This case study includes an analysis of the news prepared and published by 10 information portals in the Republic of Moldova on May 9, 2022, when a number of events dedicated to the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II were held in Chisinau. Some people celebrated Europe Day, whereas others regarded it as Victory Day. Although, before May 9, the president of the country Maia Sandu declared that “no parade would be organized in the Republic of Moldova on May 9. Rallies, peaceful events, and commemoration of the memory of those who lost their lives in World War II could be held,” the Bloc of Communists and Socialists supported the initiative of ‘Victoria’ National Steering Committee to organize a ‘Victory March’ on May 9.”
In the morning of May 9, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita and President of the Parliament Igor Grosu laid floral tributes at the “Eternitate” Memorial Complex. Later, the Complex was visited by the representatives of the Bloc of Socialists and Communists and those of the “Sor” Party. A vehicle march also took place. Its participants carried the flags of the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation (with the Russian inscription “For Peace”), and the Soviet Union. Maia Sandu, the head of the state, did not take part in any public events dedicated to May 9 due to health-related issues, according to the Presidency. Instead, the staff of the institution attended them.
Monitored time range: May 9, 2022.
Subject of the study: news about the events dedicated to May 9 and held in Chisinau.
Portals monitored: Kp.md, Aif.md, Noi.md, Unimedia.info, Newsmaker.md, Jurnal.md, Ntv.md, Publika.md, Tv6.md, and Trm.md.
Selection criteria: coverage area – national; impact – audience; languages – Romanian and Russian; types of property – public and private.
Kp.md published several news about the events held on May 9. All of them contained some deviations. For instance, the institution published a headline: “Victory Day 2022 in Moldova: Should We Expect Acts of Terrorism or Attacks during May 9 Massive Activities – the Victory March, the Immortal Regiment, and the Vehicle March?”. In the text, readers can identify a message referring to Ukrainian refugees: “Victory Day is widely celebrated in Moldova today. This year, it is held in the context of the Moldovan Parliament prohibiting St. George’s ribbons and military actions in Ukraine. No wonder there were lots of talks about eventual provocations and even terrorist attacks on the eve of the celebration (in our country, there are approximately 100 refugees from Ukraine, for instance, and not all of them seem to adore Victory Day).” In this case, the journalists use a mixture of facts and opinions, as well as generalizations not confirmed by any facts. Besides, they try to draw a parallel between eventual “provocations and even terrorist attacks” and refugees from Ukraine.
In another publication, the newsroom informs: “A Fight on Victory Day in the Center of Chisinau: A Man Shouts ‘Glory to Ukraine’ When an Enormous Red Banner Is Unfurled – Video from the Scene of the Incident.” Both in the title and in the text, the authors highlight the slogan “Glory to Ukraine,” again referring to the Ukrainian nation and, in particular, to refugees from Ukraine currently staying in the Republic of Moldova. Such nuances could result in hate speech, destabilization, or interethnic hate. The authors subsequently mention that law enforcement officers interfered just in time (“law enforcement authorities reacted promptly”), but there is no official comment from the police staff. The opinions of the mentioned persons, such as the man who allegedly shouted “Glory to Ukraine” and the woman who was holding a sign were not presented either, despite the fact that it is mentioned in the text of the news that the pictures were taken by a journalist of the portal.
In another news article, Kp.md refers to the president of the country, publishing a headline: “Where Did Sandu, President of Moldova, Disappear on May 9: She Has Serious Health Issues”. In this case, the authors use manipulation by exaggeration, emphasizing the fact that Maia Sandu had “serious” health issues, though the message from the Presidency only mentions the fact that the head of the state would “not be able to participate due to health issues.” In addition, Kp.md publishes a headline: “Victory Vehicle Marathon on Victory Day in Chisinau: A Great Number of Cars, the Largest Victory Banner in the World, Provokers, and Thousands of Passers-by Greeting the Column”.
The affirmation about the “largest Victory banner in the world” is the reporter’s subjective statement. The article also mentions an incident which took place at the Grand National Assembly Square. According to the source, when the young people were spreading the banner, provokers appeared and shouted, “Glory to Ukraine,” and someone answered, “As a part of Russia,” and a conflict was about to start. However, it was mentioned that the police intervened in time. Yet an elderly woman with a sign in her hands allegedly tried to disrupt the “celebration.” According to the authors, the police intervened once again. (“The guys started stretching the giant red Banner of Victory. It was really enormous. At this moment, provocateurs raised their voice:
‘Glory to Ukraine!’
