This case study is an analysis of the news the 12 information portals from the Republic of Moldova published on August 27, 2022, when the state celebrated 31 years since the proclamation of its independence. On this occasion, a number of official and cultural events were held in the localities of the state. In Chisinau, President Maia Sandu, President of the Parliament Igor Grosu, and Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita took part in the events dedicated to the Independence Day of the Republic of Moldova. The officials laid flowers at the “Grieving Mother” Monument at the “Eternity” Memorial Complex and at the Monument of Saint Stephen the Great in the center of the capital. Later, they joined the inauguration ceremony of the Independence Day of the Republic of Moldova, the national holiday held in the Great National Assembly Square. The Socialist Party (PSRM) representatives laid flower tributes at the monument of Saint Stephen the Great. Also on August 27, the Independence Day was celebrated in Orhei: the events were organized by the local authorities and the Sor Party members. In Comrat, a concert was also held.
During the day, politicians, officials, civil servants, political party representatives, ambassadors, and heads of state were sending their congratulatory messages.
Monitoring period: August 27, 2022.
Monitoring subject: news about the events held in the Republic of Moldova and the messages from officials and politicians on the occasion of the Independence Day.
Portals monitored: Kp.md, Aif.md, Actualitati.md, A-tv.md, Ntv.md, Unimedia.info, Tv6.md, Trm.md, Tv8.md, Newsmaker.md, Nokta.md, and Gagauzinfo.md.
Selection criteria: coverage area – national; impact – audience; languages – Romanian and Russian; types of property – public and private.
Komsomolskaia Pravda (Kp.md), a Russian language portal, covered the Independence Day in six materials, basically paying attention to the messages from the PSRM and the Sor Party members: they were entirely or almost entirely borrowed from their official websites. The texts mostly contain accusing messages aimed against the current government, and no right to reply was offered.
In the first two of the six news items, Kp.md quotes the statements by the PSRM representatives who sent congratulatory messages to citizens on the occasion of 31st anniversary of independence of the Republic of Moldova. In the first one, the portal almost entirely quotes the statement by Vlad Batrincea, Vice-President of the Parliament, Executive Secretary of the Socialist Party, published on Socialistii.md, the PSRM website. In the second one, Kp.md quotes an entire message published on Facebook by Igor Dodon, Honorary President of the PSRM, who was presented as the “fifth president of the Republic of Moldova.” Both politicians make insinuations aimed against the parties and/or authorities promoting European integration or accuse the ruling circles. Vlad Batrincea: “And our politicians should be less concerned about foreign integration projects and be more focused on their country and their own nation” (orig. «И чтобы наши политики меньше думали о внешних интеграционных проектах, и больше – о своей стране и её народе»). Igor Dodon: “(…) the PAS proxy government keeps doing everything possible to definitively surrender the country to foreign interests, both politically and economically, from the military point of view, then territorially” (orig. «(…) марионеточная власть ПДС делает всё возможное, чтобы окончательно подчинить страну иностранным интересам, как политически, так и экономически, с военной точки зрения, а после – и территориально»). Kp.md does not balance the articles by offering the right to reply or by quoting any fragments from the government representatives’ speeches.
Another news emphasizes the fact that the PSRM parliamentary faction laid flower tributes on the occasion of the Independence Day, mixing facts and opinions and insinuating: “And above all, they were with a full complement, the deputies did not leave for vacation, they remained in the country” («Причем – в полном составе, народные избранники никуда не уехали на отдых, остались в стране»). In this context, Kp.md points out that the PSRM members mentioned they would make “every possible effort so that the next independence anniversary is not overshadowed by similar issues, and that the country’s subsequent history includes only glorious pages.”
Kp.md pays a lot of attention to the PSRM representatives’ speeches in an article with a title where facts are mixed with opinions: “Moldova Reaches the Anniversary of its Independence in a State of Chaos and Lack of Prospects” («Молдова подошла к годовщине независимости в состоянии хаоса и отсутствия перспектив»). In the first part of the text, the portal entirely borrows the PSRM’s congratulatory message published on the party’s website; the article continues with the entire messages from Vlad Batrincea and Igor Dodon previously published on the same day by Kp.md; the message from Olga Cebotari, ex-Deputy Prime Minister of Reintegration, the member of the Executive Committee of the PSRM, also published on the socialists’ website, is also quoted. In their speeches, the PSRM members emphasize the serious situation the Republic of Moldova has found itself in, according to them, and blame the current government. At the end of the material, the portal inserts shorter quotes by Maia Sandu, President of the Republic of Moldova, and Natalia Gavrilita, Prime Minister, publishing two passages from each congratulatory message.
