Press Freedom Day in the Republic of Moldova traditionally starts on May 3 and continues throughout the month when the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) and other media NGOs organize various actions in support of press freedom. This year’s event will be held under the banner of 2022: #StopTheWar.
On the eve of the event, the IJC invited the media community to participate in a flash mob in front of the Russian Embassy in Chisinau with the slogan “United for freedom of the press. Truth cannot be suppressed!”. The organizers wanted to emphasize the importance of journalists working in a safe environment without being persecuted.
The flash mob aimed to highlight the consequences of the war on free and independent media – the killing of journalists in Ukraine, the oppression of the press in Russia, and the spread of propaganda around the world. At the same time, the flash mob was also a moment of solidarity with journalists who cover the war and who do their jobs honestly regardless of the circumstances.
Also on May 3 in keeping with tradition, the IJC launched the Memorandum on Freedom of the Press for the period May 3, 2022 – May 3, 2023, which highlights the main problems and challenges faced by the press in the Republic of Moldova over the past year.
On May 23, the IJC will announce the winners of the third edition of the Tulip Press Awards in two sections: Video and Online/Print Press.
Among other actions organized by the IJC will be the public presentation of the National Information and Media Literacy Program (2024-2026).
Other media organizations will be coming throughout the month with a suite of events. The Ziarul de Garda newspaper will present the “Media in questions and answers” quiz. The Independent Press Association (API) will announce the winner of the 2023 Tudor Iascenco Award. API will also launch the second edition of the national competition for journalistic material promoting diversity and social inclusion and will organize the an online debate on the role of journalists in promoting human rights.
The Moldovan Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJM) will launch a database of women experts from Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia at the Investigative Journalists Club. Similarly, the CIJM will organize a training course for investigative journalists from the four countries in conducting cross-border journalistic investigations.
The Media Guard Association will take part in the event with a journalistic show, a first for the Republic of Moldova, where reporters will present stories in an entertaining way, but based on real facts they discovered while documenting their journalistic subjects.
On April 24, the Council of the European Union approved the establishment of an EU Partnership Mission to the Republic of Moldova (EUPM Moldova) under the Common Security and Defense Policy to enhance the resilience of the country’s security sector, in particular in crisis management and hybrid threats. This includes cyber security and countering foreign manipulation of information and foreign interference.
The initiative to deploy an EU civilian mission to Chisinau comes in response to a request from the government, which argued that the Republic of Moldova is one of the countries most affected by the consequences of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and that Russia’s attempts to destabilize the country through hybrid actions are real. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that Moldova can count on EU support in the current difficult circumstances.
The mission will provide strategic advice on developing strategies and policies for detecting, identifying, and responding to hybrid threats and will have an initial mandate of two years.
The Republic of Moldova will no longer pay membership fees for MIR interstate television. The announcement was made by government spokesperson Daniel Voda after the April 4 meeting of the Executive, which approved financial contributions to several international organizations.
In a March 2022 analysis for Mediacritica, President of the Press Council Viorica Zaharia pointed out that “the TV channel with its command center in Russia, MIR, not only makes propaganda but also uses another dangerous form of distortion of reality – falsification of reality by omission. It is the exclusion of facts, the fragmentation of information, and the total removal of relevant people and institutions from the news – in other words, a set of actions that presents the world differently than it is.”
The author also stated that the MIR Company and has been funded over the last three years with 3,584,000 lei per year (182,000 euros). The company owns two TV channels – MIR and MIR 24 – both broadcast in the Republic of Moldova. MIR 24 specializes in news and analytical programs.
Representatives of MIR interstate television have sued the Ministry of Finance after the authorities failed to transfer the company 2.6 million lei (132,000 euros) that were to be allocated from the state budget in 2022. The first hearing on the case will take place in November 2023.
According to a response from the Ministry of Finance to the Independent Journalism Center’s Media Azi portal, MIR representatives filed the lawsuit against the institution on October 12, 2022, citing the fact that although the Republic of Moldova was supposed to pay almost 3.5 million lei to the inter-state TV station last year, only 871,000 lei were transferred.
