This case study is an analysis of the main newscasts of the day broadcast on May 21 and 22, 2023, by the ten TV channels which covered the “European Moldova” National Assembly. The event was held in Chisinau on May 21, 2023. The monitoring also analyzes whether the ten media service providers covered the anti-government protests organized by the Șor Party in Comrat, Orhei, and Bălți on the same day, on May 21, 2023.
During a press conference held on April 10, 2023, Maia Sandu, President of the Republic of Moldova, announced that, on May 21, 2023, the “European Moldova” National Assembly would be organized at the Great National Assembly Square in Chisinau, and citizens were invited to that event to express their decision to be part of the European family.
On the day of the event, approximately 80 000 people arrived in the Square, according to the police authorities. Simultaneously, the representatives of the diaspora from the Republic of Moldova joined similar events held in more than 30 other cities in Europe. In accordance with the program, the National Assembly started with singing the Anthem of the Republic of Moldova and the Anthem of the European Union. Later, President Maia Sandu and Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, gave their speeches on the stage in the center of the capital. The event continued with performing the “Ode to Europe” by the composer Eugen Doga, a series of statements by public figures, and an artistic program. At the end of the event, a resolution according to which the participants confirmed the aspiration of the Republic of Moldova to become a regular member of the European Union was adopted.
On the same day, however, the Şor Party supporters organized and took part in the anti-government protests held simultaneously in Orhei, Comrat, and Bălți. The protesters demanded from the government to hold a referendum in order to let the citizens decide upon the country’s foreign policy trends. The content of these news items was not analyzed within the case study; this analysis is focused on identifying whether the anti-government protests were also covered.
Monitoring period: May 21-22, 2023.
Subject of the study: materials covering the “European Moldova” National Assembly.
Media outlets monitored: Orizont TV/TV6, Primul în Moldova, Cinema 1, Exclusiv TV/NTV Moldova, Vocea Basarabiei, Moldova 1, TVR Moldova, Jurnal TV, Pro TV Chișinău, TV8.
NTV Moldova/Exclusiv TV
In the newscast of May 21, the NTV Moldova/Exclusiv TV channel broadcast a news item (“Accession to the EU as Ppart of the Constitution”) covering the “European Moldova” National Assembly. For 4 minutes and 10 seconds, the journalists were speaking about the fact that the objective of European integration could be included as a desired goal in the state’s Constitution, “at least that is what dozens of thousands of Moldovans demanded in a resolution adopted at the ‘European Moldova’ National Assembly.”
In the broadcast news item, NTV Moldova/Exclusiv TV covered the subject in a neutral manner, without deontological breaches and/or without applying manipulation techniques.
In the main newscast of May 22, Orizont TV broadcast a news item (“The ‘European Moldova’ National Assembly was held in Chisinau on Sunday”) which covered the monitored issue. The news item lasted for 13 minutes and 30 seconds and started the newscast with the main moments of the event held in the center of the capital a day earlier. Orizont TV covered the monitored topic comparing it with the anti-government protests organized by the Şor Party representatives and emphasizing the differences between the two events. Whereas in the case of the protests, according to the reporters, the police resorted to intimidating the protesters and/or restricting the movement of the vehicles they were using for traveling to Chisinau, in the case of the “European Moldova” National Assembly, the police “did not stop the transport the way they did during the opposition protests, and some buses could even be seen on Ştefan cel Mare Boulevard.” Orizont TV favored the Şor Party by its approach to both the moments of the “European Moldova” National Assembly and the anti-government protests in Comrat, Orhei, and Bălți.
