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October 2020

Monthly Bulletin, October 2020

Media News

Public Alert: Civil Society Asks Authorities to Stop Attacking It

Moldovan civil society, represented by the National Platform of Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership as well as other organizations, expressed its concern about “unprecedented” attacks against nongovernmental organizations, development partners, and democracy, launched by Socialist MP Bogdan Tirdea in his new book, “Civil Society of the Republic of Moldova: Sponsors of NGOs, Cultural Wars.” In a statement made on Friday, October 23, dozens of nongovernmental organizations described Tirdea’s statements as “the roughest, most complex frontal attack ever launched by a Moldovan politician against the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, the fundamental rights and freedoms of the country’s citizens, and the modernization of our state according to the European model.” According to the signatories, Tirdea’s attack replicates techniques of misinforming and discrediting opponents used by totalitarian regimes, such as portraying opponents as the enemy of the people, cultivating fear, mistrust and hate against civil society, and describing development partners in the EU and elsewhere supporting democratization in Moldova as compromised. The authors of the statement requested Parliament, the Government, President Dodon, PSRM, and other politicians distance themselves from Tirdea and denounce his manipulative arguments. “Given that Igor Dodon promoted the launch of the so-called book of Bogdan Tirdea, a clarification of his position is even more necessary,” says the declaration. Also, they requested the political class stop attacking and defaming civil society, and called on Tirdea to stop his defamation campaign and to recall the so-called book from the market. At the same time, the statement asked the media to attentively check on the declarations of politicians who attack civil society, particularly during the electoral campaign. “Once the freedom of association is limited by politicians who claim to defend the national interest and the state, all other freedoms are in danger, including freedom of the media,” warn the signatories of the statement. Amnesty International Moldova, Human Rights Embassy, RISE Moldova, Independent Journalism Center and the Center for Investigative Journalism are among the 92 member organizations of the National Platform of Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership which signed the declaration.

The Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections and Media NGOs Demand the Broadcasting Council Be Objective and Transparent

The Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections and nine media organizations – including the Independent Journalism Center, Association of Independent Press, APEL, Center for Investigative Journalism, Committee for Freedom of Press and others – signed a joint statement demanding the Broadcasting Council (BC) obey the law while carrying out its duties as a guarantor of the public interest. This happened after the Council stated in its first election campaign TV monitoring report (from October 2-15) that some channels obviously favored certain election candidates and political parties and that legal provisions were obviously violated. Despite this, the Council failed to punish the respective TV channels as required by law. BC chairperson Dragos Vicol called the violations “within range” and suggested that all monitored broadcasters, including the ones that deviated seriously from the law, only be warned. The signatories of the joint statement demanded the BC objectively and transparently honor their duties of supervision and control of media service providers, so that they would cover the election campaign in a balanced, fair and unbiased manner.

The Constitutional Court Allowed the Media Outlets Founded by NGOs to Provide Paid Services to Electoral Candidates

The Constitutional Court (CC) partially accepted the complaint submitted by PAS MP Segiu Litvinenco, who requested the Court strike down provisions from the new Law on Non-Commercial Organizations which prohibited media outlets founded by NGOs from providing services to electoral candidates during the campaign and receive revenues from electoral advertising. In response, the CC requested Parliament amend Article 6(5) of the Law, meaning that NGOs will be able to provide paid services to candidates, but will still be prohibited from providing free services.

In his complaint, submitted on July 31, Litvinenco called the provision discriminatory and an unconstitutional violation of the right to property and free and fair competition. The MP drew the CC’s attention to the fact that the provision could have a massive impact on independent media outlets (including national and local newspapers, television, periodicals and other media) registered as non-commercial organizations.

Media Education Week Took Place in Moldova

From October 19-25, the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) launched the third Media Education Week in Moldova, during which it organized various events. At the beginning of the week, the IJC presented the results of four years of the Media Education elective course: this academic year, about 2,500 students took the course. The elective course is taught at all three stages of school education – primary, secondary and high.
On October 21, 2020, an online meeting was held with teachers who teach Media Education to share their experiences. On October 22, the IJC announced the results of the first stage of the “Education for Media – A Priority in My School” contest. Also on October 22, students of the Technical University of Moldova attended an online workshop on media education with journalist Diana Raileanu, entitled “For Healthy Thinking, Consume Daily News From at Least Two Media Outlets.” The activity was organised under the EU project “Strategic Communication and Support for the Media in Moldova.” Also, the IJC announced two new contests for students – a poster and picture contest for primary school students on the topic “Me in Media World,” and a video contest for secondary schoolers on the topic “Misinformation During the Pandemic.”
Media Education Week was organised by the IJC under the “Strengthening Media Education Skills in the Republic of Moldova” project, implemented with the support of Deutsche Welle Akademie and funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ).

