Elections, protests, resignations and appointments, Moldova’s advancement in the process of joining the European Union, propaganda and misinformation, several blocked websites and suspended TV licenses, and an ongoing war in Ukraine – these are the main headlines from 2023. In addition, threats and violent actions against journalists, launched by some politicians, officials and anti-government protesters, have not ceased. Financial challenges and the human resources crisis facing editorial staff have also continued.
In a video retrospective of the year, the Independent Journalism Center reviews the most memorable moments.
Nine media NGOs, including the Independent Journalism Center, have signed a joint statement condemning the intimidation speech used by Chisinau Mayor Ion Ceban labeling journalists as “political killers”.
At the weekly town hall meeting on 18 December, he said that town hall employees had been intimidated with cameras to find out who they had voted for in the elections and labelled journalists “political killers, hired for very large sums of money, of dubious provenance”.
Media NGOs have noted that Ion Ceban has previously intimidated the press, as well as at weekly town hall meetings.
The signatories of the statement called on the mayor of the capital to stop intimidating journalists who try to cover information of public interest and reminded that the media has the task of informing the public on issues of public interest.
The decision temporarily suspends the validity of the broadcasting permits of Telesistem TV, Media-Resurse, Archidoc Group, Media Pro Group, General Media Group Corp and Telestar Media.On 16 December 2022 and 30 October 2023, the Commission for Exceptional Situations ordered the suspension of the broadcasting licenses of 12 TV stations on the grounds that certain individuals and/or legal entities subject to international sanctions would exercise control over them, but also because they had previously been sanctioned by the Audiovisual Council for lack of accurate reporting of national events and the war in Ukraine.
The Audiovisual Council has unanimously approved, at the request of the founders of RTR Moldova and Bravo TV, the withdrawal of the broadcasting licenses of the two TV media services. The decision was taken on 28 December 2023.
According to the institution, on 20 December, the company TV – Comunicatii Grup notified the AC about the withdrawal of broadcasting of RTR Moldova , and on 21 December, the company Bravo TV announced the same.
AC notes that in 2022, RTR Moldova was sanctioned with seven public warnings and 18 fines totaling 178,500 lei (8925 euro) for violations of audiovisual legislation, mainly regarding the provision of correct information and lack of local programs.
At the same time, Bravo TV has been sanctioned in the last two years with nine fines amounting to 141,500 lei (7075 euro) for insufficient local programs and unjustified interruption of broadcasting.
Petru Macovei and Valeriu Pasha have been appointed members of the Council of the Centre for Strategic Communication and Countering Disinformation
Petru Macovei, director of the Independent Press Association, and Valeriu Pașa, president of Watchdog.md, were appointed by the Parliament as new members of the Council of the Centre for Strategic Communication and Countering Disinformation as representatives of civil society for a five-year term. Their membership was voted by 59 MPs.
The two candidates were selected following a competition organized by the legislature’s media committee, in which 12 people submitted applications and seven candidates were admitted to interview.
The Center for Strategic Communication and Countering Disinformation was created in July last year. The institution’s board consists of 11 members. It is responsible for
organizing and evaluating the work of the Center and its management. It also approves the objectives and activity plans of the institution.
The Media Forum 2023 notes progress in the field, but also stagnation in the practical implementation of several initiatives
Participants at this year’s edition of the Media Forum, which took place on 4-5 December in Chisinau, called on the authorities to speed up efforts to complete legislation and bring it up to EU standards, ensuring effective implementation. In a resolution adopted at the forum, the participants made suggestions and proposals to improve the work of several institutions responsible for the media. These include the economic situation of the media, the fact that the printed press is in danger of disappearing because of high newsprint costs and the unprecedented increase in distribution tariffs. Similarly, the Supervisory and Development Board of Teleradio – Moldova did not take a proactive stance in communicating with the public in 2023 and did not make its opinion heard.
Also, journalistic activity is not sufficiently protected from attacks, physical threats, intimidation, harassment in the online space.
