Eight media NGOs, including the Independent Journalism Center, have condemned the use of Article 70 of the Contravention Code (Slander) as a means to intimidate journalists.
On July 26, following a complaint filed by a former employee of the Ministry of Interior, Vitalie Grabovschi, the Chisinau Court (Buiucani headquarters) issued a decision whereby the administrator of Jurnal TV, Val Butnaru, was fined and deprived of the right to hold positions of responsibility within a media institution for a period of six months. A few hours later, the Buiucani Police Inspectorate issued a new report stating that the administrator of Jurnal TV had committed the offense of libel. This time too, the police officer who drew up the report asked the court to deprive Val Butnaru of the right to carry out his activity for a period of one year because he had allowed “false and defamatory information” to be broadcast. The case was brought at the request of officer Ion Tarna and former police officer Alexei Vizdan. Both Grabovschi and Tarna, as well as Alexei Vizdan, were targeted in journalistic material released by Jurnal TV. Earlier, the TV station’s editorial staff had reported that Ion Tarna and Alexei Vizdan had forced their way into Jurnal TV’s offices and threatened journalists.
In a joint statement, the eight media organizations point out that these are not the only cases where legal provisions on libel are used as a weapon against media representatives. According to the signatories, such practices are capable of discouraging journalists from contributing to the public debate on issues of interest to society. Persons who consider themselves victims of defamation may use the means of defense and restoration of rights provided for in the Law on Freedom of Expression, which presuppose ensuring the requirements established for the press in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
The media NGOs call on legal bodies dealing with cases involving the offense of libel to stop abusing legal provisions as a weapon against the media’s freedom of expression and to refrain from misinterpreting the law in the future.
The head of the General Inspectorate of Police (GIP), Viorel Cernauteanu, told the Media Azi show that he had ordered a service investigation into the second report issued on the basis of complaints filed by a former police officer and a current officer against Jurnal TV administrator Val Butnaru. In the second criminal case, initiated on July 26, the police officer also recommended to the court to deprive Val Butnaru of the right to manage the media institution for one year, because he had allowed “false and defamatory information” about officer Ion Tarna and former police officer Alexei Vizdan to be broadcast.
“I have ordered an investigation on duty, lest anyone think that I am protecting police employees,” said Viorel Cernauteanu. He also explained the circumstances that led him to initiate this investigation. “The first thing that was glaring to me was the statute of limitations that was violated in all respects,” said the GIP chief.
The Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) has sent a letter to the Parliamentary Committee on Culture, Education, Research, Youth, Sport and the Media informing them of the need to amend the national legal framework in order to stop practices that undermine press freedom.
The action comes in the context of the entrenched practice of using the provisions of Article 70 of the Contravention Code (Libel) as a means to intimidate journalists – which has been reported by media NGOs at least three times in the last two years. The most recent case concerns Jurnal TV’s administrator, Val Butnaru, who was sanctioned in two criminal trials on July 26, 2022 for journalistic material broadcast by Jurnal TV that targeted police collaborators. Another case was recorded in May 2020, when Natalia Cebotari, a journalist with the newspaper Znamea in Ceadir-Lunga, was fined by the police for information she published on social networks.
In the letter to the members of the Parliamentary Committee responsible for the media, the IJC indicates necessary steps to be taken to exclude journalists from the category of liable subjects under Article 70 of the Contravention Code. “This is not about giving absolute immunity to journalists. People who disagree with press material can defend their rights in a civil suit, subject to the guarantees of Article 10 of the ECHR,” said Nadine Gogu, IJC Executive Director.
The letter was also accompanied by an explanatory note which addresses the issue from a legal perspective and reveals the main reasoning behind the organization’s request.
The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) ran an online campaign from August 15 to August 19 on the need to amend the article in the Code of Offenses concerning libel.
Five journalists from the national and regional press – Victor Mosneag, Ziarul de Garda editor-in-chief; Mariana Rata, “Black Box” program director; Anghelina Gaidarji, Tuk Portal journalist from Taraclia; Mihail Sirkeli, Comrat-based Nokta website founder, and Liuba Shevciuc, one of the founders of the CU SENS media project – have sent messages to Parliament for a week demanding that Article 70 of the Contraventions Code not be employed against the media. The journalists’ messages were circulated on social media after the IJC sent a letter to the Parliamentary Committee on Culture, Education, Research, Youth, Sport and the Media requesting that the necessary steps be taken to exclude journalists from the category of subjects liable under this article.