The Journalists' Crisis Cell Asked the Ministry of Health to Resume Online Press Conferences

A group of 15 of media outlets which are part of the Journalists’ Crisis Cell, set up by the Independent Journalism Center in order to promote transparency and access to information during the pandemic, called on the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection (MHLSP) to resume its weekly press conferences, which it stopped at the beginning of September. The MHLSP publicly committed to organising weekly online briefings in April this year, following the call launched by the Journalists’ Crisis Cell. However, since September 2, the Ministry has not organised these conferences, thus significantly limiting journalists’ opportunities to ask questions about issues of major interest to society. The signatories of the statement reminded MHLSP officials that, given the worsening of the epidemiological crisis, the delivery of correct, comprehensive and prompt information to people should be a top priority, including by organising press conferences. “We express the hope that the information provided during press conferences will serve citizens’ interests and will help minimize the impact of COVID-19 crisis,” the document states. The Independent Journalism Center, Association of Independent Press, Association of Electronic Press, Center for Investigative Journalism, and Press Freedom Committee are among the signatories.

iData Electoral Barometer: During the Election Campaign, TV Channels Are ‘Partially or Not at All Objective’

Most television broadcasters covering the autumn election campaign are either partially objective or not at all objective – this according to 22 experts interviewed by the Intelligent Data (iData) Company for the October issue of its 2020 Electoral Barometer, published on October 26. In the opinion of the experts, the most independent TV channels are TVR Moldova, Pro TV Chisinau and TVC 21, while the most viewed channels are TV8, Accent TV, NTV Moldova, RTR Moldova, Televiziunea Centrala, Pro TV Chisinau, and Orhei TV. iData representative Veronica Ates explained that every month, the company’s sociologists ask a group of experts questions on current social and political topics to create the Barometer. She admitted that experts’ answers may be influenced by their political affiliation, but she still argued that “for most questions, answers have not been biased.”

Media Legislation

The Broadcasting Council Developed a Draft Law on Harmonizing the Legal Framework on Multiplex

The Broadcasting Council (BC) wants to obtain the right to issue digital broadcasting licences to media service providers for a period of five years instead of the current nine. On October 1, the BC members approved a draft law that is to be sent to the specialized Parliamentary Committee to be promoted and approved by  Parliament.
The document would amend the Audiovisual Media Services Code to introduce the terms “multiplex authorisation” and “permit for using the multiplex slot,” and proposes that permits for the use of multiplex slots be issued by the BC. At the same time, the BC proposes that media service providers which own a multiplex slot be barred from participating in a contest to obtain another slot for the same TV or radio channel. Also, Council members want the right to provide permits for providers to manage their own electronic communication network to transmit digital signals. Currently, the digital multiplex is run by the Radiocomunicatii state enterprise.

Media Monitoring

IJC Launched the Media Radar App, which Assesses the Credibility of News Portals

Since October 22, media consumers can find out the level of credibility of news websites in Moldova with the help of Media Radar, a new product launched under the “Strategic Communication and Support for the Media in Moldova” project, with the financial support of the European Union.
The application informs users of the credibility level of various media outlets’ websites, assessed on the basis of several criteria set out in the IJC’s monitoring methodology - from the quality of journalistic materials to the presence of contact data and an editorial policy. Depending on its scores, each site is rated as either credible, less credible, or not credible at all. News sites will be systematically reassessed based on their progress or backsliding. With the help of this product, the IJC intends to help media consumers easily navigate information and news that is provided by a wide variety of online media resources. Currently, the application provides scores for 35 media outlets, monitored with the financial support of the Embassy of the United States, under the project “Monitoring Social Media in Elections.” The Media Radar app is available in Romanian and Russian and can be downloaded from Google Play or the App Store.