In the context of the war in Ukraine and the hybrid attacks faced by Moldova, media literacy must become a country-wide goal, President Maia Sandu said at the opening of the Media Forum. The head of state stressed that hybrid attacks, attempts of political destabilization by corrupt groups supported by Russia, and the economic crisis put democracy and thus freedom of the press under constant threat. In the same context, she also mentioned “the efforts of media organizations such as the Independent Journalism Center, which launched the first media education project, and which for seven years has been helping to ensure that the optional subject of media education is taught in Moldovan schools. According to President Sandu, media literacy must become a country-wide objective. “Media literacy courses must reach every village and town, every kindergarten, school, library, cultural home, so that every citizen, regardless of age, is able to distinguish information from falsehoods and not to be manipulated,” she said.
Asked at the Moldovan Media Forum about the authorities’ plans to regulate online media sources and counter misinformation on the Internet, Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei, chair of the parliamentary Committee on Culture, Education, Research, Youth, Sport and the Media, admitted that these are “complicated issues”. According to the MEP, defining what is media and media entity are notions under discussion among experts. “Recently, in France, we have seen how state institutions are trying to ensure better communication with big tech – when it comes to social media and disinformation on the internet. This is what we aim to do,” said Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei.
The suspension of licenses of several TV stations under the state of emergency continues to be a concern “which could threaten media freedom and citizens’ trust”, Ambassador Jānis Mažeiks, Head of the EU Delegation to Moldova, said at the opening of the Media Forum 2023.
Ambassador Mažeiks stressed the need to establish “a robust regulatory framework that ensures accountability while respecting the principles of freedom of expression. In the face of Russian disinformation campaigns and manipulations from other actors we must remain vigilant”.
For his part, the US Ambassador in Chisinau, Kent D. Logsdon, referred to the importance of managing the current challenges in the Moldovan media. According to the diplomat, a healthy information space can only be achieved when media, government, private sector actors, civil society work together. “It’s not an easy job – you not only have to think about how to get the right information, but also face economic challenges and an unprecedented wave of misinformation. The Russian Federation’s brutal war of aggression in Ukraine has only amplified this challenge for media in Moldova,” said Ambassador Logsdon.
Several journalists who promote human dignity in their articles and actively advocate for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and marginalization submitted their material to a competition on diversity and inclusion, and the best of these were awarded prizes at the Media Forum.
Thus, among the 90 journalistic materials submitted to the contest, the jury selected Liuba Maxim, Radio Free Europe Moldova, Ludmila Topal, Bas TV, Tatiana Beghiu, Moldova.org (category Print and online media); Daria Slobodcicova, Newsmaker. md, Adela Shevciuc, CU SENS media project (category Audiovisual); Andrei Mardari (category Photography); Olga Afanas, Vasile Lipcean (category Media products made by students of journalism faculties in the country and beginners in journalism). The winners were awarded vouchers for the purchase of technical equipment necessary for their professional activity.
Six newsrooms submitted entries to the second edition of the competition, run by the Independent Press Association. The winning newsroom of the Diversity and Inclusion 2023 trophy was People and Kilometres.
Access to Information Index 2023 finds legislative progress, but also problems with transparency and response to requests
The promulgation of the new Law on Access to Information of Public Interest marks the most important change in the legislation on transparency of public institutions in the Republic of Moldova, but the practical aspect of obtaining access to information remains a challenge. The findings are reflected in the Access to Information Index for 2023, a survey measuring the transparency of authorities, and were presented at the Media Forum.
Experts measured the performance of public institutions in processing requests for information of public interest by sending a standardized request to 73 authorities. The content of the request concerns data on financial matters. In general, although none of the 73 institutions ensured that all the information included in the sample was available on its website, the authors of the survey claim that a number of institutions would be ready for the implementation of the new Law on Access to Information of Public Interest.
The Access to Information Index was rated at 59 out of 100 points this year, a higher score than last year, which is entirely due to the amendment of the legislation, according to the authors.
