Journalist Natalia Morari has announced on her Facebook page that she is "temporarily" resigning from the TV8 management board following reports of her alleged blackmail by the Intelligence and Security Service (ISS). The journalist claimed that the alleged coercion came in response to reports that businessman Veaceslav Platon is the father of her child. The ISS has taken action in relation to these public statements and considered it appropriate "to refer the journalist to the Prosecutor General's Office to initiate a criminal case." At a September 7 joint meeting of the Association of Alternative Media’s members and TV8’s Board of Directors, Igor Botan was elected President of the Association,, which holds the broadcasting license for TV8. On the same day, Natalia Morari resigned as president of the Association and withdrew her membership on the Board of Media Alternativa, while the channel's administration announced the permanent removal of the show "Natalia Morari's Politics" from the channel's broadcasting schedule for ethical reasons. On September 9, Radio Free Europe Moldova, where Natalia Morari presented a monthly Russian-language talk show, also announced the temporary suspension of the talk show.
Three non-governmental media organizations – the Independent Journalism Center, the Electronic Press Association, and the Media Guard Association – expressed their regret and concern over the statement made by Natalia Morari, the TV8 journalist who acknowledged she had had a personal relationship with Veaceslav Platon, a businessman previously sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment for bank fraud and subsequently acquitted after the retrial. Currently, Veaceslav Platon is on the international wanted list for detention; he is accused of “active corruption” and “deceitful practices.”
“We believe that Natalia Morari’s relationship with Veaceslav Platon could shatter media consumers’ confidence in a free and independent press”, stated the signatories. They also reminded that according to the Code of Ethics, journalists and media institutions have to be aware of the fact that “society’s trust in journalists is the utmost value of their profession”.
Non-governmental media organizations are concerned because of defamatory speculations being spread in the public space against the TV8 channel’s team and hate speech aimed at the media outlet’s journalists and other media professionals in Moldova.
Following a conflict of interest claimed by Natalia Morari, ex-member of Media Alternativa NGO’s Management Board and founder of TV8, as well as some of her Facebook posts which have been fully and categorically disclaimed by TV8, the TV channel’s team became subject to defamatory messages, especially in the online environment. Some social network users, as well as former and current politicians, threw defamatory accusations at all the TV channel’s journalists and at other media outlets as well, resorting to non-evidential speculations, injuries and statements affecting honor, dignity and professional reputation.
Signatory organizations - Independent Journalism Center, Association of Independent Press, Association of Electronic Press, Media Guard Association - sent a message of solidarity with all national journalists who preserve the values of professional ethics and follow the Journalistic Deontology Code of Moldova. They also urged social network users and media consumers to maintain a civilized language in relation to journalists and to learn to make a difference between honest journalists whose work is to properly inform the public and reveal corruption schemes and those who support specific interests on the pretense of journalism.
The Electronic Press Association, the Center for Independent Journalism, the Center "Access-Info," and the Media Guard Association have expressed their disagreement with and concern over the amendments made to the Code of Audiovisual Media Services by the Parliament at the September 23 plenary session. The amendments provide, among other things, for the individual or collective dismissal of the members of the Broadcasting Council (BC) if "defective" management or improper fulfillment of the BC member(s)’ duties is established.
In a joint statement, the signatory organizations consider that the new changes to the law "make this institution dependent on political will and may lead the members of the BC to take decisions to please those in power." According to them, the reduced efficiency of the audiovisual authority can be traced to the appointment of its members on political criteria in sham competitions and the lack of proper parliamentary oversight over the fulfillment of the body’s legal obligations. Media organizations say they are willing to contribute to long-awaited changes in the media "on the basis of cooperation guided by democratic values and rules".
Teleradio-Moldova (TRM) employees are dissatisfied with the salaries they receive in comparison to those paid out by other companies and consider the institution to be "obsolete," according to data from the TRM 2021 Employee Satisfaction Barometer conducted in late July.
More than 140 TRM employees provided responses on company policies, satisfaction with working conditions, compensation, benefits, personal development, organizational culture, and more. The lowest employee satisfaction score for salary was tied to the statement "I am paid better compared to people at other companies in similar positions" (1.9 out of a possible maximum of 6 points, where 6 means strongly agree and 1 strongly disagree). When asked why they would not recommend a friend to join TRM, employees mentioned low salary most often (126), as well as lack of growth opportunities (63) and outdated technology (52). The survey, which was carried out at the request of TRM's management by human resources management expert Marina Covalciuc, cost 10,000 lei (500 Euros). Supervisory Council member Daniela Mitelea presided over this initiative.
