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The Two Different Decisions the BC Made in the Case of ‘Vorbeste Moldova – Parinte Te Iubesc’ Talk-Show [Moldova Speaking – Parent, I Love You] Led to Confusion and Left Room for Interpretation

20 August 2019
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The Press Council (PC) launched a public appeal to the BC on 26 April requesting it to penalise the law violations committed by Prime TV channel when they produced the ‘Moldova Speaking – Parent, I Love You’ talk-show broadcast on PRIME TV, which was about an adolescent sexually abused by her step father. In May 2019, following the ex officio monitoring of this talk-show, the Broadcasting Council (BC) found no violations in the show concerned. Only after the PC launched a repeated appeal to the BC, the latter changed its decision and fined Prime TV MDL 10,000. The fact that the BC changed its decision was interpreted by the producer of the show as proof of lack of professionalism. When asked by if they will settle the issues pinpointed at by the PC and the BC, the producer answered that the main character of the show was not ‘the child victim of sexual abuse, but the mother of two who ended up in a complicated situation.’ In her turn, Viorica Zaharia – Chairperson of the PC, highlighted: ‘Journalists’ codes of ethics from several countries, including from Moldova, say that the journalist shall not take advantage of the shock or vulnerability of a person when producing their materials. In our opinion, this is exactly what ‘Moldova Speaking’ is doing.
Two Contradictory Decisions wrote that in May the BC members only took note of the monitoring of the talk-show without having found any violations that would have entailed certain penalties. At that time, the decision was adopted by 7 votes in favour – Dragos Vicol, Tatiana Buraga, Iulian Rosca, Corneliu Mihalache, Veronica Cojocaru, Dorina Curnic and Lidia Viziru.
In August, the BC reconsidered its decision and opted for fining Prime TV MDL 10,000. This time, the decision was passed with 5 votes in favour by the following members of the BC – Olga Gututui, Dragos Vicol, Iulian Rosca, Artur Cozma, Tatiana Buraga, and 2 against – Veronica Cojocaru and Dorina Curnic. The BC member Corneliu Mihalache left the meeting and did not participate in the voting procedure.
The BC members looked again into the case after the repeated appeal from the PC which said that in making the decision in May, the BC did not pay due attention to the way in which the talk-show producers acted and did not consider the best interest of the child. According to the PC, the authors of the talk-show violated the law protecting children from the negative impact of information.
The authors of the appeal mentioned that although the name of the abused girl was changed and her appearance protected, she was recognisable anyway by her voice as well as because her parents and grandmother were in the studio with their identity unprotected, which was also noted by the Children’s Ombudsperson – Maia Banarescu. What is more, the Children’s Ombudsperson called attention to the UN documents on children’s rights that underscore that one of the concepts underpinning the best interest of the child is about ‘avoiding the re-victimisation of the child that was subject to physical, psychological or sexual abuse’.

Rationale of the BC and How It Was Interpreted by the Producer of Prime TV
Asked by to explain why the BC changed its attitude about this talk-show, the Chairperson of the BC – Dragos Vicol – recommended us to get in touch with Iulian Rosca, member of the BC, for an answer on behalf of the BC. According to Rosca, in April the members of the BC considered the matter ex officio and found that the producers of the talk-show took child identity protection measures. Regarding the new decision, Iulian Rosca explained that the BC members reflected on the reasoning of the Children’s Ombudsperson and they admitted there was a reconstruction of abuse with negative connotation and involving the child. Therefore, the decision made in May was re-qualified legally taking into account the best interest of the child ‘because all national regulations on children’s rights must be interpreted and applied through the lens of the best interest of the child’ Rosca clarified.
The producer of the talk-show, Alexandr Dzechis, regards this change of attitude of the BC members as non-professional and believes that the new decision of the BC is in favour of Prime TV competition: ‘The (Broadcasting – e.n.) Council did not re-examine anything. It rather made a decision that is favourable for our competition that is trying to throw obstacles in our way and to hinder the production of one of the most watched shows in this country. This is unprofessional – they had the same information, the same laws, but then they changed their decision nevertheless in an organised way. This is why this decision lacks any authority whatsoever.’ said Dzechis.

What Does the Law Say?
Note that the Law on the Protection of Children Against the Negative Impact of Information prohibits the dissemination of information that contains any of the features that could enable identification of children involved in situations with negative connotation (accidents, crimes, sexual, physical or psychological abuse, suicide, drug use, alcohol abuse, etc.) including as victim or witness. The instances where the journalist acts with consent of the parents (tutors, guardians) in the best interest of the child when it comes to reconstruction of crimes, abuse and of other situations with negative connotation in which children are involved are exceptions to this rule.

Will Prime TV Address the Issues Found by the PC and Childrens’ Ombudsperson?
When asked about whether Prim TV will take measures about the format of this talk-show in order to resolve the children’s rights violations that both the Press Council and the Children’s Ombudsperson reported about, the talk-show producer gave the following answer: ‘As regards the Press Council, we are appreciate its concern about children and the improvement of the quality of the press in Moldova. However, unlike them, we are not sitting in offices watching talk-shows on TV. We deal with real problems of real people that are not fair to be overlooked and that cannot be generalised. “Deterring the production of such talk-shows” that in their opinion “do not contribute to the development of the society, but rather to its decadence” is an unnecessary constraint on television broadcasters. In our opinion, discussing stringent problems on the basis of a phenomenon or a particular case could make potential victims and potential perpetrators refrain from committing similar mistakes, and could enable the society and the authorities prevent such cases’ Alexandr Dzechis explained.
He regards the situation of the abused minor from a different point of view: ‘I demand the main character not to be called “child victim of sexual abuse”, but mother of two, in a complicated situation. When we recorded the show, and now still, we continue to act in the interest of the main character and of her two children for the health and wellbeing of whom she fights. We follow the development of her life and we are aware that many things changed for the better. The goal of the society, at present, is to give her a hand in a situation that can no longer be changed, but to also do so that nobody else goes through what she went’ Alexandr Dzechis told us.

Chairperson of the Press Council: ‘We Will Continue to Insist That the Ethics and the Law is Observed’
The reply of the PC Chairperson, Viorica Zaharia, to the statements made by Dzechis, was that the members of the PC also tackle ‘the real problems people have’. The PC isn’t asking anyone not to tackle problems, but it urges doing it in a professional way. ‘They are not the only ones who write about cases of abuse and tragedies. All the press does it. Why don’t the specialists raise issues this big as this and this often with other broadcasters? I am sorry that the producers who are actually after something sensational wash their hands off saying “We help people solve their problems”. These people’s problems are actually only getting worse. Show me examples from the quality press abroad where the anchor would ask the guest questions like: “Do you know what disability degree you have at your age of 30? Did you break your head? Why are you disabled then?” (Moldova Speaking, 29 March 2019) ... this is just one example’, commented Zaharia.

The Chairperson of the PC underscored that the nine members of the council will continue to insist on the ethics and the law being observed. ‘I do not think that the producer of the show would speak in the same way if the people in the studio were his relatives or kin who are in trouble or have gone through abuse. They were told more than once by various specialists – the Children’s Ombudsperson, the National Child Abuse Prevention Centre – that they violated children’s rights. Unfortunately, I have never seen them willing evaluate their content and admit that they were wrong. The journalists’ codes of ethics from several countries, including from Moldova, say that the journalist shall not take advantage of the shock or vulnerability of a person when producing their materials. In our opinion, this is exactly what “Moldova Speaking” is doing’, said Viorica Zaharia.