Also on August 27, the portal published a text from the website of the Sor Party, which is based on the speech by its head Ilan Sor and has an accusatory title: “A Nation Condemned to Starvation and Poverty by the Government Cannot Be Independent!” The article accuses the current leaders of the Republic of Moldova. On the same day, Kp.md entirely republishes a press release by the Sor Party regarding the events held by the party’s representatives in Orhei, “the most beautiful town in the country” – “The Independence Day Is Celebrated Solemnly, with Marches, Music, and Joy, in Orhei.” Kp.md does not mark this text as an advertisement and publishes it in the “Society” column. In addition, the website does not provide an active link to the primary source of the information, thus making the impression that it was prepared by the editorial board, which does not comply with the professional deontological standards. The press release includes the quotes from the party deputies, the local administration representatives, and Ilan Sor. In this material, the politician also accuses the current government: “(…) guided by Maia Sandu, the Republic of Moldova has turned into the beggar in Europe. We have ended up living by alms and begging from foreigners.” In these two articles, the editorial board does not offer the right to reply to those blamed by the president of the Sor Party.
Kp.md ignores other events and activities related to the Independence Day, such as flower tributes laid at the “Grieving Mother” Monument and at the monument of Saint Stephen the Great by the leaders of the Republic of Moldova, the Independence Day opening ceremony, the military marching band parade, or the concert held in the center of the capital on this occasion.
Argumenti i Fakti (Aif.md), a Russian language portal, published five materials related to the Independence Day celebration on August 27, mainly paying attention to the PSRM messages and activities. In one of the five articles, Aif.md mentions that the socialists congratulated the citizens on the occasion of the holiday and laid flowers at the monument of Stephen the Great. In the same text, the portal quotes the party’s congratulation addressed to the citizens, selecting the passages which blame the current leadership: “The Moldovan leadership, which is incompetent and depends on foreign powers, has brought the Republic of Moldova to a state of a social, economic, energy, and political crisis. The country’s leadership is guided by personal ambitions and pursue their own interests, while the interests of the state and the people are foreign to them” («Некомпетентная и зависимая от внешних сил молдавская власть довела Республику Молдова до социально–экономического, энергетического и политического кризиса. Руководство страны действует на основе личных амбиций, корыстных интересов, а не интересов государства и народа»). This statement is not balanced by any statements or reactions from the current leaders of the Republic of Moldova. The portal also chooses a passage in which the PSRM assumes the role of the national savior: “The Party of Socialists will make every possible effort so that the next independence anniversary is not overshadowed by similar issues, and that the country’s subsequent history includes only glorious pages” («Партия социалистов приложит все усилия для того, чтобы следующая годовщина независимости не была омрачена такими трудностями, а дальнейшая история нашей страны знала только славные страницы»). The message from the PSRM is followed by the quotes by Socialist deputies Vlad Batrincea, Grigore Novac, and Adela Raileanu.
In another article, Aif.md publishes Igor Dodon’s entire address to citizens on the occasion of the Independence Day; like Kp.md, the portal introduces him as the “fifth president of the Republic of Moldova.” Aif.md does not balance the text by offering the governmental officials the right to reply to Igor Dodon’s accusations.
In a separate text, Aif.md also quotes President Maia Sandu and Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita, as well as President of the Parliament Igor Grosu. The portal selects a few passages from the officials’ messages to citizens on the occasion of the Independence Day. In the wake of inflation, Aif.md publishes a news article using a fragment from Maia Sandu’s speech at the solemn opening of the Independence Day ceremony, where the head of state answered the question, “What is the use of freedom and democracy when prices rise and life becomes even more complicated?” Aif.md entitles the article “’We Have Freedom and Dignity Instead!’ Sandu Responds to People Dissatisfied with Growing Prices” («“Зато у нас есть свобода и достоинство!”: Санду ответила недовольным подорожаниями людям»).
On the same day, Aif.md publishes a brief text consisting of three sentences, emphasizing the fact that a Romanian flag supposedly brought by one of the citizens was seen in the Great National Assembly Square. “Besides, the flag of the European Union was unfurled, already at the authorities’ initiative” («Кроме того, был развёрнут флаг Европейского союза – уже по инициативе властей»), Aif.md points out without providing any background information.