|During live coverage of a protest in Vulcanesti on August 14, two participants in the rally assaulted and insulted Nokta reporter Zahar Pavlioglo. Specifically, the two threatened the journalist by calling him names and using the following insults: “Ya tebya naidu, * netsenzurnoe slovo*, Ya tebya probreyu…” (translated from Russian – “I find you, *insult you” and shave you…”). At the same time, one of the protesters, Dmitrii Topal, applied physical force and yanked the reporter by his hair.|
The IJC, together with eight other non-governmental media organizations, condemned this defiant behavior and warned that the actions of the two protesters constitute a violation of the right to bodily integrity of individuals, individual freedom and safety, as well as the special rights guaranteed to journalists. “According to the Law on Freedom of Expression, the state guarantees freedom of expression of the press, and outlines that the intentional unlawful hindering of media activity entails criminal liability. At the same time, we emphasize that threatening to bodily harm, as well harassment in public places are acts criminalized by the legislation,” the statement reads.
The signatories of the document called on the Moldovan law enforcement authorities to take note of the acts committed and to initiate the procedures provided for by law to hold the aggressors responsible.
The Russia-24 correspondent who conducted an interview with former President Igor Dodon in mid-July (under house arrest) violated the provisions of a government decision on the accreditation of foreign media representatives in Moldova. The Migration and Asylum Office is yet to comment on the matter, according to an official response from the Intelligence and Security Service (ISS) to Media Azi. Earlier, a member of the Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) called for clarification of the case.
“Olga Armiakova did not apply for accreditation to carry out journalistic work in the Republic of Moldova, thus violating the provisions of the government decision on the accreditation of foreign journalists in the Republic of Moldova,” reads the ISS response to the interview broadcast by Russian TV station Russia-24 on July 15.
Representatives of the service said that the competent national authority for foreigners (the Migration and Asylum Office, a subdivision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs) will give an opinion on the legality of the journalist’s stay and activity in Moldova.
|Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation recently criticized Moldovan authorities for “putting pressure on the independent and opposition press,” including by applying sanctions. According to Ivan Neceaev, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department, the media space would be cleansed of opinions and views “that are not to the liking of the government”.|
The official mentioned the bans on the retransmission of Russian news programs and that “on August 5, the Broadcasting Council of the Republic of Moldova repeatedly fined four Russian-language TV stations – NTV Moldova, Exclusive TV, Primul in Moldova and Accent TV – for ‘deviations’ from established rules.’”
In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI) in Chisinau rejected the “allegations” of Moscow officials, saying they do not correspond to objective assessments and European and international standards formulated by prestigious media freedom monitoring organizations. Asked by the Media Azi portal to comment on the Russian official’s statements, the Broadcasting Council (BC) replied that the activity of any station holding a license issued by the authority is regulated under national legislation, through the Audiovisual Media Services Code of the Republic of Moldova.
|In an interview for the Nordnews.md news portal, Moldovan President Maia Sandu said, “the most serious consequence of Russian propaganda we see in our society is in people who justify the war in Ukraine or even promote it.”|
The head of state also said she would ask state institutions to stop war propaganda. “Beyond the other aspects of disinformation, where we can still discuss to what extent there is freedom of the press and where there is disinformation, when where war is promoted, when war is justified, the measures must be very tough and there is no room for debate here. It is a risk to state security and, at one of the next meetings of the Supreme Security Council, I will be clearer and ask state institutions to stop this war propaganda,” said Sandu.
On June 2, Parliament voted in final reading on amendments to the Audiovisual Media Services Code providing for measures to combat disinformation. The new provisions include the introduction of the notion of disinformation as “the intentional dissemination of false information created to harm a person, a social group, an organization, or the security of the state.” The law also provides for restrictions on the broadcasting of commercial communications, as well as sanctions in the form of fines of up to 100.000 lei (5000 euro) for television and radio stations that misinform the public.
Since August 1, the media has been entitled to obtain information from databases held by the Public Services Agency (PSA) free of charge in electronic format. The institution told the Independent Journalism Center’s portal Media Azi that journalists have access to the state registers of the population, legal units and real estate, vehicle drivers and transport, as well as other PSA information resources. Officials are obliged to respond to requests within five working days, subject to the provisions on the protection of personal data.
In order to request a specific piece of information, the media institution must submit a request on behalf of the director of the agency, which must indicate the type of information, the purpose and legitimate basis of obtaining it, as well as the email address where the information will be provided. In addition, journalists must attach a copy of the institution’s registration document and/or the person’s accreditation as a media institution (in PDF format).
