Monthly Bulletin, June 2023

Media NGOs condemn the attempts of the mayor of Costesti village to restrict media access to information of public interest

Several media NGOs, including the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), have condemned the attempt by the mayor of the village of Costesti, Vasile Borta, to prevent journalists from accessing draft decisions of the village council. In a joint statement, they called on the local elected representative to respect his obligations under the legislation on transparency in decision-making.

Ialoveni Online reporters tried for a week to obtain drafts of some of the decisions on the agenda of the June 30 local council meeting, but their requests were rejected by the local administration in Costesti. Although, according to the law, the documents concerned should have been made public well in advance of the meeting, the council secretary told journalists about “the mayor’s indication not to send them the documents.” For his part, the mayor said he would not provide them with any documents because he did not know what purpose the journalists who wanted access to them were pursuing.

The signatories of the declaration inform the mayor of Costesti that both the law on local public administration and the law on transparency in decision-making expressly provide for the right of citizens and interested parties to have access to draft decisions of the local council and the mayor’s office and oblige the authorities to ensure access to this data.

The media organizations point out that this kind of approach is one of the factors that stagnates the growth of accountability, trust, and performance in the public sector. They call on the Mayor of Costesti to stop practices that undermine the mechanism of control over the work of public authorities.

Media Detector: The most widespread falsehoods about the European Political Community Summit in Moldova

The publication Detector Media analyses the main falsehoods spread by the pro-Kremlin press in the news about the second European Political Community (EPC) Summit organized on June 1 in Bulboaca by the Moldovan authorities and attended by 50 European leaders, including the European Union leadership.

The most widespread practice is devaluation, which consists of undermining the importance or success of certain events, decisions, and processes, often resorting to ridicule, irony, and disrespectful language.

Thus, pro-Russia propaganda channels have often portrayed the results of the EPC Summit as merely declaratory, consisting of joint photo opportunities and lavish banquets, without substantial political consequences for the participating countries.

In addition to downplaying the importance of the event, Russian media portrayed it as an attempt by Brussels to form an anti-Russian coalition and to persuade other countries to join sanctions against Russia.

Another tactic of the propaganda channels was to focus on the “alternative summit” of the Shor Party or the presentation of Ilan Shor as “the leader of the Moldovan opposition.”

Among the most frequent criticisms was a remark about the timing of the summit, claiming that the FPC overshadowed Children’s Day, traditionally celebrated on June 1.

The media coverage of International Children’s Day at the OrheiLand amusement park “seems a clear attempt to distract attention from an important event,” the source concludes.

Director of Gagauz public broadcaster resigned without giving any reason

The Gagauz Radio Television (GRT) Observation Council accepted Vadim Anastasov’s resignation as executive director of the public broadcaster on Tuesday (June 20) after he submitted an activity report. When asked about the reasons for his resignation, Vadim Anastasov did not comment. The Supervisory Board is to hold a new competition for the position of GRT’s executive director. The interim executive director will be the chief engineer of the GRT, Iaroslav Bulgaru, announces GRT.

Vadim Anastasov was appointed as the director of GRT on August 26, 2022, following a competition.

Enthusiasm vs reticence. How some newsrooms in Moldova use ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence tools

While still an unexplored field for the media in Moldova, artificial intelligence (AI) is gradually becoming part of the working tools of some journalists here. Media Azi reporters spoke to representatives of several media outlets to find out if and how they apply generative AI tools in their work or how reluctant they are.

The Northern Observatory team is using the software as an experiment for the time being. Editor-in-chief Elena Cobăsneanu says she uses Synthesia for three tasks: creating templates for various columns, presenting news stories, and for video reports, which are the most popular. She also warns that the software can misread place names, for example, or put the wrong accent in speech. “It’s still a robot,” she says.

Some of the Agora portal team also use AI tools in their work. They mostly use ChatGPT for summarizing information and generating headlines, hashtags, and keywords used for social media. According to the media institution’s executive director, Irina Ghelbur, journalists were initially enthusiastic about it, but it is now met with reluctance from many journalists. Some fear they will lose their jobs and, as a precaution, try not to use it at all, says Alex Gurdila, general producer at Agora.