The state secretary of the ministry, Vladimir Arachelov, states in his reply that the money did not reach the company’s accounts since, during the state of emergency, which was instituted in March 2022, the TRCI MIR representative office suspended the retransmission on the territory of the Republic of Moldova of all programs that were originally produced in states that have not ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, and these were also the reasons for the suspension of the financing of these expenses.
Stanislav Vijga, the director of MIR’s Moldovan office, told Media Azi that “there is a decision on the allocation of these resources, which has not been canceled, so it remains valid.” Vijga added that the Moldovan representative office has not been liquidated for the time being, and the editorial team is still working.
On April 19, the Moldovan government approved the denunciation of agreements with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on the establishment and operation of the MIR interstate television and radio company.
According to the decision, this concerns the denunciation of the Agreement on the Creation of the Interstate Teleradio Company, signed in Bishkek in 1992, and of the Agreement on International Law Guarantees for the Free and Independent Activity of the MIR Teleradio Company, signed in Ashgabat in 1993. In this context, the representative office of the MIR Teleradio Company in the Republic of Moldova is to be deregistered as a legal entity in the registers of the State Registration Chamber, the Government said.
“The termination of our country’s participation in the activity of the MIR company will contribute to saving financial resources and will reaffirm the commitment of the Republic of Moldova to protect the national and regional audiovisual space to ensure information security,” said the Secretary General of the Government Artur Mija.
It should be noted that, at present, the television channels Mir TV and Mir 24, common for the CIS area, do not hold a broadcasting license issued by the Broadcasting Council and are not media service providers in the Republic of Moldova.
For the second year running, the Equality Council has noted a serious problem in the local press: to be as accurate as possible in the information they deliver to the general public, journalists sometimes “admit to practices that spread and even perpetuate discriminatory attitudes towards certain groups of vulnerable people.” The finding is contained in the general report on the situation in the field of preventing and combating discrimination in the Republic of Moldova for the year 2022, sent to Parliament at the end of March.
The Council noted that the highlighting of ethnicity, in the context under review, does not carry any informational value that could be justified by genuine public interest. The institution stresses that highlighting ethnicity in the context of reporting on the illegality of certain individuals also casts a negative light on the whole community concerned. Therefore, highlighting ethnicity in the context of discussions about committing certain offenses only justifies and reinforces the negative prejudice against this ethnic group, which in a democratic society cannot be tolerated,” the report states.
Since the start of war operations on the territory of Ukraine, the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organized Crime and Special Cases has launched criminal prosecutions in seven cases investigating the propagation of war and intentional actions aimed at stirring up enmity or division on national, ethnic, racial or religious grounds, according to a response from the institution to the Independent Journalism Center’s Mediacritica portal.
The PCCOCS states that the seven files were examined in the absence of the persons concerned and/or summoned as suspects or defendants. According to the institution, “criminal prosecution is currently underway and proactive actions are being taken against several figures to prove and prevent the crimes under investigation, which are of a complex nature. According to the material gathered, the criminal actions concerned are centrally planned and carried out intentionally to create among the population of the Republic of Moldova an emotional climate conducive to armed conflict, including related to the generation of social dissension.”
We recall that the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Organized Crime and Special Cases (PCCOCS), together with ISS and SPIA officers, announced on March 4, 2022 that it is investigating the actions of persons who, during 2022, “publicly spread tendentious and invented information” in the context of the war in Ukraine.
The judges of the Riscani court in Chisinau recently dismissed the complaints of N4 against the Broadcasting Council (BC) decision as unfounded, in which the TV station requested the annulment of certain sanctions in the form of a public warning, imposed for the insufficiency of local products and the lack of translations or subtitles of films in Romanian. The decisions can be appealed at the Chisinau Court of Appeal.
The complaints concern a decision in March 2022 when the authority fined twelve TV stations a total of 198,000 lei (about 10,000 euros).
The decision to sanction the twelve TV stations was taken at the BC meeting on March 2 last year in the context of a series of 30 petitions from the Employers’ Association of Broadcasters of Moldova and the proposal to monitor ex officio all TV stations that committed violations on the subject in 2021. The Authority randomly selected two monitoring periods (January 17-23 and January 24-30, 2022) and identified several violations in terms of insufficient local products, Romanian-language programs, and translations or subtitling of films. The fines amounted to almost 200,000 lei. Channel N4 received two public warnings.