Media representatives continue to face difficulties in accessing public information about companies registered in Moldova and other data of public interest on government platforms. The topic was discussed at a press club organized by the Electronic Government Agency (AGE) on September 14.
At the press club, journalists highlighted several problems, including the lack of updates to public institutions' websites over the last 3-4 months and the refusal of officials to provide journalists with the requested information under the pretext of personal data protection.
Deputy Prime Minister for Digitization Iurie Turcanu acknowledged that Moldova's information systems do not always operate according to the required protocols and that the authorities are discussing a new IT governance model in terms of sustainability and quality of services provided, including government websites. According to him, such a system will be devised within 6-9 months. AGE Director Olga Tumuruc mentioned a draft law – that has not been promoted by Parliament – on facilitating journalists' access to a range of information in official registers. She urged the press to prioritize coming up with proposals on which data they would like to access
A study entitled "Three decades later: Media in South-East Europe after 1989," which examines the evolution of the media sector in the region over the past three decades, finds that the Moldovan press has been influenced by political factors during this period. "Politicians, who had not prioritized the development of sustainable and visionary policies for the development of the media system in a democracy, quickly took control of the press - first by publishing their own newspapers and later by politicizing print, broadcast and even online media," says media researcher Aneta Gonta. She also notes the chaotic evolution of the field, which has largely been dependent either on politicians' investments or external grants, and states that the transition of state media providers to public institutions has proved difficult and remains incomplete. "Public broadcasters remain deeply dependent on and influenced by the political system and act mainly as mouthpieces for the authorities involved in appointing managers and members of supervisory bodies," the study added.
The paper, published by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, documents historical developments and the current situation of the media in ten South-East European countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Moldova, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia.
Knowledge of the provisions of national and European Union legislation, as well as the ability to clearly and logically communicate in Romanian are among the skills that will be assessed in the competition for membership in the Broadcasting Council (BC). The requirements are set out in the rules approved by the Parliamentary Committee on the Media on September 8. The document also provides for the publication of filmed interviews with candidates on Parliament's website. At the same time, The Parliamentary Committee on Culture, Education, Research, Youth, Sport and Media said that the competition to fill three vacancies for BC members - one from the government and two from civil society - is also under way. According to the document, candidates will have an equal amount of time to introduce themselves at the beginning of the interviews, after which Committee members will ask questions to the interviewee. The regulation prohibits asking questions about the candidate's political affiliation, religion, ethnicity, nationality, social origin, or other questions that could be considered discriminatory.
The leadership of the Ministry of Justice is currently analyzing the initiative to make the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) responsible for the media sector – a policy previously proposed for public consultation. According to Justice Minister Sergiu Litvinenco, the decision to assign responsibility for media policies to a particular ministry also implies the need to ensure the implementation of these policies and to assist the ministry with human resources. "At this stage we are analyzing what are the benefits versus the risks of such an initiative, because it is very simple to establish the duties of a ministry, to promote policies in a certain area and you can tick on paper that you have solved a problem. However, it is more complicated to ensure that this policy is implemented in the form in which it is approved," said Litvinenco. The proposal for the MoJ to be the institution responsible for promoting state policy related to audiovisual media services and the press was introduced public consultation in May 2021. The MoJ included this initiative in a draft government decision it drafted.
At least two media outlets - the Lisa.md portal and the TV8 channel - have announced in recent days that their accounts on Youtube (where they publish their broadcasts) have been suspended or blocked. Journalist Lilia Burakovski, the author of the talk-show "The Land of Freedom with Lilia Burakovski" ("Территория свободы с Лилией Бураковски"), reported on September 16 that she had been informed that the Lisa News channel on Youtube had been blocked in connection with complaints from Internet users. She noted that there had previously been two attempts to block the activity of the Lisa.md website, as well as attempts to block the show's personal account and official Facebook page.
Recently, the TV8 administration also announced the blocking of the TV8 News channel on which the outlet publishes live broadcasts and journalists' reports. TV8 representatives have called on the police and law enforcement officials to launch an investigation to establish under what conditions the channel was blocked and who is responsible for the blocking.
NTV journalist Elena Lewicka-Pahomova plans to launch a new TV station called 3.14 TV. The BC granted her a nine-year broadcasting license at its meeting on September 23. The station will be broadcast on the networks of news service distributors. 3.14 TV belongs to Constanta Media, which was registered on August 2, 2021. The director of the company is Elena Lewicka-Pahomova. She is also the president of the Public Association Media Content, which also founded Constanta Media. AO Media Content was registered a month earlier on July 8. At the board meeting, the journalist noted that the founders of the station "are media professionals with 10-20 years of experience." She added, "Why is our station called 3.14 TV? Because it's a mathematical constant. We want there to be some stability in our market..."