Alexandru Eftode, director of Radio Free Europe, points out that while speed is an advantage, it must be weighed carefully against the need to ensure that the information published or broadcast is accurate, objective, balanced, and meets the standards of quality journalism. According to him, colleagues on the team may use AI platforms for documentation or translation, but every response generated is verified.

Representatives of some media outlets are even more reticent. Ruslan Grabari, head of TV8’s news department, says the newsroom does not currently see ChatGPT, for example, as a reliable tool or partner. “We are afraid of errors. Besides, the information it provides cannot be verified, and the rules of journalism oblige us to quote live sources and not robots,” he says.

Victor Mosneag, editor-in-chief of Ziarul de Garda, points out that their newsroom does not use artificial intelligence at the moment either. “We are still studying the possibilities of using them more widely in our journalistic work,” he says.

Journalists from the Diez portal share the same opinion, saying they held a meeting with the team in April devoted exclusively to the topic of using artificial intelligence. “For now, we have decided not to use ChatGPT in the production of journalistic material. It’s not very stable yet and we can’t be sure of the information it provides,” says Petru Besleaga, editor-in-chief of the portal.

A study by the World Association of News Publishers suggests that half of news outlets use generative AI tools, while only 20% have defined ethical limits on their use.

Media Monitoring

Cinema 1 TV station fined 25,000 lei. Arguments put forward by the BC

The Broadcasting Council (BC) has sanctioned the TV station Cinema 1, in its June 15 meeting, for non-compliance with the General Program Service Concept. The Board members decided to impose a fine of 25,000 lei (1,250 euro).

The monitoring showed that Cinema 1 broadcast more than 40% of audiovisual programs made by producers not under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Moldova, namely films from the Russian Federation, but indicated that this share would have been 22%. Regarding the percentage reserved for European audiovisual works, the TV channel indicated a volume of 70%, but the calculations showing instead a rate of 47% of the total volume. The rapporteur on the subject, Catalina Bunescu, also told the meeting that the channel had admitted other deviations relating to the structure of the audiovisual service. Thus, Cinema 1 broadcast 1.02% of educational and cultural programs, while the indicator included in its conception was 14.87%”.

Since the beginning of this year, TV Cinema 1 has been sanctioned and warned by the BC for repeated violations of the General Concept of the Audiovisual Media Service five times, for failure to comply with the quotas for local and/or Romanian-language products, and for other offenses. The total amount of the fines is more than 111,000 lei (5,050 euro).

Total fines of 49,000 lei for loud advertising on TV

The BC imposed sanctions of 49,000 lei on TV stations N4, Rlive TV, REN Moldova, Studio L, Exclusiv TV, TV6, and TVC 21 for violating the legal provision according to which media service providers are obliged to standardize the sound level of audiovisual programs with that during the broadcast of commercial communications.

At the meeting of October 21, 2022, the deputy chairperson of the BC, Aneta Gonta, ordered the monitoring of nine audiovisual media services on October 27, 29, and 31 of last year. Following the observations of the BC, it was found that only Vocea Basarabiei TV complied with the permissible deviation of the loudness level.

TVC 21 had the biggest deviations, being fined 9,000 lei (450 euro). Studio L – 8,000 lei (400 euro), TV6, Ren Moldova and N4 – 7,000 lei each (350 euro), Rlive TV – 6,000 lei (300 euro) and Exclusiv TV – 5,000 lei (250 euro). The sanctions were applied by unanimous vote.

According to a press release of the BC, during the past year, fines of 64,000 lei (3,200 euro) were imposed for advertising with increased sound levels.

Gagauzia TV station fined 15,000 lei for violation of provisions on local programs

The BC decided to sanction the public company Gagauzia Radio Televizionu, founder of Gagauzia TV, with a fine of 15,000 lei (750 euro) for repeated violation of the provisions of the Audiovisual Media Services Code on the broadcasting of local programs in Romanian. The decision was taken at the meeting of June 9, 2023, by unanimous vote.