On August 27, Actualitati.md, another Russian language portal, published three materials, all of them are related to the PSRM and the party members. Like Aif.md and Kp.md, Actualitati.md fully borrows the statements by the Party of Socialists published on Socialistii.md, where the PSRM regards itself as the national savior and blames the leaders of the Republic of Moldova, without balancing the text with the government representatives’ opinions.
The portal ignores other events and activities related to the Independence Day.
A-tv.md, Accent TV channel’s website which publishes articles in both Romanian and Russian, did not publish any materials on August 27. As to the Independence Day, the portal published a single news article on August 29 informing about the fact that “a number of deputies of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova from the Party of Socialists led by Vlad Batrincea, Executive Secretary, the PSRM municipal councilors, and the Young Guards activists laid flowers at the monument of Saint Stephen the Great in the capital on the 31st anniversary of the proclamation of the state’s independence,” referring to the press release published on Socialistii.md. A-tv.md quotes Vlad Batrincea who mentions the “incompetent government’s irresponsible policy” and refers to the PSRM as the national savior: “This is why the fundamental objective of the Party of Socialists is the consistent struggle for maintaining and consolidating the Moldovan statehood.”
Ntv.md, NTV Moldova channel’s website with the content in Romanian and Russian, published no materials on August 27. The only news referring to the Independence Day appeared on August 26 and is a schedule of events planned for the following day, with a reference to the Government’s press release. The material does not contain any deontological breaches.
On August 27, Unimedia.info published several live broadcasts and videos from the places of floral tributes and festive events on the 31st anniversary of the Independence Day. The portal published two news items based on the speech by Maia Sandu on the stage in the Great National Assembly Square. “President Maia Sandu affirms that, despite the record inflation we are faced with this year and increasing prices for most products and services, Moldovans have things to be proud of on the Independence Day,” the journalists remark in one of the materials. In another article, the editorial board presents the video material prepared by the Presidency and shared via the social networks, in which a number of citizens say what Moldova means to them, but without referring to the source of the video.
Other news items among the 15 published by Unimedia.info on the monitored topic are related to the statements by the heads of the Government and the Parliament, and the congratulatory messages from the US and EU ambassadors in Chisinau and from Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania. They basically emphasize the importance of the state’s advancement in the process of integration into the European Union due to obtaining the status of a candidate country for the EU, and refer to the geopolitical context in the region largely determined by the war in Ukraine.
On the other hand, Unimedia.info also provides some space to several critical statements by the socialist Igor Dodon or by the ex-deputy of the “Demnitate si Adevar” Platform Alexandru Slusari. “We have a pro-European government, but it includes many arrogant and incompetent officials, and, by the way, their whereabouts on August 27, 2018, are unknown. Many necessary reforms, in particular, those related to decentralization and economy, are suspended. Many criminal schemes persist, especially those related to Transnistria. Off-shore-ization of Moldova continues,” Slusari lists the issues in his post published on Facebook. Igor Dodon also criticizes the ruling party: “The PAS proxy government keeps doing everything possible to definitively surrender the country to foreign interests, both politically and economically, from the military point of view, then territorially.” The journalists also refer to the message by Ilan Sor, quoting a passage from his speech in the title: “A nation condemned to starvation and poverty by the government cannot be independent.” All the three news items are unbalanced. Another brief material is based on the related post by Ion Ceban, Mayor of Chisinau: “Our country is the same as our character. (…) We have succeeded even in much more difficult times. United, we will be able to do even more together.”
Unimedia.info also published the entire press release by the Sor Party, stating that “the Independence Day is celebrated solemnly, with marches, music, and joy, in Orhei. Everyone is invited to say: Moldova, I love you!” “On this occasion, in the center of Orhei, and also in OrheiLand, the country’s largest amusement park, several events are held to delight the public. In addition to music and joy, locals and guests of the town can enjoy free meals, visit the folk craft fair, and attend a holiday concert,” the article mentions, among other things. Just like in case of the other above- mentioned websites, this text is not marked as paid advertising, and the platform provides no active link to the primary source of the information, thus making an impression that it is prepared by the newsroom, which does not comply with professional deontological standards.