The Concept for Strategic Communication and Countering Disinformation was adopted. Opposition MEPs strongly criticized the document
The document was drafted by the Centre for Strategic Communication and Countering Disinformation and represents the programmatic vision of how strategic communication and countering disinformation will contribute to the fulfillment of the Center’s mission during the period 2024-2028.
Opposition MEPs strongly criticized the Concept. BCS MEP Adela Raileanu told the plenary that the document would be “a weapon of coercion, control and restriction of freedom of expression”. On the other hand, in an interview for the Media-Azi portal, the director of the Center for Strategic Communication and Fight against Disinformation, Ana Revenco, said that the new structure intends to create a robust and resilient information environment in which state institutions can communicate effectively and respond promptly to disinformation and citizens can use information critically.
The Cyber Security Agency will be established in the Republic of Moldova pursuant to the decision taken on 21 December. This institution will be subordinated to the Ministry of Economic Development and Digitization and will be the competent authority at national level in the field of cyber security, responsible for the management of such crises in the Republic of Moldova.
The creation of the Agency is in line with the objectives of the Government’s programme of activities, which specifies that “one of the fundamental objectives is to prevent and combat hybrid cyber and information security threats”. The state budget for 2024 provides 15 million lei (750.000 euro) for the work of the institution.
During 2022, the largest waves of cyber attacks in the history of the Republic of Moldova took place.
Print media institutions criticize the decision of Posta Moldovei to increase the tariff for distribution of newspapers
Representatives of several media institutions printing newspapers have expressed their dissatisfaction after the Moldovan Post Enterprise (“Posta Moldovei”) increased the existing cost of distribution by 3.4. In a statement published on 4 December, the ZdG team calls on the government, the parliamentary commission for the media, media NGOs and development partners to analyse the risks of this decision with the utmost diligence, including the risk of closing the print version of ZdG. The publication Observatorul de Nord also described the decision by “Posta Moldovei” as “unprecedented”, warning that it would lead to a dramatic drop in circulation. In a petition signed by representatives of the editorial offices of periodicals in the Republic of Moldova, the decision of the “Posta Moldovei” to increase the price of print media distribution is described as an unspeakable abuse, because newspapers are the only way to reach all homes, especially in villages, where citizens do not have Internet but need information.
At the request of the Independent Journalism Center’s Media Azi portal, representatives of the Moldovan Post Office claim that they have been forced to adjust tariffs to real costs and that the situation will be resolved once the authorities initiate a support mechanism for editorial offices, which will ensure the proper functioning of the broadcasting service and the work of editorial offices by maintaining affordable subscription prices for citizens.
On 8 January 2024, the Law on Advertising will have been in force for one year. From the day the Law entered into power until now, the authorities had to execute a number of obligations to implement its provisions.
The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) published an analysis of the implementation of the law on advertising. A similar analysis was published by the IJC in July 2023, aiming to highlight the progress and “backlogs” of the authorities in implementing the new advertising regulations. The IJC also makes recommendations to the authorities responsible for implementing the law.
This analysis was prepared in the framework of the project “Strengthening the Independent Media Sector in the Republic of Moldova”, implemented by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) with the support of Sweden.
In the same report, on the implementation of the new advertising law, the IJC examines whether several authorities, which were given precise terms by the law to fulfill certain tasks, have managed to fulfilled their obligations. According to the IJC’s analysis, the Government of Moldova has not fulfilled its obligation to adopt regulations concerning the Council on Public Service Announcements by 8 April 2023. “This state of affairs is delaying the process of correct and effective implementation of the provisions of the new law on advertising, creating a deadlock in the exploitation of public interest messages,” the IJC report states. At the same time, the IJC notes that the Government’s “backlog” creates the possibility of admitting disharmonies in the regulations to be contained in the normative administrative acts, concerning public interest messages, which are on the table of other authorities.
The IJC also reviews the efforts of the Competition Council and the Audiovisual Council, aimed at improving knowledge of the advertising market, adjusting regulatory acts to the provisions of the law and improving administrative practices in this segment.