The application can be signed in handwriting by the head of the media institution or the person authorized to do so and sent to the PSA by post. In the case of an electronically signed application, it must be sent to email@example.com. The deadline for examining the application is calculated from the date of its registration with the institution.
The PSA has specified that the new changes do not concern the services for granting access to state registers via the automated information system “ACCES-Web” and the Central Cadastre Database. Access to these platforms still requires a contract. Also, the following services are provided for a fee. the issue of information in the form of an extract/certificate/certificate, access to documents in the records file at the offices of the PSA subdivisions, the issue of copies of documents held in the archive repository and information services.
The Broadcasting Council (BC) has approved the Audiovisual Development Strategy for 2023-2027 at its August meeting, according to a press release from the institution.
The document presents the BC’s medium-term policies and identifies several strategic directions for which actions and activities are defined as priorities for implementation in the next period. The document includes monitoring indicators, responsible persons, and deadlines for the implementation of each individual objective.
According to the BC, the aim of the strategy is “to ensure real audiovisual pluralism, characterized by the cumulative combination of the following features: diversity of media service providers, audiovisual media services and audiovisual programs within the same audiovisual media service; the presence of the opinions of the general public in audiovisual media services; the presence of free, autonomous, economically and editorially independent media service providers; and access of the general public to the range of opinions present in audiovisual media services”.
Teleradio-Moldova (TRM) signed a memorandum with the Georgian public broadcaster on August 22 to take over an architectural project involving its headquarters and radio and TV studios. According to TRM general director Vlad Turcanu, the Chisinau broadcaster needs modern premises in order to implement new technologies and make the maintenance costs of old buildings more efficient. The cost of the project amounts to €17 million, which would be gained from international partners and through the sale of buildings and land not used by the public broadcaster.
Turcanu said that representatives of the Georgian public broadcaster and the architectural house that developed the project for the Georgian public broadcaster handed over the project free of charge after the Tbilisi Public Broadcasting Institution built a new headquarters and studios. According to the general director of TRM, the architectural design will be adapted to meet the needs of Teleradio-Moldova.
The project is expected to be ready in 30 months. “This building of the architectural project, the administrative one, will have inside it offices, TV and radio studios, a separate autonomous module that will be envisaged for a large studio – around 1,000 square meters. We estimate the architectural project to be 9,000 square meters,” said Turcanu.
A new entity – the Information Security and Internal Protection Service – will be created within the public company Teleradio-Moldova (TRM). The decision was approved on August 12 by the Supervisory and Development Council (SDC) at the request of TRM’s director general Vlad Turcanu.
Four people would work in the department, including senior specialists in various fields: internal protection, information security, information and electronic systems security, security and control.
At the SDC meeting, Turcanu said that the idea to launch a new department came after the visit of the employees of the Anti-Terrorist Centre of the Intelligence and Security Service during the first weeks of the war in Ukraine. “There are several sensitive sectors that need to be developed, namely broadcasting security – we do not currently have a structure that regulates access to broadcasting studios; information security – here we have an IT department that does not have coordination at the highest level, it only has some technical tasks (such a service that we propose would bring together all the sections we have, to ensure coordination in the sense of security); internal protection and control; infrastructure security; security and control – access,” Turcanu explained to the SDC members, according to the minutes of the meeting.
SDC President Arcadie Gherasim told Media Azi that the TRM is to submit draft regulations for the new subdivision by the end of the month.
On August 15, graduates of the Moldovan School of Journalism signed the Journalist’s Code of Ethics during their graduation ceremony, the Press Council informs.
The fourteen graduates of the Moldovan School of Journalism have pledged to respect the basic rules of journalism and professional ethics.
The initiative to sign the Journalist’s Code of Ethics was launched in 2020, through a broad campaign in which media institutions, journalists, students and graduates are invited to publicly assume the principles of professional ethics by signing the Journalist’s Code of Ethics.
The Moldovan School of Journalism is the successor of the project “Chisinau School of Advanced Journalism Studies,” launched in 2006 as an IJC pilot project.
Several newsrooms complain that Facebook’s content moderation policies, adopted in the context of the war in Ukraine, are affecting their work – some posts have ended up being unjustifiably blocked, they say. Moreover, unblocking these posts is taking time.
“I’ve been blocked twice already and received several block warnings. The only posts of mine that have been blocked and deleted are about the war,” says Alina Radu, editor of Ziarul de Garda (ZdG). Although she challenged Facebook’s decisions to block posts, both actions were rejected.