IJC Report: Facebook Used By Media Outlets as a Platform to Promote Electoral Candidates

According to a study published by the Independent Journalism Center, which analysed the official pages of five editorial offices from September 21-27, media outlets often use Facebook to cover the campaign for the November 1 presidential elections. The pages of various journalists that work for these outlets showed intense activity on social media on the eve of the elections. The highest number of posts related to elections during the monitoring period were posted by Primul in Moldova and NTV Moldova TV channels, both affiliated with the Socialist Party – making up about 60% of the total number of posts of those two media outlets on Facebook. All of these posts massively favour President Dodon. According to the study, both Primul in Moldova and NTV seriously breached the provisions of the Article 1,6 of the Journalist’s Code of Ethics by producing political propaganda for Dodon and for PSRM representatives.
Following up on a pilot study launched this spring, this study analysed 1,856 posts from the Facebook pages of NTV Moldova, Primul in Moldova, Jurnal TV,,, as well as 15 journalists that work in these outlets.
The report was conducted under the “Monitoring Social Media in Elections” project, implemented by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) and financed by the U.S. Department of State.

The Broadcasting Council on the Behavior of TV Channels during the Electoral Campaign: “It was a calm period, within the limits of normality”

During its October 22 public meeting, the Broadcasting Council (BC) released a report on its monitoring of TV channels and radio stations’ coverage of the electoral campaign for the November 1 presidential elections from October 2-15. With few exceptions, the members of the BC were satisfied with the way TV channels and radio stations informed their viewers.  According to BC president Dragos Vicol, their behavior this period matches the “limits of normality,” and the parameters of the Audiovisual Media Services Code and  the Regulation on Media Coverage of the Electoral Campaign. “I would suggest we decide, by consensus, to warn TV channels that deviated from the legal framework on the coverage of the electoral campaign and to insist that such errors are avoided in the future,” proposed Dragos Vicol, a proposal which was supported by his colleagues.
During the electoral campaign for the November 1 presidential elections, the BC committed to monitoring the main newscasts of 15 television and radio broadcasters: Moldova 1, Publika TV, Prime TV, Primul în Moldova, TVR Moldova, Canal 2, Canal 3, TV8, NTV Moldova, Jurnal TV, Radio Moldova, Pro TV Chișinău, BTV, RTR Moldova and Central Television.

Representatives of Media NGOs Claim that the BC Showed “Unprecedented Indulgence” in Monitoring TV Channels

Representatives of media NGOs were skeptical about the claim that the activity of media service providers during the electoral campaign matches the “limits of normality,” as argued by members of the Broadcasting Council (BC) during their October 22 meeting. Nadine Gogu, Executive Director of the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), found “an unprecedented precaution and indulgence” from the BC. “The decision to verbally warn all the monitored channels, regardless the violations they admitted, shows once more that the members of this institution, which is supposed to defend the public interest, either do not understand what is their mandate about, or they act in bad faith,” argued Gogu. By this decision, in her opinion, the BC “ignored” legal requirements concerning the fair and balanced coverage of candidates in the media. “Both our monitoring reports (123), and the monitoring of the BC clearly shows that certain channels adopted an editorial policy that obviously favours certain contenders though massive air time offered and a positive tone and disadvantages others, by limiting their access,” said the Executive Director. APEL Executive Director Ion Bunduchi believes that “the BC should encourage those who observe the law and discourage those who violate the law. A simple warning, even a public one, is less likely to kill the appetite of certain providers to provide sympathy for one candidate or another.”.

TV8 Fined Seven Thousand MDL for the Lack of Impartiality and Balance of Opinions during Politica Nataliei Morari Talk Show. Chisinau Court of Appeal annulled the BC decision

The Broadcasting Council (BC) decided during its October 26 meeting to fine TV8 MDL 7,000 for failing to ensure impartiality and balance of opinions during an edition of  the Politica Nataliei Morari talk show, and for expressing the moderator’s own point of view. The fine was applied after the BC received a notification from the Center for the Protection of Journalists' Rights.
According to the Center, one of the show’s guests, lawyer Stefan Gligor, spoke about the possibility of the November 1 elections being rigged. In the petitioner’s opinion, Gligor’s statements “do not represent a political expert analysis, but direct accusations that should be investigated by criminal prosecution bodies.” BC member Lidia Viziru, proposed to sanction the TV channel with a MDL 7,000 fine because previously, the Council had applied a similar fine to another TV channel for a similar violation. Her proposal was supported by 7 out of the 9 BC members. Corneliu Mihalache and Larisa Manole opposed the proposal. “I don’t agree with the fact that the talk show failed to ensure balance and impartiality. Three experts with absolutely different views attended the talk show,” argued Manole. TV8 representatives invoked freedom of expression, claiming that all experts in the studio expressed their opinion about attempts to rig the elections and that the talk show host intervened only to give the right to reply and ensure a balanced discussion. TV8’s management announced that they will challenge the BC’s decision in court, as “an intimidation of journalists and an attack on freedom of expression.” On October 31, Chisinau Court of Appeal annulled the BC decision, writes tv8 md.