According to the data of the BC rapporteur, the monitoring of the TV station Gagauzia TV was carried out between April 17-23, 2023. The results of the monitoring attested to the compliance with the number of hours of the local content broadcast, according to the status of the regional media provider, as well as their broadcasting during peak viewing hours. On the other hand, Gagauzia TV broadcast less than 25% of local audiovisual programs in Romanian, the report said.

The chairperson of the BC proposed a minimum fine, arguing that, in dynamics, the situation at this station is positive.

Orizont TV sanctioned for one-sided approach to topics and lack of balance of opinions in an informative-analytical program

Orizont TV was fined 5,000 lei (250 euro) on June 9 by the Broadcasting Council. The sanction was imposed for a one-sided approach to topics and a lack of balance of opinions in the news-analytical program “Puls“ of 19 April 2023, moderated by Alexei Lungu, a press release from the BC said.

Following the monitoring of the program, the BC found that the opinion of the three guests on the set focused on criticizing the current government‘s initiatives. The report noted that “it was necessary to present the main opposing views in a balanced way. The authors of the report also found that the moderator‘s statements and provocative questions supported the position of the guests on the set and did not ensure a balance of opinions.

According to the BC, “the moderator did not consider the fact that ensuring accurate information implies the presence of the opposing viewpoint, and its absence in the program does not exempt the moderator from ensuring impartiality.

For a similar violation, the station was sanctioned with a public warning in April 2023.

Media Legislation

Media subsidy initiative at public consultation stage. What the draft provides

A mechanism to subsidize media institutions would be adopted for the first time in Moldova. The initiative is currently at the public consultation stage. Parliament held its first debates on the document on June 27.

According to the draft law, the authorities intend to create an institutionally autonomous fund, partly financed from the state budget, through which projects and products developed by the media would be financially supported.

The fund would be administered by a board selected by representative media organizations, which would be subordinate to the Ministry of Culture, and the financial means would come both from the state budget and from donations, sponsorships, and grants from individuals and/or legal entities in Moldova or abroad.

Media institutions that will be eligible for subsidies must meet several criteria, including compliance with the Code of Ethics for Journalists, have been operating on the market for at least one year, have no tax arrears, are not insolvent, have not been fined more than 10,000 lei (500 euro) by the Broadcasting Council during the last year, and regularly publish financial and activity reports on their website.

The initiative aims to develop media pluralism, support cultural, educational, and media literacy projects, encourage the coverage of topics and issues of general social interest, support journalistic investigations, and strengthen editorial and economic independence.

The document also provides, at this stage, that the selection of beneficiaries will be conducted annually, through a competition, by the Ministry of Culture, and that media institutions will apply with projects corresponding to a list of priority themes, drawn up periodically by the Ministry. Winners would be selected by a Council of Experts, a new entity made up of seven members, four appointed by the Press Council and three by the Ministry of Culture. Members of the Expert Council would be eligible for appointment for a five-year term.

The initiative has not been registered in Parliament. It is also not yet clear what the criteria will be for deciding the final amount to be offered to each newsroom receiving a grant under the scheme.

The legal opinion of the IJC on the legislative initiative to create the National Center “Patriot”

The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) supports the initiative to institutionalize strategic communication mechanisms as an integral part of the national security system. However, the IJC believes that the draft law needs to be revised and improved.

“The institutionalized strategic communication mechanism is incompatible with simplistic approaches aimed at solving complex and systemic problems,” reads the IJC opinion on the draft Law on the National Center for Information Defense and Counter-propaganda – Patriot, published on June 22.

The document addresses several problematic aspects of the concept of the draft law published on May 30, 2023, by the Presidency of the Republic of Moldova, including the legal status of the future authority, the mechanisms for selecting and dismissing the leadership of the Center, potential risks to freedom of expression, financing of the Center, etc.

According to the analytical note, the definitions of several terms, such as disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda, in the current version, are inappropriate for a normative act.

On the mechanism of financing the Center, the IJC stated that the admission of the creation of a public authority’s budget from external sources has the potential to undermine the independence of a public authority and may constitute evidence of external governance.

The IJC also argues that the mechanisms for the selection and dismissal of the Center’s management should be improved to ensure the independence of the public authority.