Valeria Batereanu, social media manager at Diez.md, argues that Meta’s new policies, especially in the context of the war in the neighboring country, restrict the impact of media products. “Although we respect ethical rules, strictly follow social media policies, avoid incitement to hatred, shocking images, gruesome scenes and disseminate information in a fair, impartial and honest way, we are not an exception when it comes to restrictions,” says the journalist.
Ghenadie Braghis, director of the sales department at Pro TV Chisinau, said that although copyright complaints are a common procedure for Facebook, they have increased significantly recently. “Their apparently concerted actions are affecting our distribution rate, the reach of Facebook posts and therefore the traffic on www.protv.md,” noted Braghis.
Cornelia Cozonac, director of the Moldovan Journalistic Investigation Center, also complains about the blocking of his Facebook posts at various times: “At times we are blocked for a month. You can’t share, you can’t post. The mention is that someone reported our posts as abusive.”
Facebook is the most popular social network in Moldova, with about 1.6 million users, followed by Instagram, which has 960,000 active accounts.
|Penalties for the unauthorized collection of information and the creation of illegal information structures and fake profiles on social networks are included in a draft amendment to the Penal Code and the Contravention Code. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) drafted this document that was recently submitted to the government.|
The draft law contains a number of amendments designed to “improve the regulatory framework, remedy some legislative shortcomings – which, in practice, generate difficulties in the interpretation and application of criminal law rules – and strengthen an effective system of humanization of the state’s punitive policy to be adapted to social requirements and realities”.
The document defines an illegal intelligence structure as “any structure created outside the constitutional and legal regulations of the state for the purpose of collecting and processing information containing state secrets, other information that can be used for committing actions detrimental to the sovereignty, independence, territorial inviolability, state security or defense capacity of the Republic of Moldova, or for the purpose of recruiting persons to support such actions.”
Penalties are also laid out for the unauthorized collection of information. If a person collects or steals data “for the purpose of storing or using it to the detriment of the sovereignty, independence, territorial inviolability, state security or defense capacity of the Republic of Moldova, if it does not constitute treason or espionage,” fines of 42.500 lei ( 2125 euro) to 67.500 lei (3350 euro) or imprisonment for two to five years are proposed. Harsher penalties are prescribed for cases when these actions are done by a person who became aware of the information in connection with his service or work.
The document also provides for penalties for using a false identity on social networks, except when pseudonyms are used – from 25,000 lei (1250 euro) to 150.000 lei ( 7500 euro) or imprisonment from half a year to one year. In both cases, it provides for the deprivation of the right to hold certain positions or carry out certain activities for up to five years.
|At an August 12 meeting, the Broadcasting Council (BC) has publicly warned PEH TV for broadcasting programs with a negative impact on children.|
The monitoring of the channel was carried out following a petition filed by the Employers’ Association of Broadcasters of Moldova, which alleged that when broadcasting the film “Mech” (“Sword”), the TV channel “did not take into account the criteria for classification of audiovisual programs” laid down in a regulation on audiovisual content – approved by the BC – and in the legislation on the protection of children against the negative impact of information.
BC monitoring data showed that the film contains “numerous scenes of physical and mental violence, foul language and drug use, which may affect the physical, mental and moral development of minors.” Moreover, according to web sources, the film has a content rating of 16+. “I don’t think a 12-year-old child has the discernment to understand this licentious language and to understand what is right and what is wrong,” commented BC president Liliana Vitu.
|Recently, the court decided to sanction Val Butnaru, the administrator of Jurnal TV, with a fine and deprived him of the right to occupy positions of responsibility within a media institution for six months. Media NGOs have warned that the case could set a dangerous precedent for press freedom. How do the police view the case and why does civil society consider such actions abusive? These and other questions were answered by Viorel Cernauteanu, head of the General Police Inspectorate, and Cristina Durnea, a lawyer at the Independent Journalism Center, in a new edition of Media Azi show.|
|The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) has invited media outlets to participate in a small grants competition, through which the organization aims to help newsrooms cover specific needs/expenses related to their journalistic work.|
Four newsrooms will receive grants of £250, which will be used exclusively to purchase subscriptions to public interest databases and obtain government records used for journalistic material.
The grant competition is aimed at media outlets that meet ethical and professional standards, boast a good reputation and an independent editorial policy, and use public interest databases/state registers in the production of journalistic material.