A new monitoring for Moldova 1 news: failure to indicate the source on video footage still a frequent error
The Independent Journalism Center monitored, from 1 to 7 December 2023, how the public TV channel Moldova 1 reported the main news bulletins of the day.
According to the monitoring report, 36 out of 111 materials (news, reports, interviews) did not include directly quoted sources, which is about 1/3 of the total. Media researcher Victor Gotisan says that for some stories it was appropriate to quote several different sources. On the other hand, the number of ethical deviations in Moldova 1 news has decreased compared to the previous monitoring period (28 November – 4 December 2022).
Other violations identified included mixing facts and opinions, lack of right of reply, and the most common was not indicating the source on the video or photo images taken. Virtually no foreign news stories included the primary source from which the footage was taken on the broadcast.
The authors of the study recommend that the Audiovisual Council monitor Moldova 1 for breaches of ethics and/or legislation, with the application of appropriate sanctions in justified cases, and that the members of the Supervisory Board of Teleradio-Moldova monitor the work of Moldova 1 in order to fulfill its mission.
The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) and the Press Freedom Committee named the 2023 Journalists of the Year at the 29th Annual Press Club Gala on December 21, 2023. This year’s edition saw 5 awards in 5 categories.
Thus, the top journalists for the year 2023 were: Petru Garciu, freelancer, (Investigation Category); Natalia Taisina, SP (Reportage Category); Ecaterina Dubasova / Olga Gnatkova, NewsMaker, (Longread Category); Veronica Gherbovetchii / Vladislav Glinjan / Niculae Constantin, TV8 (TV/Radio Program category); Victoria Coroban, Radio Free Europe (Podcast category).
The 2023 Special Awards went to: Hope of the Year: Stefan Bejan, TV8, Ilinca Televca, People and Kilometres, Vasile Ursachi, Ziarul de Gardă; Award for Creativity on Social Networks: Moldova.org; Award for Promoting Critical Thinking: Cristina Cernei, teacher at “Onisifor Ghibu” High School, Chisinau, CU SENS, NOKTA LIVE; Award of Excellence: Vasile Garnet.
The “Journalists of the Year” Gala has been organized annually since 1995 at the Chisinau Press Club. The main purpose of this event is to support and encourage the efforts of journalists to produce quality press, adhering to international professional standards.
The Annual Press Club Gala “Journalists of the Year” was organised by the Independent Journalism Centre within the framework of the project “Strengthening the Independent Media Sector in the Republic of Moldova”, supported by Sweden.
The general context in which the Republic of Moldova finds itself is marked by a number of factors that fuel insecurity in the online environment and have a negative impact on digital
rights, says the policy paper published by the Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) on 19 December 2023.
Among other things, the organization recommends: establishing clear rules (guidelines, regulations or instructions) on the identification of sources by the Intelligence and Security Service (SIS) which might be subject to blocking during the state of emergency; improving and effectively implementing mechanisms to ensure the transparency of online media ownership, through the establishment of the Public Register of Media Institutions; developing existing mechanisms to regulate video sharing platform services, etc.
The policy paper was developed as part of the Greater Internet Freedom project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Media partners of the project “Support for Ukrainian refugees through the media” – Jurnal TV, ElitaTV, Studio-L, TV8, as well as from the public TV channel Moldova 1, participated in a training program organized in Chisinau by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) from November 30 to December 1, 2023. They were trained by international expert Ulrik Haagerup, founder of the Constructive Institute, Denmark, and Ana Gherciu, executive director of Moldova.org, on how to be part of the solution and not part of the problem in the context of the refugee crisis in Ukraine.
Opening the training, IJC Executive Director Nadine Gogu welcomed the participants, saying that the training is a good opportunity to learn from local and international experts about what constructive journalism is and how we can apply it to refugee reporting.
The partner TV stations of the project “Supporting Ukrainian refugees through media” will continue to create content about and with the participation of Ukrainian refugees. Some of their material is available in the Refugees in the Media group.
