According to the BC monitoring, most channels whose content was analyzed on June 12-25 did not breach the legal provisions on correct coverage of the election campaign, except 10 TV, Primul in Moldova, NTV Moldova, and TV6. Most deviations were detected on 10 TV, which had not filed the statement on covering the election campaign, and therefore, had no right to broadcast news on that topic. The channel was sanctioned with 10.000 lei for breaching the broadcasting license provisions and publicly warned twice – for breaching the provision on correctly informing the public and for failing to provide sign interpretation.
The suggestions to sanction NTV Moldova, Primul in Moldova, and TV6 channels did not obtain the required number of votes. Only four members of the Broadcasting Council voted for sanctioning, and five were against it.
BREACHES VS. SANCTIONS AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
During the meeting, BC member Lidia Viziru mentioned that Primul în Moldova, NTV Moldova, and TV6 had used only one source in some news. However, the worst situation was detected on 10TV channel – open accusations and the lack of the second source. “Contrary to the broadcasting and electoral legislation, 10TV reflected information in a biased and tendentious manner,” she said.
BC member Larisa Manole suggested sanctioning four channels listed in the BC report – NTV, Primul în Moldova, TV6, and 10TV – because “they failed to ensure balance in the newscasts.” As to 10TV, she pleaded for the maximum sanction: “What this broadcaster does not comply with any standards of journalistic deontology. This not journalistic material: this is manipulation and propaganda.”
Corneliu Mihalache pleaded for a more tolerant attitude towards journalists’ opinions expressed on the air. “For me, a journalist’s freedom of expression prevails over any other issues. In my opinion, both the host and the journalist have the right to an opinion. Therefore, I am not so strict to journalists. They are human, too, they have the right to their opinions, and they have the right to their points of view. Unfortunately, recently, including due to such concepts as discrimination and sexism, we are narrowing, restricting this noble profession of a journalist and the right to free expression,” Mihalache said.
The former head of the BC, Dragos Vicol, agreed with sanctioning 10TV, and “as to the rest of the channels, I consider that, according to this report for this period of time, there are no gross deviations for pecuniary sanctions.” Ion Robu and Tatiana Buraga agreed, and Artur Cozma did not express his opinion. Iulian Rosca described the channels’ actions as far from being “ideal”, and compared them with football matches, where some teams supported a certain electoral candidate, and others supported another one.
Ala Ursu-Antoci, President of the Council, seemed puzzled when the suggestions to sanction certain TV channels did not gather the necessary number of votes. “Dear colleagues, I would like to remind you that you took the oath before the Parliament and you are vested with responsibility...” she mentioned.
“SOME CHANNELS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE INTERFERED WITH”
Executive Director of the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Nadine Gogu, criticized the decision of the BC members to sanction only one channel whereas the findings demonstrate that several providers failed to present the campaign in a balanced way. “Sanctioning a single TV channel, given that at least four others clearly demonstrate their affiliation to election participants, amply illustrates political affiliation of members of this institution who are paid salaries from public funds yet do not serve public interests. They have wasted money from the public budget for the first and, so far, only one monitoring report during this campaign and, as far as we can see, all their efforts were in vain,” Nadine Gogu affirmed.
According to her, the BC’s decision demonstrates “once again that some channels are not supposed to be interfered with and, regardless of the monitoring results, they will continue serving the politicians.” “Under such circumstances, we can only state as a matter of fact that the BC fails to provide correct and impartial coverage of the election campaign and ask whether such monitoring is useful,” the IJC director concluded.
Petru Macovei, Executive Director of the Independent Press Association (IPA), also believes that the broadcasting authority has demonstrated its “uselessness” during the election campaign, because it does not sanction media service providers for breaching the law. “It proves once again that this structure, especially during the elections, is of no public use, and its members avoid eventual direct conflict with the channels’ owners, in this case, with Igor Dodon, Corneliu Furculita, and Ilan Sor. To avoid it, they would always refer to the lack of quorum needed to make a decision or to the right to opinion that each member of the Council has. Of course they have it, but these people have a certain public responsibility, and they have to comply with law regardless of their political or electoral sympathies,” Petru Macovei added.
“TODAY, THE BC IS THE SAME AS IT WAS YESTERDAY”
“In the current election campaign, today, the BC is the same as it was yesterday,” emphasizes Ion Bunduchi, Executive Director of the Electronic Press Association (APEL), noting that it was not the first time that certain monitoring reports, “containing rather convincing results,” cause “unnecessary contradictory discussions among the BC members.” "Because it is obvious that key notions are understood differently: in this case, these are freedom of speech, connotation, balance, the right to opinion, etc. This is probably the most unfortunate issue, as it demonstrates a lack of confidence of some BC members their own monitoring service and diminishes the relevance of both monitoring results and their exhausting effort, and, consequently, the specific monitoring data does not generate the relevant consequences of such respective data,” Ion Bunduchi says.
The APEL representative believes that the BC decisions cannot discourage or demotivate the party channels from acting as electioneers. “It may sound disqualifying to invoke freedom of speech while referring to sheltering someone from being sanctioned. Yet freedom of speech as a human value has certain limits precisely in order to remain valuable. Otherwise, it can serve as a justification for hate speech, attacking persons, recipes for making bombs, calls for terrorism, humiliating dignity, pure electoral canvassing, propaganda, etc. When we refer to freedom of speech, a lot of discernment is required. If we do not seem to have it, we need to reread and understand what the law allows TV channels to do and what it prohibits before the elections. And let us act as the law stipulates, no matter what we personally believe in. It is similar to the pseudo-argument that a journalist, a show host, or a reporter can do whatever they want to on the screen. Sure, a journalist, like any other person, has the right to personal opinion, but it would be more appropriate to express it in the “Comments” section, not in the “News.” It would be even better to discuss it while drinking beer or in the kitchen,” Ion Bunduchi continues.
He also criticizes another opinion expressed during the meeting, according to which, certain politically affiliated and sanctioned TV channels behaved in this way because some electoral participants organized fewer events. “TV cannot create events instead of election participants, but whenever they do have events, TV is supposed to reflect them – not in a selective or a biased manner. This is stipulated by the law, and TV channels, by declaring their editorial policy, have committed to do so. Voters need information, not the patron party. The information which is not altered, without an obligatory comment from a reporter a host, if they have respect for the viewers and if they do not disregard them (the viewers are wise enough to know how to proceed with the information without requiring a journalist to spoon-feed them)”, the expert concludes.
The Broadcasting Council started monitoring 16 media service providers on June 12. The BC experts analyzed the election-related news from the main newscasts of 15 channels and one radio station, including Moldova 1, 10 TV, Publika TV, Prime TV, Primul in Moldova, TVR Moldova, TV6, Canal 2, Canal 3, TV8, NTV Moldova, Jurnal TV, RTR Moldova, BTV, PRO TV Chisinau, and Radio Moldova public radio station.