Currently, Pahomova is the moderator of the show Action Mechanism (Механизм Действия) on NTV, a TV station owned by socialist MP Corneliu Furculita. Previously, she worked at ORT Moldova, TV7, NIT, Publika TV, RTR Moldova and held senior positions at Pervii Pridnestrovskii TV in Tiraspol. During Igor Dodon's tenure as head of state, she headed the media commission of the Civil Society Council, which worked under the Presidency.
Parliamentarians could adopt a new advertising law by the end of this year's autumn session. Dumitru Alaiba, chairman of the legislature's Economy, Buget and Finance Committee, made this statement during September 28 public hearings on the draft law.
The hearings were held after the Committee rejected an earlier draft law on advertising, which was based on the input of experts from the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) and was approved in its first reading in October 2018. At the parliamentary session, media expert Eugeniu Rîbca, one of the authors of the document, noted that the IJC came up with initiative to create a new advertising law back in 2010. According to him, the draft is designed to support the media and contains new approaches to the regulation of political advertising, which is currently regulated only during election periods. "This is where problems arise, both for political parties and media actors," he said.
During the hearings, other specialists in the field - the commercial director of the advertising sales house Casa Media, Octavian Hanganu, the representative of the Association of Advertising Agencies, Andrei Jicol, and others - also presented their opinions.
Members of the parliamentary faction of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) have revisited an earlier initiative to ban gambling in the media and on the Internet.
Dumitru Alaiba, Marcela Adam, Marcela Nistor, Vitalie Jacot and Victor Spinu signed the document. The text transposes the idea of an initiative drafted by Dumitru Alaiba in June 2020. The MPs propose that gambling advertising, including lotteries and betting, be banned on radio, TV, in print media, on the Internet and in other public places.
Penalties are also foreseen for those who broadcast gambling advertisements. Individuals or persons in positions of responsibility could be fined from 3,000 lei to 6,000 lei.
Earlier, the IJC’s portal Media Azi wrote, referring to the opinions of experts in the field, that the ban would affect TV stations by costing them some of their revenue. Representatives of several media outlets and advertising sales houses have signaled that they would be financially affected if lawmakers approve the bill. Public hearings on the document took place on September 21 in the Parliament’s Economy, Budget and Finance Committee.
Currently, the main source of gambling advertising in Moldova is the National Lottery of Moldova (NLM), a monopolist operating under a public-private partnership between the Public Property Agency and an enterprise controlled by Bulgarian businessmen, involving several offshore firms.
According to a statement released by the National Anti-Corruption Center (NAC), the body has identified several corruption risks in the draft law restricting gambling advertising in the media, as well as in the initiative giving Parliament the right to remove members of autonomous public authorities – including members of the BC – from office.
Regarding the evaluation and removal from office of dignitaries, NAC representatives note that "the new legislative amendments are ambiguously worded." For example, the phrase "defective activity" of the public entity is not explained in concrete terms and the criteria for granting this qualification are not explained, "which may lead to misinterpretation of the term." At the same time, the draft rules refer to the fact that Parliament may remove a public servant from office on the basis of a report of the relevant committee "by a majority vote of MPs". "The text regarding the vote of the majority of deputies creates confusion as it relates to the correct and transparent determination of the amount of votes needed to adopt a decision. In conclusion, the appointment and dismissal of public servants still remain vulnerable to risks of corruption," the NAC report said. In the case of the draft law banning advertising of all categories of gambling, "a regulatory conflict has been identified which must be addressed."
At a September 23 plenary session, Parliament approved in its second reading a draft law outlining, among other things, the procedure for the removal from office of members of the Broadcasting Council (BC), the Competition Council and other state institutions. The initiative was supported by 58 out of the 77 MPs present at the session. Sixteen MPs voted against the draft law. According to the document, Parliament will have the right to dismiss members of the BC or other authorities if their work is deemed to be in breach of their duties.
Earlier, media experts criticized the MPs' initiative, telling Media Azi that the government could thus change the composition of the board in its favor. Media expert Aneta Gonta does not rule out that the MPs' proposals are dictated by political interests. Cristina Durnea, an IJC legal adviser, believes that "in practice, it would mean that members of the BC who are inconvenient to the government could be dismissed on a conveyor belt".
The plenary session's consideration of the draft occurred without a question-and-answer session.
In an official response to Media Azi, the MoJ announced that it has indefinitely extended the process of drafting, endorsing and publicizing the details of a project that would allow the authorities to counter the spread of false information affecting national security. At present, not many details are known about this initiative announced in the summer of 2020. At that time, the MoJ proposed amending some laws "in order to counter the phenomenon of spreading false information".