The small grant competition is launched in the framework of the project “Promoting media literacy among citizens through quality media content,” implemented by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) from May to September 2022, with financial support from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
Millions of users go online every day. They indirectly become participants in online violence, sexual harassment, hate speech, or discriminatory speech. According to research by the European Parliament, 20 percent of young women in EU member states were victims of sexual harassment online in 2018, and three percent of hate speech on social media is directed at women.
The topic was covered in the August edition of the Podcast cuMINTE. This time the guest was Dumitru Sliusarenco, senior policy specialist at Google. Specifically, Sliusarenco specializes in online harassment and hate speech in the YouTube policy department of Google.
According to him, the hate spread online affects us greatly. Therefore, the phenomenon cannot be neglected. YouTube has nearly three billion users. According to statistics, about one-two percent of the content on Youtube is hate speech. “According to my calculations, about 500 hours of hate content is uploaded every hour,” Sliusarenco says. “I saw that a center for victims of cyber hate has opened in Germany. It’s a serious phenomenon,” he notes.
Find out from the podcast how YouTube monitors hate speech, what it does when it identifies hate speech, and how much it invests in education to counter such negative phenomena.
The cuMINTE podcast is produced by the Independent Journalism Center with support from the Black Sea Trust, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. The views expressed in this material do not necessarily represent those of the Black Sea Trust or its partners.
|Journalist Diana Railean analyzed the news bulletins of the most watched national TV channels from August 10 to August 16. According to the audience survey conducted by the Independent Journalism Center, these channels are Prime TV (22 percent), Moldova 1 (19 percent), Jurnal TV (18 percent), NTV Moldova (17 percent) and Primul in Moldova (15 percent). As the last channel announced that it will stop producing news bulletins as of May 31, the next channel on the list was selected – Pro TV Chisinau. The author of the analysis drew attention to the way in which the war was reported on or, on the contrary, not reported on, the language used by journalists, and the focus of the news bulletins.|
In conclusion, she notes that, six months after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, some Moldovan TV channels are reporting objectively on the conflict, managing to maintain a balance in the exchange of accusations between Ukraine and Russia, while others do not.
Prime TV, Jurnal TV, and PRO TV Chisinau consistently report on events in the neighboring country in a balanced way. Every day they present news “from the front,” even quoting statements by Russian representatives that were published by the official press in Moscow.
The public TV channel Moldova 1 also provides up-to-date information on the war in Ukraine. There is, however, an imbalance in the presentation of sources. The Russian position is often missing from the news, even though there are statements from Moscow representatives at the international level.
NTV Moldova avoids reporting on the war in Ukraine. “Considering not only the destructive impact of this conflict but also the involvement of the Russian Federation, the decision to turn a blind eye to issues of public interest raises several questions. Including whether journalists are resorting to ‘ostrich tactics’ or ‘omission’,” Railean says.
News about armed conflict is the hardest to cover, especially when the war is hundreds of miles away. “But it is a test of maturity and professionalism,” says Railean in her analysis.
The material was produced as part of the project “Fighting propaganda and manipulation through media literacy tools,” implemented by the Independent Journalism Center from November 2021 to November 2022, with the support of the Black Sea Trust, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. The views expressed in this material do not necessarily represent those of the Black Sea Trust or its partners.
IJC Updates and Internews Updates
|At an August 17 event organized by the IJC in Balti, 23 principals and deputy principals of Russian-language schools in northern Moldova discussed why Media Literacy is important, how to implement this optional course in educational institutions, the challenges to its implementation, and the prospects of the subject after more than two years of the pandemic.|
At the beginning of the workshop, Mariana Tabuncic, program manager at the IJC, highlighted the institution’s efforts in recent years to bring the subject of Media Literacy to schools in Moldova, including Russian-language schools. Tatiana Plamadeala, Internews monitoring and evaluation specialist in Moldova, stressed the importance of media literacy for the development of a critical thinking generation.
The session was moderated by Natalia Griu, one of the authors of media literacy textbooks, who stressed that “media is becoming an important factor in the education process.” During the various practical activities, Griu tried to convince the participants that in the 21st century, when the flow of information is immense, media literacy is a necessity.
During the workshop, Valentina Turcan, headmistress of the Slobozia-Chiscareni Gymnasium in Sangerei district, and Svetlana Tatarciuc, deputy headmistress of the “Al. Pushkin” institution in Falesti, shared their experiences teaching media education in their educational institutions, as well as their experiences participating in competitions and activities organized by the IJC.
The workshop participants received a set of media literacy textbooks in Russian for the three levels of education.
The event was organized by the Independent Journalism Center 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.