‘As a part of Russia!’ The answer and laughter followed.
A clash was about to start, but the police intervened in time and took the provoker away. Yet an elderly woman who was holding a provocative sign in her hands also tried to disrupt the celebration, but the police quickly led her away, too.”). The incident was presented unilaterally, only from the point of view of the organizers and supporters of the march on May 9. On the Kp.md portal, the same case was presented in some other news and was given increased attention.
On May 9, Aif.md published a headline: “Dodon: We Are Proud and Remember That Today Is Victory Day. It Was, It Is, and Always Will Be.” According to this news article, “today, dozens of thousands of people have joined the Victory March in Chisinau, despite the fact that the state’s top leadership was reluctant to celebrate May 9.” This news includes a manipulation by numbers, considering the fact that, according to the GPI, in Chisinau, approximately 7 000 persons took part in the Victory March. 25 000 is a figure mentioned by several media institutions affiliated to the Socialist Party, without any reference to official sources. Moreover, Aif.md affirms that the central authorities refused to commemorate that day, whereas Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita and President of the Parliament Igor Grosu brought flowers to the “Eternitate” Memorial Complex in the morning of May 9.
In another news item titled “Dodon Joins the March: No One Has the Right to Forbid Us to Consider This Day to Be Victory Day and to Celebrate It!” (VIDEO),” the portal writes that, “most citizens of the Republic of Moldova celebrate Victory Day today, regardless of their political choices and ideologies,” manipulating public opinion by generalization and referring to a single opinion, i.e. a quote by a politician. Another news article dated May 9 and published by Aif.md is again about Igor Dodon and his statements: “Igor Dodon on Victory Day: We Will Not Allow Anyone to Rewrite History and to Distort Historical Truth! We Are Descendants of the Winners!” Most of the news articles published by Aif.md on this day are focused on the politician Igor Dodon as the protagonist.
As to Maia Sandu, the newsroom has published a headline: “She Has a Different Agenda: Sandu Has Not Visited the Memorial on Victory Day,” referring to Telegram channels, without indicating exactly which ones are the sources (“As Telegram channels inform, according to Igor Grosu…”), ignoring the official statement from the Presidency.
Noi.md portal has also published some news about the events of May 9. The newsroom provides brief information about the floral tributes laid by the officials at the “Eternitate” Memorial Complex. Another article is focused on Igor Dodon’s statements regarding eventual sanctions for wearing St. George’s ribbons. The news is accompanied by the details about the organization of events on May 9. Another news article contains the entire message by Igor Grosu, President of the Parliament, on the occasion of this day. At the same time, the portal has published a photo gallery illustrating the fact that some deputies from the Bloc of Communists and Socialists were wearing St. George’s ribbons. Quotes from Socialist deputies saying that, for them, the ribbon symbolizes “peace and victory” are provided. In the same context, the events in Comrat are covered; it is mentioned that, “despite the prohibition, in the crowd, there were people with St. George’s ribbons on their chests, though it was forbidden by the legislation,” without specifying the detail that Irina Vlah, the head of the ATU of Gagauzia, was not wearing that symbol.
Unimedia.info portal has also published several news articles on the monitored topic. One of them is “(VIDEO) Victory March in the Capital: Dodon, Voronin, and Greceanii Lay Flowers at the ‘Eternitate’ Memorial Complex”; it mentions the fact that the participants of the May 9 march laid flowers at the “Eternitate” Memorial Complex, mentioning that the event was attended by the BCS deputies, and also the fact that President Maia Sandu was absent due to health issues. This news, however, does not mention the fact that Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita and President of the Parliament Igor Grosu laid flowers in the morning. Instead, there is another news item titled “Maia Sandu Is Ill: She Will Not Attend the Events Scheduled for May 9”: it is mentioned that, in the morning of May 9, President of the Parliament Igor Grosu and Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita brought flowers to the memorial. Unimedia.info has also published some statements made in the context of May 9 by Irina Vlah who declared that “May 9 could become the Day of our unity.” Unimedia.info also informs us that a car with a Ukrainian license plate joined the vehicle marathon: “A Vehicle with a Ukrainian License Plate Decorated with St. George’s Ribbon Joins the Victory March in Chisinau.” Unimedia.info refers to a photo published by Kp.md Telegram channel, without providing any other factual information.