Among other things, the IJC recommends revising the legal form of organization of the Center by incorporating it into the administrative structure of the Government, arguing that the organic and natural place of the new institution can only be within the organizational structure of the governmental administrative system.

Among the recommendations in the IJC opinion is the revision of the name of the regulatory act as well as the name of the Center.

New law on access to information voted in final reading

The draft of the new law on access to information has been approved in its final reading by Parliament, with the affirmative vote of 53 MPs.

According to it, it will no longer be compulsory for requests to be signed in handwriting or electronically. The deadline for responding to requests would be no more than ten calendar days from the date of registration, and in the case of media representatives, the information would be generated immediately, but no later than five working days.

The deadline may be extended by a maximum of seven calendar days and five calendar days in the case of media representatives, respectively, if the request is complex or a large volume of information is requested.

It provides that any natural or legal person has the right of access to information of public interest. It also lists the modalities for access to information, the conditions under which access may be limited, procedures for requests for access to information or rules on personal data, etc.

Authorities will be obliged to publish a range of information about their work on their official websites as a matter of course. In addition, access to information of public interest could be limited in order to protect one of the following legitimate purposes: national defense or security, public security or public order, prevention or detection of criminal offenses or contraventions, the conduct of criminal proceedings, personal data, trade secrets, intellectual property rights and property, the environment, etc.

According to the information note on the initiative, the adoption of the document is necessary after the entry into force on December 1, 2020, of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents (known as the Tromsø Convention), ratified by the Republic of Moldova in 2013. In addition, the objective is an action expressly stipulated in the implementation plan of the measures proposed by the European Commission in its opinion on Moldova’s application for accession to the European Union.

The document will enter into force six months after its publication in the Official Journal. forced by the first court to deny information disseminated about Minister Ala Nemerenco and pay moral damages

The publication Timpul de Dimineata was ordered by the first court on June 20 to retract information broadcast a year ago about Health Minister Ala Nemerenco.

The health minister complained to the court after the editorial staff published on June 30, 2022, on the website an article entitled “Scandal surrounding Nemerenco family villa in Romanian press – Moldovan minister accused of building a guesthouse with European money in Romania and using it for personal purposes.”

The Chisinau Court, Center, which examined the case, found that the information spread was defamatory, false, and damaged the honor, dignity, and professional reputation of Ala Nemerenco.

Timpul de Dimineata was ordered to deny the facts, pay Nemerenco a sum of 10,000 lei (500 euro) as moral damages, and to remove the contested article from the website. In the meantime, has deleted the article.

RTR Moldova and NTV Moldova applications for sanctions for failure to provide accurate information about the war in Ukraine rejected by court

The Chisinau Court, Riscani, has ruled in favor of the Broadcasting Council in a case concerning the coverage of the war in Ukraine and the security crisis in the region by the TV channel RTR Moldova. It, together with the NTV Moldova channel, sued the Council, having been fined 5,000 lei (250 euro) and six public warnings in March 2022.

TV stations NTV Moldova and RTR Moldova were sanctioned by the BC for multiple violations. The monitoring of RTR Moldova found a lack of rigor and accuracy, as well as a lack of balance and mix of facts and opinions in news reports on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The TV station dealt with the situation in Ukraine in a biased way and did not favor the free formation of viewers’ opinions.

According to the June 13 ruling of the first court, the TV station’s complaint was rejected as unfounded.

A day earlier, a similar decision was issued in the case of NTV Moldova. It had been sanctioned in the same hearing in March 2022 by the BC for its biased approach to the situation in Ukraine and failure to promote free opinion-forming. NTV Moldova received six sanctions, including four public warnings and two fines totaling 10,000 lei (500 euro).

It should be recalled that the multiple findings in the monitoring reports of the BC, implicitly the application of sanctions for lack of correct information in the coverage of national events, but also of the war in Ukraine” were among the arguments invoked by the Commission for Exceptional Situations on December 16, 2022, when it decided to suspend the broadcasting licenses of six TV stations, including NTV Moldova and RTR Moldova, during the state of emergency.