Jurnal TV Was Publicly Warned by the BC for Not Giving the Right to Reply After Broadcasting a Press Conference by Candidate Renato Usatii

The Broadcasting Council (BC) publicly warned the TV channel Jurnal TV for not ensuring the right to reply of those targeted during a press conference held by the leader of ‘Partidul Nostru,’ Renato Usatii. The sanction was applied following a complaint by the head of Balti Police Inspectorate, Valeriu Cojocaru, who complained to the BC about defamation and asked it to sanction TVC 21, BTV, and Jurnal TV, all of which broadcast the conference live. Representatives of TVC 21 and BTV informed the BC that they gave Valeriu Cojocaru the right to reply, while Jurnal TV’s management rejected the police officer’s request on the grounds that the channel is not responsible for Usatii’s statements, as they were made during a live broadcasting and the channel could not intervene. “The event organised by politician Renato Usatii was neither organised, nor moderated by our channel, it just was covered and live streamed,” stated Jurnal TV in the explanation submitted to the BC. The arguments of the channel did not persuade Council members, who decided to sanction Jurnal TV with a public warning. BC member Lidia Viziru drew the attention to the fact that “a media service provider is accountable for the media content broadcast by the TV channel.”

Internews Updates 

According to IJC Monitoring Reports, Certain TV Channels Massively Favor President Dodon

Between September 14 and November 1, the Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) monitored the behavior of ten broadcasters: Moldova 1, Prime TV, Publika TV, Jurnal TV, NTV Moldova, Primul in Moldova, Accent TV, Pro TV, TV8 and Central Television. In its monitoring, the IJC found various ethical and legal violations such as political partisanship, failure to give the right to reply to candidates it covered negatively, massively promoting one candidate, and so on.
According to the first monitoring report, produced from September 14-28, four out of 10 TV channels favored President Igor Dodon, who benefited from disproportionately positive coverage both from channels affiliated with PSRM – Primul in Moldova, NTV Moldova, Accent TV – and from Moldova 1 Public TV Channel. Televiziunea Centrala presented the ‘Sor’ Party and its candidate, Violeta Ivanov, in a mainly positive light, with the other candidates and parties being presented more neutrally. Prime TV and Publika TV presented the candidates and parties relatively neutrally, except for the ‘Sor’ Party, which benefited from a large amount of positive coverage on Prime TV. Jurnal TV, Pro TV and TV8 had relatively balanced coverage.
According to the IJC reports, similar deviations from ethical norms and legal provisions continued throughout the election campaign. The second report notes massively disproportionately favorable coverage of President Dodon from the three PSRM-affiliated TV channels, and a slight edge on Moldova 1 Public TV channel, including through positive coverage of Dodon on government-related news. Notably, during this period, Moldova 1, which offered air time in newscasts to all candidates, aired the most news items featuring or mentioning President Dodon. The third report also points out direct support for President Dodon by the TV channels Primul in Moldova, NTV Moldova and Accent TV.  The fourth report, released on October 26, confirms the same trends.
The IJC recommended the Broadcasting Council take action and use their monitoring reports to assess whether the monitored TV channels fulfilled their obligation to provide complete, objective and truthful information.
The monitoring reports were prepared by the IJC as part of the “Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova” (MEDIA-M) project, implemented by Internews in Moldova with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UK Aid.

Teachers from the South Learned How to Teach Media Education

A new group of 15 Russian-speaking teachers from the southern districts of Moldova were trained by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) in effectively teaching the Media Education elective course. The training took place online from October 16-18, and were run by Natalia Griu, one of the authors of the Media Education course textbook, and Dumitru Stoianov, journalist and fact-checker. Internews representative Oxana Iuteş, who also participated in the training, spoke to the audience about the role teachers play in shaping students’ personality so that they can think critically and make independent decisions. “It is very important for a person to make his/her own decisions, to avoid being manipulated and be a decent citizen of the society in which he lives,” said Iutes. Guided by the two trainers, the participants used a series of interactive tools to familiarize themselves with the content of the textbook and to put it to good use during their lessons.