In the meantime, according to the CA, other providers out of the twelve targeted have appealed the Council’s decision in court. In their case, the court has not yet ruled.
Several civil society organizations, including the Independent Journalism Center, have launched a public call for broad consultations by Parliament on the draft law on access to information of public interest. The request follows the approval by the Government on April 12, 2023, of the draft prepared by the Ministry of Justice, which aims to replace the current Law on Access to Information and bring Moldova’s legislation in line with international standards in this field.
According to the signatories, the problematic aspects of the draft law are the introduction of exceptions that make the proportionality criterion inapplicable in limiting access to information, and the lack of clear criteria on quality and format for proactive publication of information. The definition of public information is more restrictive than that contained in the current law. Similarly, there is a lack of an effective monitoring and enforcement mechanism.
“In its current version, the draft Law on Access to Information will not address the problems raised over the years, in particular by the media community, which is most frequently affected by illegal practices of information providers. Proposals from civil society aimed at remedying these practices and improving transparency standards by facilitating media access to information of public interest have not been considered by the authors of the draft law,” explains Cristina Durnea, legal officer at the Independent Journalism Center.
In a reaction, Prime Minister’s spokesperson Daniel Voda wrote on Facebook that “today the government sent Parliament a better draft of the document, including full openness for further adjustments on the parliamentary platform, drawing on European practices and our commitments under the Tromsø Convention.”
The TV Nord portal obtained, in the first instance, the annulment of the act by which the Balti City Hall. The Balti Court’s Central Office issued the judgment on April 4, 2023. The editorial staff of the media institution benefited from the legal support of the Independent Journalism Center.
In January 2023, the reporters of the TV Nord portal tvn.md asked the Balti City Hall, through an access to information request, to provide them with a list of economic agents and individuals who donated money to the local public administration, indicating the amounts donated and how they were spent. In a reply signed by the mayor of the municipality, Nicolai Grigorisin, journalists were informed that “the provision of analytical, summary or unpublished information is subject to payment,” according to rates specified in an annex to a decision of the Municipal Council. Thus, to obtain information concerning public money, reporters were asked to pay 950 lei (45 euros).
TV Nord challenged the act by which the Balti City Hall made access to information conditional on the payment of fees in court and asked the court to oblige the municipality to provide them with data of public interest. Shortly after learning about the court case, the institution provided the reporters with the requested information, said Cristina Durnea, a lawyer at the Independent Journalism Center, the organization that provided the journalists with legal assistance on the case.
It should be recalled that in a public statement, non-governmental media organizations condemned attempts by the Balti City Hall to restrict the media’s access to information and called for the cancellation of the fees for providing public interest data.
Cinema1, PEH TV, and TVC 21 have been publicly warned by the Broadcasting Council (BC) for breaches of rigor and accuracy in news writing and presentation, and Orizont TV for breaches of three other provisions of the Audiovisual Media Services Code (AMSC) relating to ensuring fair information, including lack of impartiality and failure to present the main opposing viewpoints. The decisions were taken at a meeting of the BC on 7 April.
The BC ordered the monitoring of TV stations Canal 5, Cinema 1, Exclusiv TT, ITV, Orizont TV, PEH TV, and TVC 21 on February 17, and seven days later asked them for recordings of the main news bulletins of February 10, 13, and 16, 2023. The review concerned the coverage of the resignation of Natalia Gavrilita’s government on February 10, the statements of President Maia Sandu on February 13 on the security of the country, and the appointment, voting, and swearing-in of the government led by Dorin Recean on February 16.
According to BC, Canal 5, Exclusiv TV and ITV broadcast these subjects without any deviation from the legal rules.
The Broadcasting Council (BC) fined the TV channels Cinema 1, Canal 2, Canal 3, Mega TV, and Familia a total of 219,000 lei after the second monitoring phase for not broadcasting enough local, Romanian language, and prime time programs.
At the request of BC President Liliana Vitu, media service providers were ordered to be monitored and penalized for the average daily duration of local programs during the last review. These were found to be insufficient, with less than 80% of Romanian language content and less than 75% of which were broadcast in prime time, as required by the Audiovisual Media Services Code of the Republic of Moldova (AMSC). The second stage of the monitoring of the BC was conducted based on the same provisions of the Code.