In the analyzed news item, the newsroom presented the information in a tendentious and unbalanced manner. The identified deontological deviations include:
- suggestion: “The demonstrators we have talked to tell us the law enforcement officers did not stop the vehicles the way they used to do during the opposition protests, and some buses could even be seen on Ştefan Cel Mare Boulevard”; “The ex-leader of the Dignity and Truth Platform (author’s note – Andrei Năstase), whose family has been residing in Germany for many years, also campaigns for the country’s accession to the EU”;
- facts mixed with opinions/generalization: “The people who had previously come to the anti-government protests were being prevented from walking in front of the Government by the law enforcement officers every time”;
- Judging by the way the Orizont TV reporters asked Viorel Cernăuțeanu, the head of the General Police Inspectorate, their questions, they expressed some evaluative judgments: “Are the vehicles okay? What about the technical inspection: are there no defects?”; “Is everything fine with the transport today, doesn’t it have to be checked today? And why does it happen that everything is wrong when people come to the protests? The transport is the same…”;
- presenting information without providing factual proofs. “It was here that they were given bottles of water, it was offered free of charge to all those who wished to have some, and the state employees or the PAS volunteers were among those who distributed them.” However, Orizont TV did not provide any evidence that there were any state employees among the volunteers;
- relativization of truth, facts, and events/irony. “The other politicians did not appear onstage, but they could be seen in the crowd, including the prime minister and the president of the Parliament. ‘Moldova belongs in the European Union’ – this message was repeated by people of culture, athletes, writers, entrepreneurs, and mayors who gave speeches in front of the crowd. Eugen Doga, a well-known composer who has been residing and creating in Russia for a long while, was among them.” In the last sentence, Orizont TV uses irony. At the same time, the newsroom emphasizes some details aimed to change the perspective of the events. In other words, Orizont TV indirectly accuses Eugen Doga, the composer “who has been residing and creating in Moscow” but declared that the Republic of Moldova must “follow the path of the sun” (author’s note – that of the EU) of hypocrisy. By using such comparisons, Orizont TV reporters try to relativize a particular information, event, or truth. Relativization is a manipulation technique aimed at creating confusion in media consumers’ minds by suggesting that a particular entity is the same as another one.
Primul în Moldova
Primul în Moldova covered a number of events related to the “European Moldova” National Assembly in two materials included in the newscast of May 22, with a total broadcasting time of 11 minutes and 5 seconds. The first one (“A Pro-European Meeting in the Capital”) is a report from the center of Chisinau, and the second one (“The Great European Assembly”) was a compilation of the Internet users’ reactions to the event, all of which were negative. Primul în Moldova largely used the same scenario as Orizont TV, referring to the same sources and using the same video images, yet without mentioning the initial source. At the same time, both in the case of Primul în Moldova and that of Orizont TV, the event at the Great National Assembly Square is covered by the same reporter, with a microphone without any logos on it. Besides, by covering the two events – the “European Moldova” National Assembly and the Şor Party’s anti-government protests – Primul în Moldova favored the Şor Party and presented it in a positive way, whereas the governance was presented negatively.
The two monitored materials were prepared in a tendentious and unbalanced way, with several deontological breaches, including:
- suggestion: “According to the police, there were no incidents during the event, though there was at least one scuffle when the flags were being distributed for free”;
- facts mixed with opinions: “This time, the law enforcement officers did not stop the vehicles the way they used to do during the rallies organized by the opposition”; “The event held on Sunday at the Great National Assembly Square gathered a record-breaking number of reactions on the social networks. Let’s find out what users comment on incidents and inconsistencies”; “When asked why there was free movement at the rally organized by the government, and there were no vehicles with technical deficiencies, the head of the General Police Inspectorate avoided answering directly”; “After the rally, the General Police Inspectorate informed that no breaches had been detected. It happened in the conditions where flags were attached to the vehicles going to the rally in order to distinguish them”;
- references to unverifiable sources: “At the same time, some Telegram accounts wrote that water and flags were distributed at the rally for free, and there was even a fight when they were being distributed”; “Many social media users paid attention to the confusion in the speech made by the composer Eugen Doga…” Primul în Moldova mentions a certain “confusion” without clearly specifying what it was about;
- using video images without indicating their primary source. Primul în Moldova broadcast the same video images used by Orizont TV. In a number of sequences, the reporter interviewing the sources is the same and holds a microphone without any logos on it. Consequently, we can conclude that the TV channel borrowed the images from Orizont TV without mentioning their source;
- generalization: “First and foremost, it is about the administrative resources which were used for organizing the event. According to the Internet users, this fact was demonstrated by the organized transportation of the rally participants”;
- irony/labeling: in both broadcast materials, Primul în Moldova was using the term “European” ironically, turning it into a sort of labeling. For instance: “This is how Alexei Petrovici commented on the video in which a European with the Romanian flag was dancing on a carpet of flowers,” “a meeting of Europeans,” ;
- manipulation by using background music to a news item. Primul în Moldova included background music in the news item about the Internet users’ comments on the “European Moldova” National Assembly, intending to emphasize the message;
- tendentious selection of information and opinions. Primul în Moldova selected only negative comments made by some Internet users about the “European Moldova” National Assembly;
- lack of the right to reply. Primul în Moldova included accusing messages addressed to certain officials/functionaries or state institutions (the Presidency, the Government, the PAS, etc.) without offering the right to reply to those mentioned.