The project “Support for Ukrainian Refugees through Media”, implemented by the IJC and funded by the Government of Japan, is a UNESCO initiative developed within the framework of the Regional Response Plan for Refugees in Ukraine, coordinated by UNHCR.
IJC launched the study on the situation of digital rights in the Republic of Moldova in the context of the hybrid war
Restrictive measures imposed by the authorities due to the “derogatory powers” resulting due to the state of emergency have proved to be less effective or ineffective in ensuring a well-protected information and digital space, according to the findings of the research “Digital rights in the Republic of Moldova: opportunities and responsibilities in times of hybrid war”, published by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) on 1 December 2023.
The IJC comes up with a series of conclusions and recommendations for the authorities, aimed at helping to identify effective solutions to overcome the challenges caused by threats to Moldova’s information security, as well as to initiate reforms in support of fundamental human rights in the digital environment.
The study was prepared as part of the Greater Internet Freedom project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Many websites or platforms collect certain sets of data about us, which can then be sold to third parties or used to create targeted advertising. That’s why keeping personal information safe is an essential part of our overall security. Journalist Ana Sârbu discusses how to protect our privacy when surfing the Internet with her interviewer, Natalia Spinu, director of the European Institute for Policy Studies in Moldova, on the December edition of the Podcast cuMINTE.
The cuMINTE podcast is produced by the Independent Journalism Center with support from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).The views expressed in this material do not necessarily represent those of IWPR or its partners.
The Independent Journalism Center has invited students in grades IX-XII to participate in a new edition of the competition “The withMINTE Podcast challenges you to think critically!”.
Both students studying the optional subject Media Literacy and those who do not follow this subject but are interested in the topic can participate in the competition.
The competition will take place in three stages, and the questions will be technical as well as content-related (e.g. how many editions of the podcast have been made so far, on which podcasting platforms is our product available, what is a media education podcast, what topics have been covered in the podcast editions, etc.) The winners will be invited to Chisinau on 17 February 2024 to collect their prizes.
The competition is organized within the project “Strengthening society’s resilience to disinformation through professional media content an the Independent Journalism Center with the support of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), from August 2023 to February 2024.
Employees from the education system of the municipality of Chisinau strengthened their communication and media relations skills
More than 50 teachers from pre-school and pre-university education institutions in Chisinau municipality participated in two information workshops, organized on 7 and 15 December.
The events were held by the General Directorate of Education, Youth and Sport (DGETS) of the municipality of Chisinau. This workshop was organized in partnership with the Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) and moderated by communication expert Ludmila Andronic. Participants were trained on how to develop and maintain a permanent dialogue with the media, how to deal with fake news.
During the workshops, IJC representatives presented the media education and critical thinking activities that the NGO carries out for the teaching community.
The workshops were organized within the project “Strengthening society’s resilience to disinformation through professional media content and innovative tools”, implemented by the Independent Journalism Center with the support of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), from August 2023 to February 2024.
In an analysis published on the Independent Journalism Center’s Mediacritica portal, civic activist, social scientist and consulting psychologist Olga Afanas draws attention to the concept of inclusion and how it is interpreted and respected in everyday life. The author notes that a legal framework has been adopted in the Republic of Moldova that ensures equal rights for all, including the law on equal opportunities. In her opinion, however, a good law is not enough, and inclusion as such is measured by the degree to which a person’s rights and opportunities are implemented in everyday practice. In another vein, the author argues that inclusion should not be an issue for human rights activists alone. As an active and committed process, both on personal and community levels, inclusion can only be achieved through the involvement of all social actors, all free and responsible citizens. And the role of the media in this is crucial.
The material is published as part of the “Inclusion starts with me” campaign. The campaign is organized in the framework of the project “Promoting Social Cohesion in Moldova by Fostering Inclusion and Diminishing Discrimination” carried out by the Independent
Journalism Center in the framework of the program “Joint Equal Opportunities Initiative – Phase II”, implemented with the support of the Government of Switzerland.