode of Vorbeste Moldova (Speak Moldova) about a teenager who was sexually abused by her stepfather. The 10,000 lei (500 euros) fine targets the "I love you, father" episode of the show, aired on April 15 and 16 of 2019. Before the BC imposed the fine, two other institutions, the Press Council and the Children’s Ombudsman, drew attention to serious violations of children's rights in the show. GMG representatives filed a suit against the BC’s decision, but it was rejected by the first court (Chisinau court, Rascani headquarters), by the Chisinau Court of Appeal, and finally, by the Supreme Court of Justice.

NCPPD Rules in Favor of SP Balti After a Lawyer Accused It of Violating the Right to Privacy

The National Center for the Protection of Personal Data (NCPPD) concluded that SP Balti journalists did not violate the law in their article about a driver who was driving illegally in Balti. NCPPD was notified by the police based on complaints filed by lawyer Catalina Galusca, who owns the car shown in a video of the incident published alongside the article.
Following the publication of the article in mid-January, Galusca threatened to sue the media institution on the grounds that they had violated laws on the protection of personal data. In a March 3 decision, NCPPD rebuffed this accusation: "the public interest in knowing the identity of the driver who, apparently, violated public order, prevails over his intention / desire to remain anonymous." We remind you that several media NGOs also condemned Galusca’s behavior towards the SP editorial office and its journalists.

The Media Azi Show

In March 2020, journalists were forced to "move" their newsrooms home or reorganize their work in shifts. Some of them continued to take risks by working in the field, informing the public about the situation in hospitals, covering protests, or following the presidential elections. Others have stepped up their efforts to obtain information from public authorities, given that press conferences have been suspended during the state of emergency and the deadline for responding to requests for information was tripled.
Journalists and managers from several media institutions talk about the problems they faced during the pandemic in the Media Azi show.

IJC Updates

Tulip Press Awards: A Competition to Support Journalists Who Write About Human Rights

In the context of the Freedom Press Days, traditionally marked in May, the  Independent Journalism Center and the Office of the Embassy of the Netherlands launched the Tulip Press Awards, which celebrate journalists' efforts to explore human rights issues.
The contest aims to encourage journalists and photojournalists to address human rights-related topics in order to raise public awareness on human rights issues in Moldova. The contest includes two sections: Photography and Online or Written press. Both photographs and written materials must be taken and published between April 1-15, 2021. Details about the rules of the competition, including eligibility for participation and the criteria for judging entries, can be found here.

IJC and Internews Updates

Teachers and students benefited from media education training

In March, the Independent Journalism Center and Internews Moldova held five online meetings with teachers and students from Russian schools, with the aim of promoting the elective Media Education course in schools across the country. The trainings were organized as part of the "Increasing support for independent Russian-language media institutions and for efforts in the field of media education" project, financially supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

March 5-7: Trainings for Teachers in the North of the Country

This online event was attended by 14 high school teachers from the northern districts of Moldova. At the beginning of the training, Internews representative Oxana Iutes congratulated the teachers for enrolling in the training program: "For four years now we have been working with the IJC to develop the critical analysis skills of citizens and, in particular, of students. Our goal is to make sure that young people can distinguish between truthful news and misinformation and surf the Internet safely.”  IJC deputy director Anastasia Nani discussed the organization's support for teachers, noting that the IJC has developed curricula and textbooks for all three levels of education, all of which have been translated into Russian and are accessible in electronic format. The training was run by Natalia Griu, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, and Dumitru Stoianov, journalist and fact checker.

March 17: Media Education Lesson for Students from Ungheni and Basarabeasca Districts

A group of 20 7th and 8th-graders from Alexandr Pushkin High School in Basarabeasca and 10 7th-graders from Alexandr Pushkin Theoretical High School in Ungheni learned about the elective Media Education course. The moderator of the lesson, journalist Dumitru Stoianov, described the concept of the new elective course, arguing that it is one of the disciplines that prepare young people for tomorrow. Victoria Tataru, assistant in the IJC Training and Assistance for the Media program, explained that acquiring media knowledge will help students better master the flow of information which they are in constant contact with. For more useful information, Tataru advised young people to access the Media Education online platform.

March 19: Online Lesson at Gavril Gaidarji Theoretical High School in Comrat

In September 2020, Gavril Gaidarji Theoretical High School in Comrat first opened its doors to the Media Education elective course. The "B" class of 11th grade students were the first to accept the challenge of studying the elective course. The students of the “A” class 11th grade were also interested in the new elective, but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and their tight school curriculum, they were forced to give it up. However, none of them missed the opportunity to listen to an online media education lesson organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), which was attended by 50 students from the two classes. The lesson, moderated by journalist Dumitru Stoianov and IJC representative Victoria Tataru, included interactive elements, a question and answer session, and practical advice.

March 25: Public lesson at Alexandr Pushkin High School in Ungheni

In addition to traditional subjects taught today, schools should teach students skills that will help them think critically. This idea was underlined in a media education lesson held at  Alexandr Pushkin Theoretical High School in Ungheni, which was attended by 17 11th-graders and 19 12th-graders. Journalist Dumitru Stoianov and IJC representative Victoria Tataru explained the concept of the Media Education course and what students should do to become conscious and responsible media consumers: "Do you want to know what kind of media consumers you are? What arguments are there for choosing the optional Media Education course in your school? How can you test your digital knowledge? What do you know about media education and how the press works? The answer to all these questions can be found on the Media Education platform, which is at your disposal."

March 26-28: Training for a new group of teachers from the south of the country

This event was attended by 17 high school teachers from the south of the country who teach in Russian-language schools. At the beginning of the training, IJC program manager Mariana Tabuncic explained the importance of media education for the development of a society that thinks critically. Internews representative Oxana Iutes elaborated that “media education is a discipline that helps us ask questions and find answers, to be informed without being manipulated. Media education is also about our responsibility to feel safe in the online space.” The participants learned new media skills with the help of trainers Natalia Griu, one of the authors of the Media Education textbooks, and Dumitru Stoianov, journalist and fact checker.

"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.

Freedom House Updates

Freedom House Opens Call for Applications for Media Grants

Freedom House invites applications for up to $12,000 in funding from independent media outlets based in Moldova that seek to raise awareness among the public about democratic reform, government accountability, and threats to fundamental freedoms in Moldova. Two (2) grants for media outlets with distinct objectives are available. Applicants are encouraged to apply for one or both of the opportunities based on their interest; however, a separate and full application must be submitted for each grant opportunity.

Further details about the grant requirements and submission criteria are available on Freedom House’s website. Applications must be received by Freedom House by 23:59 EST on April 26, 2021

Lawyers for Human Rights Launches Campaign to Promote

Freedom House partner Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) launched a new advocacy campaign in partnership with several Moldovan news outlets and local government organizations to improve citizens’ access to information. The campaign promotes LHR’s platform, which helps journalists and citizens request information from government bodies. Using a simple form, citizens can use the platform to send a request to local and central authorities and get a response in 15 days. As part of the awareness campaign, several local public administrative bodies and media outlets, including, and, featured the platform’s promotional banner and instructions on its use on their websites. In addition, several outlets published articles highlighting how helped their journalists successfully gain information for their investigations: used the platform to gain information from the police about towing illegally parked cars in Chisinau, while journalists used it to gather information for their investigation on the dangerous placement of electrical wiring in Taraclia.

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