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Conclusions of the IJC’s media monitoring reports, analyzed by media experts and journalists from the outlets concerned

19 July 2021
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After the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) launched several media monitoring reports in 2021, both during the campaign for the parliamentary elections and outside it, journalists from several TV stations and online portals concerned, along with experts in the field, discussed the observance of professional ethics and the violations identified in the provision of information on topics on the public agenda. The talks took place at the press club meeting titled “Journalistic Deontology vs. Media Manipulation in Moldova,” organized by the IJC on Friday, July 16.
 
Victor Gotișan, media researcher and one of the authors of several IJC monitoring reports, noted that some media outlets have been getting aware of their own violations and correcting them “on the fly,” and others “question our observations.” “The fact that we had reactions from most of those targeted in monitoring reports, except for some – Kp.md, Accent TV, and NTV Moldova, – is an indication that people read these studies and take into consideration some recommendations,” Gotișan said.

Another observation is that when media owners are in power, the managers of their outlets do not take monitoring reports into consideration, and when those owners are in opposition, the managers become interested in such reports. The researcher does not rule out that this is due to the desire to obtain alternative sources of funding.

According to him, journalists have been using manipulation techniques in smaller amounts lately. “As paradoxical as it may seem, the simplest rules of deontology are the most difficult to follow – the mixture of facts with opinions, the right to reply, labeling, and generalization. (...) Manipulation techniques have become fewer, but more subtle, I would say even smarter,” Victor Gotișan said.

The IJC Executive Director Nadine Gogu summarized the findings from the monitoring of ten TV stations during the campaign for the parliamentary elections. According to her, most of them focused on covering the accusations made by electoral competitors rather than on analyzing their electoral programs. “Unfortunately, I also noticed this trend on the public television station, which sometimes had an editorial policy similar to that of some private televisions with political affiliation,” she said.

Another phenomenon noticed on some stations is the large number of reports covering the achievements of the local public authorities in different cities or villages. “Those news stories did not mention the mayors’ affiliation, the party they are a member of, but we checked the website of the Central Electoral Commission and, if we saw that they belonged to a party that is an electoral competitor, we counted those seconds because their intervention was in favor of the respective competitor,” Nadine Gogu explained.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF REPORTS AND THE PROBLEMS OF THE MEDIA

Some of the media managers present at the press club shared their opinions about journalistic activity from the perspective of professional deontology. The news editor from Jurnal TV, Vitalie Călugăreanu, mentioned that the monitoring reports of the civil society are important from the perspective of obtaining some financing through grants and of finding out the situation of competitors, among other things. “You should know that these reports are very good, and it would be much better if efforts were made on the entire media spectrum in Moldova, not just 12 television stations or some news portals,” Călugăreanu said.

 

The TV6 producer Tatiana Țurcanu said that one of the biggest problems her team faces is obtaining the replies of the people targeted in the news. “There are some politicians who simply do not answer the phone if they know which outlet we are calling from. How many efforts must be made then to reach this source?” she wondered. The TV6 producer believes that in Moldova there are enough television stations to ensure a diversity of opinions for viewers. “It is very good to know that one TV station is talking about one person, another one is talking about another person. As a result, we have pluralism. Every viewer goes through channels and sees – one said so and one said so. He has access to all information and makes his own conclusion. We don’t influence him, we only inform him. Maybe there are more topics about one side and fewer about another one. All he has to do is press another button, switch to another television station, and see a different point of view,” Tatiana Țurcanu thinks.

Mariana Rață, the news director of TV8, spoke about the self-censorship of journalists, when they wonder how to write on or approach certain topics and not become the target of criticism. “Our newsroom got in the situation where the editor is afraid to make some texts because he no longer understands what is right and what is not right,” the journalist said.

She also said that the members of TV8 discussed whether they could do reports from the launches of some electoral competitors. “Yes, they can, and they have the right to show them in newscasts. The news report has certain criteria. It includes details and observations of the author, and you cannot say that these observations, made by the author, are a mixture of facts and opinions. These are just observations. Different media styles have not disappeared. During the electoral campaign, the media becomes sterile. We cannot turn journalism into a pharmaceutical product during electoral campaigns, leaving it without any impurities or color,” commented Mariana Rață.

Olesea Banari, the editor-in-chief of Unimedia.info, claimed that she is facing a crisis of professional journalists and that the newsroom employs many students who are not prepared well enough. “The problem is in the quality of what the market delivers to us. We have an enormous crisis of people who can write correctly, let alone journalistically correctly,” she explained.

Product quality in online media, in her opinion, is also influenced by the speed with which journalists should work to “break traffic” and have customers who buy advertising space. “In a market economy, money is not pumped into media outlets, if you want to make market economy. If you want to bring some media outlets to heel, yes, you pump them with money and, at some point, when a second Plahotniuc [former leader of the Democrats] comes and makes a ‘black period,’ he will monopolize the advertising media market, will turn the tap on both, and then it will be very visible what is really happening,” added Olesea Banari.

“THE BC DEFIED THE PUBLIC”

During the debates, the performance of the Broadcasting Council (BC) was also mentioned, which, in the opinion of Nadine Gogu, the executive director of the IJC, did not perform its duties correctly during the electoral period. For example, in the last week, the IJC monitoring report showed that all television stations committed violations, disfavoring or favoring certain electoral competitors. “We tend to believe that this is also because the BC has not fulfilled its role of guarantor of the public interest. We commented a lot, we reacted after that first report of the BC, and it was practically ignored by most members of the BC. No sanctions were imposed, although it noted violations as well. And their second report was released only after the campaign ended. We can only say that, through such behavior, the BC defied us all, defied the public,” Nadine Gogu said.

Furthermore, media expert Eugeniu Rîbca believes that part of the blame for the situation in the audiovisual industry lies with the political class. “We had lots of elections, we had lots of televisions that showed political partisanship, and there was no reaction from the political class or the state, in general. And the behavior of the Broadcasting Council during this election proves this fact,” Eugeniu Rîbca said.

Representatives of the BC, initially present at the discussions, eventually left the meeting and did not respond to the moderator’s calls to speak. On the other hand, the representatives of the public company Teleradio-Moldova did not accept the IJC’s invitation.