The MoJ has yet to present the concept to the public. According to an official response from the MoJ, the Internet Community Public Association sent in a number of proposals on the initiative. "Given that the topic addressed by this project is a current concern not only at the national level but also at the European level, the finalization of this project to be submitted for endorsement is a lengthy and complex process. As a result, we are currently unable to give an exact date for its finalization and submission for approval and public consultation," the Ministry's response says.
The Media Azi Show
In mid-August, non-governmental media organizations launched an appeal to Moldova's new government, calling on Parliament and the government to come up with real media reforms. On the show Media Azi, experts Ion Bunduchi and Tatiana Puiu discuss the expectations of civil society and the journalism community as it relates to bringing the media back into the public eye. On the show, the Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Media, Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei, talks about the priorities of the legislature for the sector, and Minister of Justice, Sergiu Litvinenco, discusses where his ministry’s initiative to take over management of the media stands.
After Parliament amended the Audiovisual Media Services Code, which will allow the legislature to remove members of the Broadcasting Council (BC) from office if their work is found to be "defective" or "improper," several media NGOs quickly responded in a critical manner. Experts have pointed out that the new provisions will allow any parliamentary majority to overrule its board. What was the intention of the new authorities and what risks do experts see? These questions are answered by Media Azi's guests, Justice Minister Litvinenco, the author of the initiative, and IJC lawyer Cristina Durnea
The IJC has launched a new website that will serve as the main platform for information about the work of the organization: www.cji.md. On the new site you will find details about the latest activities in each of the IJC's areas of work: training and assistance for journalists, public policy and research, media education, and legal assistance. Also, here you can access information about the main annual events organized by the IJC, such as the Press Gala and Press Freedom Days. The platform also contains data on IJC campaigns, including statements or petitions written and signed by the IJC team.
At the same time, www.media-azi.md, which until now contained information about the IJC and opportunities offered by the organization, will remain a source for and about the media community in Moldova, accessible to those who follow or are interested in media developments.
The IJC is the first non-governmental media organization in Moldova. Since 1994, the organization has supported the free press and come to the aid of journalists who are committed to ethical journalistic standards.
Incomplete answers, abusive delays or refusals based on the protection of personal data - these are just some of the problems reporters most often report facing when it comes to obtaining information of public interest. The IJC study "Journalists' access to public interest information: from the law to abuse by authorities,” which was launched on September 29, confirms these complaints.
The authors of the study tracked how several providers handled requests from information seekers during the period from July to August 2021. They also identified cases where authorities' practices are in line with the provisions of the Access to Information Law and cases where public institutions violate the law. According to the data, on average, a ministry handles 119 access to information requests per year, a justice sector institution receives 617 requests for information per year, and local public authorities handle 177 access to information requests annually.
The study was carried out as part of the project "Improving Working Conditions for Journalists through Advocacy Campaigns and Empowerment of Authorities" managed by the IJC with financial support from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) from June 2021 to February 2022. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the CFLI.
At a September 23 virtual event, the IJC’s media partners in the project "Understanding Audience through Digital Media" - CU SENS, Media TV, Vmeste and BAStv - together with international experts Alexei Terehov and Serge Sakharau effectively exchanged their experience when it comes to increasing their audiences and revenue and improving their media content improvement during 2021.
From April to August, the two experts conducted several rounds of online consultations with the four media partners to find out their needs and provide advice according to each media institution's goals in terms of audience and revenue growth. Internews representative Sasha Skotarenko noted the results achieved by the media partners. "The most impressive thing is that you have managed to change certain practices in the newsrooms, to experiment with new tools and methods that are starting to bear fruit", concluded Sasha Skotarenko.
In total, from 2018 to 2021, 16 media outlets in the Republic of Moldova received financial support and professional advice on growing their audiences and strengthening their financial independence.
The project "Understanding Audience through Digital Assistance" is implemented by IJC with the support of Internews and funded by Sweden. The project aims to contribute to improving the quality of media content and the financial sustainability of media organizations through a better understanding of audience needs.
The IJC has announced the second edition of the competition "Media Education, a Priority in My School" among pre-university educational institutions in Moldova. This year, the competition will include two categories: the first will include schools, where the optional subject Media Literacy is taught in either primary school, secondary school or high school during the 2021-2022 school year; the second category (II) will include schools, where the optional subject Media Literacy is not taught during the 2021-2022 school year.