Primul în Moldova also covered the Şor Party anti-government protests held on the same day in the towns of Comrat, Bălți, and Orhei in its news.
Cinema 1/RTR Moldova
In the newscasts throughout May 22 (1, 2), Cinema 1 did not broadcast any news items on the monitored topic. The main newscast of May 22 broadcast at 19:00 was not published on the online TV platforms. However, in the newscast of May 23 starting at 11.00, Cinema 1 broadcast a news item regarding the “European Moldova” National Assembly. The news item with a broadcasting time of 3 minutes and 10 seconds presented the opinions of the Romanian Euro-parliamentarians Siegfried Mureșan and Dacian Cioloș about the event and the way they saw the European integration process of the Republic of Moldova, as well as the opinion of Alexander Schallenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria. In this news item, Cinema 1 presented the information in a neutral manner without any deontological breaches.
Vocea Basarabiei TV
The Vocea Basarabiei channel broadcast a total of ten news items in its newscast of May 21; eight of them were about the “European Moldova” National Assembly. They had a broadcasting time of 31 minutes out of the total of 33 and half minutes, amounting to over 90% of the newscast. Hence, the broadcasting time allocated to the monitored subject is excessive. In the broadcast materials, the newsroom covered the event in the center of Chisinau, including the opinions of persons who had attended the event (“Impressions from the ‘European Moldova’ National Assembly”), interviewed young people (“Young People Support the European Path of the Republic of Moldova”), presented the diaspora’s messages supporting the process of European integration (“A Rally Supporting the European Path in Rome”), mentioned the details from the resolution adopted at the National Assembly (“The National Assembly Resolution”), and included the opinions of Moldovan and European politicians who had joined the event (“Politicians Seen at the Great National Assembly Square”). Vocea Basarabiei mostly covered the topic in a neutral and impartial manner. However, the newsroom had a case of generalization while covering the topic with the title “Young People Support the European Path of the Republic of Moldova.”
At the same time, Vocea Basarabiei also reported about the Şor Party anti-government protests organized in Comrat, Bălți, and Orhei on the same day in a news item.
“Mesagerul” at Moldova 1 public TV channel broadcast on May 21 included eight news items on the topic of the “European Moldova” National Assembly with a broadcasting time of 23 minutes and 21 seconds out of the total of approximately 51 minutes. The eight news items covered the main moments which had taken place in the center of the capital, the messages from the participants, as well as those from the Moldovan and European officials: President Maia Sandu, Prime Minister Dorin Recean, President of the Parliament Igor Grosu, President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, and Euro-parliamentarian Siegfried Mureșan. Moldova 1 also broadcast two materials about the rallies organized by Moldovans from the diaspora in the context of the “European Moldova” National Assembly and two other news items about the Moldovans from all districts of the country who had arrived to Chisinau to join the event.