Four of the seven articles published on the monitored subject on the TV6 channel’s portal affiliated with Ilan Sor, the politician convicted of criminal activity, refer to the Independence Day celebration in Orhei and include two live broadcasts from an “extraordinary concert with exceptional guests” held at OrheiLand and the “brass band march, music, and joy.” The news item includes the messages published by the officials from Orhei and the Sor Party deputies. The accusatory statements by Pavel Verejanu, Mayor of Orhei, are quoted: “After 31 years of independence, we, unfortunately, dwell in a state where there is no freedom of speech. Besides, the freedom of opposition parties is at risk. Our colleagues are being persecuted for political reasons. This is a sin of our nation.” In the same news, Ilan Sor’s “emotional” message, according to TV6, is quoted (a mixture of facts and opinions). He directly accuses the head of state and the governing circles in general, and the right to reply is not provided. Sor: “… guided by Maia Sandu, the Republic of Moldova has turned into the beggar in Europe. We have ended up living by alms and begging from foreigners. And we look pathetic. (…) The reason is that the government knowingly closes local factories and makes domestic manufacturers go bankrupt to favor imports from abroad. They try to make us dependent, including in the issues related to food.”
Two other materials, which entirely represent a copy-paste of the press releases published on the Sor Party’s official website, announce that the celebration takes place “solemnly, with marches, music, and joy, in Orhei, the most beautiful town in the country” and that a “culinary surprise” is prepared for the locals – “5 000 portions of sausages were distributed among the visitors free of charge, so that they could fully savor the atmosphere of the celebration.” In this case, the materials are not marked as paid advertising, either. Republishing entire press releases of a political party and presenting them as the news by the editorial board demonstrates the media institution’s inequitable editorial policy and misleads information consumers.
Unlike many news portals that reported mostly about the official events held in the center of Chisinau, the messages from the central authorities, politicians, and diplomats, Tv6.md limits itself to a live broadcast of the floral tributes at the monument of Saint Stephen the Great, accompanied by the only remark: “This morning, current and former state officials laid flowers at the monument of Saint Stephen the Great on the 31st anniversary of the Independence Day of the Republic of Moldova.” However, the website dedicates an extended news article to the message by Ilan Sor with an accusing title similar to those formulated by the other news portals listed above. In his statement, the head of the Sor Party criticizes the Chisinau authorities affirming that “the current government has condemned Moldovans to poverty and hunger, and a nation condemned to starvation and poverty by the government cannot be independent, because they can be very easily manipulated and misled. This is not the fate I would like to wish to Moldovan citizens and to the Republic of Moldova. For this reason, I will do everything in my power to make our country really prosperous and independent,” presenting himself as a national savior. This text full of accusations is not balanced with opposite views.
Moldova 1 public TV channel also informed its audience, on the institution’s website, about the congratulatory messages sent by a number of politicians and diplomats on the occasion of Independence Day, mostly in short news items (11 in total). They include the heads of the Presidency, the Parliament, and the Government; Nicu Popescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs; the head of the EU delegation and the US ambassador; the president and the prime minister of Romania; and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. In the news titled “The Republic of Moldova at 31 Years of Independence, as Seen by Politicians,” the journalists provide brief quotes by several deputies from the parliamentary political parties, including Vlad Batrincea, the member of the main opposition party: “The Republic of Moldova is a tool in the large geopolitical battles. The Republic of Moldova must become an island of stability, a neutral prosperous state. The Republic of Moldova should implement policies in the interest of the state.” The Trm.md team also dedicates separate news items mentioning the historical events which took place 31 years ago, explaining the meanings of the state symbols, and talking about the commemoration of the heroes of Independence at the Central Cemetery in our capital. The journalists did not commit any breaches in the monitored information materials.
The portal of the TV8 channel published 13 news items directly or indirectly related to the Independence Day in the Republic of Moldova, from the agenda of the events scheduled for August 27 in Chisinau and the fact that public transportation routes were modified, to the messages by a number of politicians and citizens’ comments on the importance of this day. In four of the news, Maia Sandu is mentioned. For instance, the journalists inform that the head of state “congratulated the country in an unsurpassable way” referring to the video published by the Presidency and mixing facts and opinions, which is unsuitable for informative materials; they mention that “Maia Sandu was surrounded by citizens in the GNAS: people were taking pictures with the president”, and that she spent the end of the Independence Day in Ungheni, celebrating 560 years since the locality had been first mentioned in the documents. All the articles are illustrated with photo galleries. The newsroom also wrote about Maia Sandu’s speech in the Great National Assembly Square together with Igor Grosu and Natalia Gavrilita. Three other reports include citizens’ opinions. “We are mired in problems, many people have told us that they feel rather dependent,” the journalists conclude, among other issues. In another news, TV8 remarks that the Independence Day celebration looks “more modest this year,” mixing facts and opinions: “Whereas last year, this day was celebrated with a military parade and attended by the four heads of state on the stage in the Great National Assembly Square, this year, the audience who arrived in the center of the capital in the morning only listened to Maia Sandu’s speech and a marching band.”