According to the BC classification, the TV channels Canal 5, Canal 2, Canal 3, Mega TV, Familia, and Cinema 1 are national and therefore obliged to broadcast at least eight hours of local content daily.
According to the data presented at the BC meeting on March 31, the monitoring period for TV channels was random: January 19-25, 2023 for Cinema 1 and February 11-17, 2023 for the other audiovisual media services, which claimed that for technical reasons they could not present the BC with recordings of programs broadcast during the first mentioned monitoring period.
Channel 5 was the only television channel for which the BC did not record any violations of the provisions relating to local programs, and Media TV was recognized by the members of the BC as the only monitored channel to have improved in this respect, being sanctioned based on only one provision of the Code. The other TV stations monitored were fined between 47,000 lei (2,350 euros) and 54,000 lei (2,700 euros) each.
“When we initiated this repeated review, for compliance with the article on local programs, we hoped to see a better situation. Unfortunately, they are repeating themselves, insisting on the unwillingness to produce local programs,” concluded Liliana Vitu.
The Media Azi portal has previously written that the fines for insufficient local TV and radio programs for 2022 were almost one million lei (50,000 euros).
Several elderly people from the villages of Floritoaia Veche, Floritoaia Noua, and Grozasca in the Ungheni district learned how to avoid manipulation and misinformation when reading the press, listening to the radio, watching TV, or accessing social networks. To this end, they attended a media education workshop organized by the IJC on April 18.
IJC Program Coordinator Victoria Tataru explained to them how to choose truthful news from the sea of information that surrounds them and how to realize that some news can misinform them. Journalist Diana Raileanu, a trainer for the Media Literacy Workshop, brought them several examples from her own experience to convince them why critical thinking is necessary for people of all ages.
To help the Media Literacy Workshop participants understand what it means for a message to be distorted, Diana Raileanu challenged them to participate in an interactive activity. By reproducing a simple message from one person to another, participants were convinced of how much content is lost from the primary source.
“When we go to buy a pair of shoes – we measure it 7 times. We should do the same with the news: ask ourselves questions whenever we read it or hear it on the radio and TV. Critical thinking is a weapon against manipulation and misinformation,” said Diana Raileanu.
Natalia Junghietu, director of the independent publication Expresul in Ungheni, also attended the workshop. The journalist spoke at length about the phenomenon of fake news, reminding us of several rules that teach us to distinguish true news from fake news.
“Fake news is often more attractive and impressive. They arouse our emotions and exploit our feelings. But at the same time, they can have serious consequences for public opinion, because they can lead to the launch of wrong decisions, to the creation of social and political tensions. It is very important to be critical of the information we receive daily,” concluded Natalia Junghietu.
The workshop was organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), within the project “Building cohesion in Moldova through promoting social inclusion and diminishing discrimination.” The project is carried out by the IJC as part of the program “Joint Initiative for Equal Opportunities – Phase II”, implemented from the resources provided by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
In an analysis published on the IJC’s Mediacritica portal, President of the Moldovan Press Council Viorica Zaharia warns journalists to refrain from political advocacy using the image of vulnerable children and families. In this context, she recalls an appeal to this effect that the Press Council and People’s Advocate for the Rights of the Child Maia Banarescu addressed to politicians five years ago.
“Now we hardly ever see images on the networks or in the media of ‘compassionate’ politicians, who enter the doors of poor families with gifts and don’t forget to take a photo,” writes the journalist. But she notes that “the phenomenon has not disappeared,” and can still be seen especially in election campaigns, such as those in Gagauzia, which took place recently. “I was surprised to see that the notion of children’s rights seems to be unknown in Gagauzia,” she says, adding that “the website of the charity foundation of one of the current candidates for the post of Gagauz mayor is full of photos showing volunteers in uniforms bearing the foundation’s insignia, giving gifts to children or adults in conditions that can hardly be called decent.”