Ntv.md website has published several news items about the events in the center of Chisinau on May 9: “The Immortal Regiment march is taking place in the Capital. Thousands of people chant ‘Victory! Hoorah!’”; “PSRM at the Immortal Regiment March: Party Members Wear St. George’s Ribbons on Their Chests.” Both news articles contain only the information about the march and the PSRM. In another news article, we notice manipulation by generalization: the author quotes Igor Dodon’s statement that “most citizens celebrate Victory Day,” without referring to the official data to confirm this fact. The news article is based on a single source. The speech by Vlad Batrincea, Executive Secretary of the PSRM, is the topic of another material. Ntv.md covers the march in which the BCS participated in detail. In another news article, while referring to the organizers of the march, the newsroom mentions that more than 25 000 citizens joined the event, while the GPI announces a figure of approximately 7 000. As to the state leadership, Ntv.md has published two news articles: “Where Is Maia Sandu? Grosu: ‘She Has Her Own Agenda’”; Presidency: ‘She Has Health Issues’” and “Maia Sandu Has Not Laid Flowers at the Memorial Together with the President of the Parliament and the Prime Minister. Grosu: ‘She Has Her Own Agenda.’”
Tv6.md has published some news on the subject of the day. One of them includes the messages by several politicians (such as Igor Grosu, President of the Parliament, deputy Radu Marian, Mayor of Chisinau Ion Ceban, and ex-Prime Minister Ion Chicu): “’We Must Not Allow the War to Steal Our Present and Our Future.’ Moldovan Politicians Give Speeches on the Occasion of May 9|VIDEO.” The video accompanying the news article is actually the newscast broadcast on TV at 15:00. Hence, it includes some other news on the subject of the day, such as messages from the deputies of the “Sor” Party, in separate news coverage. Two of the published news items refer strictly to the actions taken by the “Sor” Party on that day: “Over Ten Thousand Activists and Supporters of the ‘Sor’ Party Join the March Dedicated to Victory Day|Photo” and “Over 10 Thousand Members and Supporters of the ‘Sor’ Party, Joined by the Representatives of the Party’s Leaders, Take Part in the Peace March on Victory Day|Video.” None of these two news items refers to any official statistics regarding the number of participants. However, in a news article published later, at 20:47, and accompanied by a video report, it is mentioned that they were about 7 000; the same number is also announced by the GPI. Tv6.md emphasizes the fact that the “Sor” Party representatives congratulated the war veterans. A separate news item is dedicated to the floral tributes laid by the country’s leaders, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita and President of the Parliament Igor Grosu.
Trm.md, the public TV channel website, has published a news article informing that “approximately 7 000 people marched across the center of Chisinau to celebrate the day of victory of the Soviet Army over Nazi Germany.” However, the journalists do not refer to the source of this data. The other news items on the subject are presented in a balanced manner.
One of the news published on Jurnal.md website on the events dedicated to Victory Day includes the lack of reply of the person concerned. This is the case of Bishop Marchel of Balti and Falesti, who, as the headline mentions, “continues to break the law: he was wearing a black and orange ribbon on his chest while taking part in the march on May 9.” Another article refers to the statement made by ex-deputy Iurie Renita who criticizes Igor Dodon’s actions: “He wears the ribbon of war on his chest and walks with a bodyguard paid from the citizens’ taxes”. Again, no reaction of the person concerned is published.
Newsmaker.md and Publika.md have published several news articles on the topic of the day, informing about the Days of Europe, the floral tributes laid by the country’s leaders, and the march dedicated to May 9.
The events of May 9 have been covered by all the monitored media institutions, but in different manners. Some media institutions have complied with the professional deontology rules, whereas the others have committed a number of breaches. The content monitoring reveals elements of manipulation and misinformation of public opinion: lack of the second source, selective presentation of statements, mixture of facts and opinions, manipulation by statistics, (intentional) exaggerations related to the president’s health, (intentional) associations between eventual “provocations and terrorist attacks” and Ukrainian refugees.
In addition, in the images published by some of the monitored media institutions, red flags, portraits and flowers could be seen, and St. George’s ribbons were also shown, though displaying them was prohibited by the legislation of the Republic of Moldova. Besides, certain political subjects were given preference in the reports: Kp.md, Aif.md, and Ntv.md paid more attention to the BCS, in particular, to the Socialist Party representatives, and Tv6.md expressed preference to the “Sor” Party representatives.
The case study is an analysis of the way the press covers events of public interest in the spheres of politics, economics, foreign affairs, etc., in order to determine whether professional ethics are complied with and no manipulation techniques are used.
Olga Gututui, media law and policy expert