In the case of the public channel, a triumphant tone was somewhat noticeable while covering the event, and two deontological breaches were identified:
- facts mixed with opinions: “People started gathering at the Great National Assembly Square long before 11.00, when Maia Sandu, President of the Republic of Moldova, accompanied by Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, came to the stage hardly making their way through the crowd”; “His (author’s note – Eugen Doga’s) speech conquered the crowd”; “The hearts of hundreds of Moldovans from the diaspora who gathered in dozens of cities around the world to express their common desire with those at home were beating in unison today”;
- generalization: “Moldovans choose Europe”; “The diaspora has had its say.”
In addition, in two news items from the newscast of the same day, Moldova 1 also covered the anti-government protests organized by the Sor Party in Comrat, Bălți, and Orhei.
Pro TV Chișinău
In the newscast of May 21, Pro TV Chișinău broadcast eight materials about the event examined in this case study, with a broadcasting time of more than 25 minutes out of a total of 41 minutes, which accounted for 60% of the entire newscast. In this case, the broadcasting time provided for the monitored subject is also excessive. The materials broadcast by Pro TV Chișinău covered the key messages from the official speeches by President Maia Sandu and Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament; they informed about the resolution adopted at the National Assembly, the presence of Moldovans from various regions of the country at the event in Chisinau, the artistic program which followed the official part of the Assembly, and the events organized by the diaspora’s representatives. In some cases, Pro TV Chișinău also covered the monitored topic in a triumphant manner. Pro TV Chișinău resorted to:
- using background music in a news item. Pro TV Chișinău included background music in the first news item on the monitored subject, intending to amplify the message of the news item and the idea of the event;
- using video images without mentioning their primary source. In the news item about the events organized by the diaspora representatives in the context of the “European Moldova” National Assembly, the source of some video images broadcast is not specified.
Pro TV Chișinău also covered the anti-government activities organized by the Şor Party in Comrat, Bălți, and Orhei in its newscast.
TVR Moldova, in the “Telejurnalul de weekend” of May 21, broadcast five materials about the “European Moldova” National Assembly. With a total broadcasting time of 16 minutes out of 26 and a half minutes, TVR Moldova covered the event at the Great National Assembly Square (GNAS), as well as the events organized by the diaspora in the thematic content. Judging by the way it covered the topic, TVR Moldova presented the authorities, especially the Presidency and the President of the state, in a positive manner. The channel’s news contained the following breaches:
- generalization: “Citizens of the Republic of Moldova would like to have a European future”; “People’s support for EU integration”; “Political analysts affirm that the presence of European officials in Chisinau reconfirms the EU’s openness towards the Republic of Moldova”; “The diaspora supports joining the European Union”;
- using background music. TVR Moldova used background music for the first news item about the “European Moldova” National Assembly, intending to emphasize the message of the news item and the event.
TVR Moldova also covered the protests organized by the Şor Party in Comrat, Bălți, and Orhei in its newscast.
In “Sinteza săptămânii” at the TV8 channel, the materials dedicated to the topic of monitoring had a broadcasting time of 19 minutes and a half of the 35 minutes. In the broadcast news, the newsroom covered the events which were taking place at the GNAS: the speeches by the Moldovan and European officials and the other guests, the concert, etc., the presence of Moldovans from the country’s regions at the “European Moldova” National Assembly, the events organized by the diaspora’s representatives in the context of the “European Moldova” National Assembly, and the participants’ opinions of European integration of the Republic of Moldova. TV8 covered the topic in a slightly triumphant tone and resorted to:
- facts mixed with opinions: according to the TV8 journalist, “today, dozens of thousands of people gathered in Chisinau, at the ‘European Moldova’ National Assembly, an event which reminds me of the Great National Assembly held 30 years ago, when the nation regained its freedom. Today, when our independence is threatened by the war at the border, most Moldovans choose peace and the civilized world, while only a minor fraction of society looks to the East. The opposition attempted to overshadow the European tendencies by means of pro-Russian demonstrations in Bălți, Orhei, and Comrat”; “People resonated with all the messages sounding from the stage and were really impressed when the President of the European Parliament spoke in Romanian. Yet it should be noted that the rest of Roberta Metsola’s speech gave them a bit of a headache because many of them do not know English”;
- using background music in a news item. TV8 used background music in the first news item about the “European Moldova” National Assembly, intending to emphasize the message of the news item and the idea of the event;
- generalization: even though the journalist mentioned that those present at the GNAS adopted a resolution on European integration of the Republic of Moldova, the caption to the news item on TV8 says, “Moldovans have adopted a resolution which reconfirms European aspirations”;
- using video images without mentioning their primary source. In the news item titled “Festive Atmosphere at the GNAS,” TV8 used the borrowed video images without specifying their primary source.