In the first round of the competition, seven educational institutions will be selected in category I and five in category II. In the second stage, the selected schools will have six months (from November 2021 to May 2022) to carry out media education activities. More information on how to apply for the competition and the content of the applications can be found here.
The first edition of the competition took place in the 2020-2021 school year, during which 12 schools participated in the competition intended to promote media education in school and extracurricular activities. This year's edition aims to further support and encourage teachers' efforts to educate students on critical thinking.
The competition is organized by the IJC under the project "Strengthening Media Literacy Skills," with the support of Deutsche Welle Akademie and the financial support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Research of the Republic of Moldova.
On September 17, the IJC launched the first media literacy forum - Moldova Media Literacy Forum. The organizers have set out to bring together for the first time in Chisinau teachers of media literacy, as well as local and foreign experts to discuss the latest developments in the field, share the experience of neighboring countries, and analyze the prospects of this new discipline in Moldova.
During the Forum’s launch, IJC Executive Director Nadine Gogu mentioned the importance of media education in the context of information conflicts taking place everywhere and reviewed IJC’s involvemen tin developing this concept. "In this era, when we have the expansion of the Internet…we have information wars all around, critical thinking is particularly topical for young people and adults alike," Gogu noted, recalling that the IJC has trained hundreds of teachers in this field and thousands Moldovan students have studied media literacy using IJC textbooks.
Valentin Crudu, head of the General Education Directorate of the Ministry of Education and Research, stressed that "this optional course came at a time when it was much awaited." And Corina Cepoi, Internews' director in Moldova, said her organization supports both media education and independent media to help young people make informed decisions in life.
In an online appearance, Scott Hocklander, head of the USAID Mission in Chisinau, said that the United States supports Moldova in the field of media education and in its fight against disinformation. In another intervention, Steven Fisher, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Moldova, expressed his pleasure that "thanks to the support provided by the UK for the Media-M project, more than 400 journalists have benefited from training sessions and more than 620 students from nine districts of Moldova have participated in the optional Media Education course developed by the IJC".
The Moldova Media Literacy Forum is organized by the IJC under the project Media in Support of Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova (MEDIA-M), implemented by Internews in Moldova and funded by USAID and the UK. IJC is also partnering with Deutsche Welle Akademie on this event.
How is traditional journalism coping in the digital age, what transformations is it undergoing and how is it adapting to new technologies? The IJC put these and other questions to PRO TV Bucharest journalist Vitalie Cojocari during an September 24 informal discussion organized by the IJC. Sixteen online and TV journalists from Chisinau attended the event.
In 2006, Cojocari moved to Romania to continue his career as a journalist at PRO TV Bucharest. In his opinion, it is not the journalists' business model that matters, but rather the fact that they have to do their job professionally. "A man with a phone in his hand filming an accident on the street is not a journalist. A journalist is someone who manages to make some connections, find out what happened, see what the implications for authorities are, and put all the information in context. A journalist has the skill to do that," he says. That's why Cojocari believes that classic journalism will never die, but "will only adapt to new technologies.” In the age of digital technologies, the PRO TV Bucharest journalists believes that one of the most important values of journalism is credibility – "the most important and hardest thing in our job".
The event is part of the USAID-funded Media in Support of Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova (MEDIA-M) project, funded by USAID, UK and implemented by Internews in Moldova, which aims to promote the development of independent and professional media, and create a media sector more resilient to political and economic pressures.
The first brief was published by Moldovan analyst Alexei Marciuc on September 27 and is entitled “Designing Effective Online Regulation for Moldova: Lessons and Best Practices from Abroad.” Marciuc’s brief examines trends in the regulation of the online environment in Moldova, considering the extent to which the country complies with international norms connected to freedom of expression, dissemination of information, and balanced monitoring of online content. Marciuc will publicly present the findings of his work on a virtual panel alongside regional experts from Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net team at the Moldovan Internet Governance Forum (MIGF) in Chisinau on October 19.
The second brief published by Moldovan analyst Radu Mirza on September 28 is entitled “Regulation and Self-Regulation: Two Pieces of the Puzzle for a Healthy Media Landscape in Moldova.” Mirza’s brief critically examines the existing regulatory framework for media in Moldova and the interplay between state oversight and self-regulatory mechanisms, underscoring the need for new forms of multi-stakeholder cooperation on media regulation
In 2020, the legal framework governing Moldova’s media sector remained underdeveloped and poorly enforced, and prominent politicians regularly stonewalled journalists’ attempts to obtain information of public interest, including as relates to the pandemic. These are a few conclusions of Freedom House’s new Report on Media in Moldova, which draws on analysis and data from Freedom House’s Freedom in the World and Nations in Transit publications covering events from 2020. Read the full report here.