Canal 2 and Canal 3’s claims against sanctions imposed by the BC in 2022 rejected by the court

Magistrates of the Chisinau Court, Riscani, recently rejected as unfounded the complaints of channels Canal 2 and Canal 3 against the decision of the BC, in which the TV channels requested the annulment of fines totaling 10,000 (500 euro) and 15,000 lei (750 euro) respectively, imposed for failure to comply with legal requirements on the broadcasting of violent scenes and the way they were technically processed.

The decision to sanction the TV stations was taken at the BC meeting on January 26 last year and concerned the coverage of a story related to violent actions that took place in a nightclub in Chisinau.

The Authority identified several violations in terms of broadcasting requirements for audiovisual productions containing repeated physical, psychological, or verbal violence.

The decision of the Chisinau Court rejecting the appeal of the channels Canal 2 and Canal 3 against the fines imposed by the BC can be appealed to the Chisinau Court of Appeal.

IJC Updates

IJC launches “Solutions for Inclusion” hackathon

The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) launched the “Solutions for Inclusion” hackathon on June 23. During the event, which took place on June 23-25, 2023, in Chisinau, participants were encouraged to develop tools, platforms, and applications that will promote inclusion and diversity, thus increasing the chances of socially vulnerable and marginalized groups to get involved in public life.

At the hackathon launch event, Nadine Gogu, IJC Executive Director, highlighted the importance of inclusion. “We don’t believe that anyone will ever be able to stop discrimination for good or that our society can become inclusive overnight, but the solutions identified at the hackathon can be part of a larger, more consolidated, and lasting effort to promote social cohesion in Moldova by reducing stereotypes and discrimination and including marginalized groups,” said Nadine Gogu.

Coordinator of the Swiss Cooperation Office’s Small Grants and Social Inclusion Program Natalia Cernat said the Office’s mission is to ensure that Swiss assistance to Moldova is used effectively and that human potential is maximized to contribute to the country’s long-term development. “We believe that neglecting any social group is a great waste. That is why we support various NGOs and institutions so that any person from a vulnerable group can make their voice heard,” said Cernat.

A total of 19 teams registered for this year’s hackathon edition. Based on the project ideas that were submitted, the IJC carried out a pre-selection, and in the end, 13 teams were admitted to participate, with a total of around 40 participants. They represent non-governmental organizations active in the field of Human Rights, in whose work inclusion, diversity, and civic engagement are key principles, IT developers, programmers, journalists, community leaders, and active citizens promoting inclusion, diversity, tolerance, and Human Rights.

The winners of the hackathon “Solutions for Inclusion” have been announced

After two days of hard work, the winners of the “Solutions for Inclusion” hackathon were announced on June 25. The “Solutions for Inclusion” hackathon focused on identifying innovative and accessible solutions that address the pressing needs of socially vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Participants were tasked with developing tools, platforms, and applications that will promote inclusion and diversity, thereby increasing the chances of socially vulnerable and marginalized groups to engage in public life.

On the final day of the hackathon, the 13 teams entered in the competition and presented their project ideas to the jury members, who selected three winning teams. They are:
The team of the National Association of Community Mediators of the Republic of Moldova aims to solve the problems of socioeconomic inclusion of Roma by creating and developing an interactive digital platform for the Roma community.

The Equal Access for All team has set itself the goal of collecting, processing and analytically visualizing data on accessibility in public institutions in the Republic of Moldova. The team will develop an interactive platform, which will contain three applications and an accessibility map of public buildings in the country.

The My Friend team aims to bring inclusion concepts back into the discussion and familiarize the public with the language of acceptance.

The jury included: Milica PESIC, Executive Director, Media Diversity Institute, London; Miruna MUSCAN, Product Assistant at Code for Romania / Commit Global; Victor KOROLI, Executive Director of the Public Association “Alliance INFONET”; Ghenadie GORINCIOI, Managing Director, Software Mind Moldova; Marcela DILION, Program Manager, Keystone Moldova.

The winning teams will receive grants of 7,000 euro each for further project development and implementation. The projects will be improved and finalized with the help of several mentors.

The Hackathon “Solutions for Inclusion” 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 with the support of the Government of Switzerland. 


Share This

Copy Link to Clipboard