The president of the Press Council reminds journalists and organizations who think they are making charitable gestures that at least there is a law protecting children from such exposure. This is the Law on the Protection of Children against the Negative Impact of Information, which prohibits the publication of photographs or video images “in the context of negative social phenomena, which allows the identification of children” and the dissemination of other information that offends the dignity of the identified child and/or harms his or her best interests. Viorica Zaharia also recommends that journalists be more familiar with the Code of Ethics for Journalists, which is even richer in provisions protecting vulnerable people, including children, from actions by the media that would harm them.
The material is published thanks to the generous support of the American and British people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK. The content is the responsibility of the Independent Journalism Center and does not necessarily reflect the views of the UK, USAID, or the US Government.
The IJC’s Mediacritica portal published an analysis by gender activist Elena Ratoi in April, which finds that sexism is increasingly present on social networks. Although the internet should be a safe space, in reality, many people continue to perpetuate various stereotypes, and insult or marginalize others based on their gender, she says. According to her, online sexism could take any form of behavior manifested through electronic media that perpetuates gender inequality or the idea that one gender is inferior. The phenomenon can manifest itself in different forms, for example using discriminatory language or hate speech, which can escalate to gender-based violence or sexual harassment online.
The author notes that in Moldova, online sexism is an even more important problem, as our society is deeply marked by gender stereotypes. In support of this, she brings the findings of a study conducted by Promo-Lex, according to which hate speech in the public space and the media, including online, is quite widespread in the Republic of Moldova, with women being among those most affected by this phenomenon.
Preventing and combating sexism online is in everyone’s power, says the women’s activist. She recommends that women and girls report any cases of gender discrimination to the Equality Council, and in more serious cases to go to the police.
The material is published as part of the “Inclusion starts with me” campaign, organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), within the project “Building cohesion in Moldova through promoting social inclusion and diminishing discrimination.” The project is carried out by the IJC as part of the program “Joint Initiative for Equal Opportunities – Phase II”, implemented from the resources provided by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
IJC and Internews Updates
23 teachers from the high school level developed their media skills during a new training in Media Literacy, held by the Independent Journalism Centre on 28-30 April in Chisinau. The trainers of the course were Loretta Handrabura and Natalia Griu, authors of the Media Education curriculum and Handbook on Media Literacy for 10th and 11th grades. At the training, British journalist Nick Raistrick gave an online presentation of his work “Handbook on Disinformation. A guide for journalists, communicators and campaigners in Moldova”. The journalist demonstrated several techniques that could be used by teachers during lessons to help students better understand where there is truth and where there is manipulation and disinformation.
Mariana Tabuncic, programme manager at the IJC, told the training participants that media education has become one of the IJC’s priority objectives, adding that the optional subject Media Education is being taught in schools for the sixth consecutive year.
Trainers Loretta Handrabura and Natalia Griu discussed with teachers ethical behavior online, forms of online aggression, safety online and the role of influencers in shaping the behavior of the new generation.
To date, the IJC has trained 214 teachers, 191 secondary school teachers and 201 secondary school teachers. The optional subject is included in the Framework Programme of the Ministry of Education and Research of the Republic of Moldova at all three levels of education – primary, secondary and high school. The IJC has developed the Media Literacy curriculum and textbooks which are offered free of charge to teachers and students.
The training was organized by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) as part of the “Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova” (MEDIA-M) project, funded by USAID and the UK and implemented by Internews in Moldova.
The PikPok.online@guguette show in Russian, launched by the Municipal Puppet Theatre “Guguta” in partnership with the IJC and the Association “Talinka”, will be staged from February 2023. For the convenience of Russian-speaking young viewers from all over the Republic of Moldova, the play has also been released in video format.
The show is adapted from the educational story “A Click of the Fangs or the Manipulating Wolf”, written by Latvian media researcher Solvita Denisa Liepniece, and is intended for kindergarten and primary school children. The story helps students understand how the online environment works and urges them to critically analyze information, especially on social media.
The IJC urges parents, teachers, and educators to watch the show with their children to explain why they need to be aware of the pitfalls of cyberspace.
The video version of PikPok.online@guguta, in Russian, was made within the project “Boosting Support to Russian-language independent media and media literacy efforts: Phase II” implemented by Internews in Moldova. This project is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Chisinau.