On August 27, Newsmaker.md, a Russian language portal which has a Romanian version, published about 15 informative materials related to the Independence Day events. The website published a photo gallery, live broadcasts from the center of the capital, and success stories of several business people. Newsmaker.md also published materials with quotes from the messages by Maia Sandu, Natalia Gavrilita, and Igor Grosu, as well as congratulatory messages by ambassadors and foreign officials. In a separate material, the portal presents a collection of several statements by the politicians from the Republic of Moldova: the PSRM; Ilan Sor, President of the Sor Party; Igor Dodon, ex-President of the Republic of Moldova; Gheorghe Cavcaliuc, the PACE leader; and Dumitru Alaiba, the PAS deputy. In addition, Newsmaker.md publishes an extensive material on the important events in the Republic of Moldova since the proclamation of its independence. In the monitored materials, no breaches of professional deontological standards were observed.
On August 27, Nokta.md, a Russian language informational portal headquartered in Comrat, published eight news items on the topic and a live broadcast from the official ceremony in the center of the capital dedicated to the Independence Day. One of the news is about the congratulations by Irina Vlah, the head of Gagauzia, published on her Facebook page on the occasion of the holiday. The journalists emphasize that her wish about the “wise leaders” is expressed “in the context of the recent scandal with the central authorities.” At the same time, the newsroom also informs about the speeches by President Maia Sandu in the Great National Assembly Square, Igor Grosu, President of the Parliament, and Natalia Gavrilita, Prime Minister; about the fact that the Republic of Moldova was congratulated by Klaus Iohannis, the Romanian head of state, and Kent Logsdon, the U.S. Ambassador in Chisinau; and about the fact that public transport in the center of Chisinau was stopped due to the scheduled events. Another news item includes the video prepared by the Presidency, in which several citizens explain what independence means to them. No deviations from deontological standards were identified in any of the materials published by Nokta.md.
On August 27, Gagauzinfo.md also published the congratulations by Irina Vlah. Another news item is an announcement of the concert held in Comrat on the occasion of the Independence Day; it is illustrated with a photo gallery. The journalists did not breach the provisions of professional deontology.
All the monitored portals published the news about the events held in the Republic of Moldova and the officials’ and politicians’ messages on the occasion of the Independence Day. Ten media institutions published their articles on the same day, whereas two other websites covered the topic synoptically and briefly, a day before or after the events.
- About a half of the monitored news websites covered the events related to the Independence Day in an unbalanced manner, mainly paying attention to the messages by the PSRM and/or the Sor Party members (md, Aif.md, Actualitati.md, A-tv.md, and Tv6.md). Ntv.md did not cover the events of August 27, whereas Gagauzinfo.md limited itself to covering the topic only at the local level. The other portals monitored (Tv8.md, Newsmaker.md, Nokta.md, Unimedia.info, and Trm.md) covered the subject extensively, in a mostly balanced manner as far as the sources are concerned.
- Several deontological breaches were identified in a number of news articles on some of the monitored websites: facts mixed with opinions, the lack of the accused party’s right to reply, and partial omission of some events by the newsrooms.
- Half of the monitored portals republished press releases by the PSRM and/or the Sor Party word for word (md, Aif.md, Actualitati.md, A-tv.md, Tv6.md, and Unimedia.info), without referring to the primary sources of information in some cases. Complete republication of press releases by a political party causes suspicions about the media institutions’ independence. Moreover, the chapter on commercial and political information of the Deontological Code of the Journalist includes such a mandatory prescription as “clear separation of journalistic products from commercial advertising, materials prepared for advertising purposes, and political (electoral) advertising. Commercial advertising, materials prepared for advertising purposes, and political (electoral) advertising shall be marked distinctly and presented in such a way that they could not be mistaken for journalistic products.”