Journalists and Lawyers Participate in a Joint Training

On October 2 and 3, ten journalists and sixteen lawyers participated in a joint training on access to information and personal data protection, organised by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) and the Legal Resources Centre of Moldova (LRCM). The three trainers – Eugeniu Ribca, lawyer and expert in media legislation, Bogdan Manolea, executive director of the Association for Technology and Internet in Romania, and Vasili Ciuperca, lawyer, worked with the participants to analyze ways of exercising the right of access to information of public interest, as well as rules and exceptions related to personal data protection.
The lawyers, selected by the LRCM through a contest, had the opportunity to consolidate their knowledge on media legislation, and the journalists, enrolled by the IJC, learned how to capitalize on and defend the rights and freedoms inherent to their profession. The training also facilitated the creation of bridges for future partnerships between the two groups.
The event was held by the IJC as part of the “Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova” (MEDIA-M) project, implemented by Internews in Moldova, funded by USAID and UK Aid; and by LRCM under the project “Institutional support for organisational development,” funded by Sweden.

Freedom House Updates

Media Policy Forum to Take Place in November

On November 24, 2020, Freedom House will hold the third annual Media Policy Forum as part of the two-day Mass Media Forum organized by API and the Press Council. This year’s forum will take the form of a virtual media policy roundtable on the topic “A Chokehold on Media Freedom: Navigating Law and Policy Restrictions under Pandemic Conditions.” At the roundtable, participants will highlight the impact of COVID-19 on media freedom across the Europe and Eurasia region and draw lessons for the Moldovan context. Participants from Moldova, Latvia and Ukraine will share perspectives from civil society, media and policy-making spheres, and will aim to identify policy solutions that maintain respect for international standards on free expression while addressing security and health concerns posed by the global pandemic. The full event agenda and registration details are available here.

Freedom House Publishes New Policy Brief on Privacy and Access to Information

Freedom House published a new policy brief in its Media Forward brief series. In the brief, titled “Privacy and Freedom of Expression in Moldova: A Dangerous Imbalance for Journalists,” expert Patricia Zghibarta analyses how the Moldovan state systematically prioritizes privacy and data protection laws, creating burdensome legal and administrative obstacles for journalists to access information of public interest. Zghibarta will present the findings of her research at a public webinar in early December – check the Freedom House website in the coming weeks for more details on the event.

Cu Sens Publishes Video Investigations on Closed Vorniceni Hospital, Medical Malpractice

On October 11, Freedom House’s partner Cu Sens published a highly-popular video investigation revealing the existence of a hospital in the Western Moldovan village of Vorniceni that stands closed despite severe nation-wide medical shortages under COVID-19. The hospital was recently renovated and is fully equipped with beds and supplies for up to 240 patients, yet is unable to operate due to legal technicalities. A follow up explainer video was published on October 14 that provides an overview of the public procurement process and how it can be manipulated by officials against the public good.
On October 15, Freedom House’s partner Cu Sens published their final video investigation, highlighting the high prevalence and human cost of medical malpractice in Moldova. The video features several victims of malpractice who have struggled to find remedy in Moldova’s justice system. An explainer video was published on the same day, overviewing the legal regulations around medical malpractice in Moldova and highlighting how the current framework is ineffective in holding perpetrators accountable.

Piligrim Demo Press Club on biases on Gagauz Media

On October 22, Freedom House partner Piligrim Demo held a press club in Comrat to discuss the results of its monitoring report published in September that identified reporting biases in prominent Gagauz media outlets. The event brought together representatives of local government and the media community, including Ekaterina Zhekova, Deputy of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia. At the event, Zhekova expressed her concern that major Gagauz media outlets, including public broadcasters, do not cover important topics relevant to citizens. Piligrim Demo also unpacked the report findings in a longread published on its platform.

The Media Azi Show

Access to information and documents held by authorities could be made simpler by the Council of Europe’s Convention on Access to Official Documents, which is due to enter into force in December 2020. Moldova ratified the act in 2013. Journalist Anastasia Nani and lawyer and media legislation expert Eugeniu Ribca discuss the importance of this act on the Media Azi Show.

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