TV8 also broadcast a news item about the anti-government protests organized by the Şor Party in Comrat, Bălți, and Orhei on the same day.
In the newscast of May 22, Jurnal TV broadcast three materials on the “European Moldova” National Assembly in the middle of the newscast. The three topics had a broadcasting time of 13 minutes of the total 45 minutes, which accounted for almost 1/3 of the entire newscast. The newsroom broadcast a news item titled “United for Europe” in which the participants of the event held on Sunday answered the question why and for what reason they had come to the “European Moldova” National Assembly, and also about how they saw the country’s European integration process. After that, the TV channel included a news item which mentioned the diaspora representatives’ activities, their pro-European opinions, and their actions in the context of the “European Moldova” National Assembly. The third thematic material was a news item in which Jurnal TV covered the event at the GNAS and the main ideas from the Moldovan and European officials’ speeches, as well as those by the other speakers who took part in the “European Moldova” National Assembly. Jurnal TV mostly covered the topic in a neutral and impartial manner. However, the newsroom resorted to several cases of generalization: “From the north to the south, everyone is present,” “The diaspora shows its solidarity with those at home.” In addition, judging by the way the topic was covered the media outlet presented the authorities of the Republic of Moldova in a slightly positive manner.
Jurnal TV was the channel which, like NTV/Exclusiv TV, did not cover (omission) the anti-government protests organized by the Şor Party in Comrat, Bălți, and Orhei on the same day in its newscast.
- All the ten monitored TV channels broadcast the news about the “European Moldova” National Assembly.
- Primul în Moldova and Orizont TV channels had a similar approach to informing the audience about the topic in question, and the event in the center of the capital was covered by the same reporter/journalist. Both channels affiliated to the Şor Party presented the authorities of the Republic of Moldova in a negative way and favored the Şor Party and the protests organized by this political organization.
- Almost all the media institutions monitored also covered the anti-government protests organized by the Şor Party in Comrat, Orhei, and Bălți on the same day (with the exception of Jurnal TV and NTV Moldova/Exclusiv TV).
- The deontological breaches most often revealed in the case of the monitored TV channels are facts mixed with opinions, generalization, irony, suggestion, reference to unverifiable sources, lack of the source of the borrowed video footage, and manipulation by using background music.
- Such channels as Vocea Basarabiei, Moldova 1, TVR Moldova, Jurnal TV, ProTV Chișinău, and TV8, on the one hand, monopolized the newscast of May 21 or 22 with the news items about the “European Moldova” National Assembly. At some of them, the broadcasting time reserved for the monitored event accounted for 90% of the newscast. On the other hand, judging by the way the information was presented, these TV channels showed the authorities of the Republic of Moldova in a slightly positive light.
- At the same time, such channels as Vocea Basarabiei, Moldova 1, TVR Moldova, Jurnal TV, ProTV Chișinău, and TV8 covered the monitored topic – the “European Moldova” National Assembly – in a triumphant manner, almost similar to electoral advertising in some cases. It follows from the tone of the coverage of the event and the excessive broadcasting time for a single topic to the detriment of the other ones.