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The Fifth Conference of the Ministry of Health with the Participation of the Press: “We Have to Insist That This Obligation Be Respected by Other State Institutions”

28 May 2020
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The fifth online conference of the Ministry of Health with the participation of the press is to be held on Friday, May 29. The events where mass media representatives have an opportunity to ask questions online are held after the journalist crisis cell launched by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) sent appropriate requests to the institution.

According to Cristina Stratulat, communications adviser at the ministry, approximately 40 journalists have participated in online conferences so far.

Diana Gatcan from Ziarul de Garda claims that, although often the institution’s press service is willing to answer questions, sometimes it is desirable to get reactions from those concerned or direct answers from the decision-makers. “Under such circumstances, press conferences organized by the Ministry of Health were a good opportunity to ask a question and get an immediate reply from the officials involved. Even if some answers did not meet our expectations, at least we had an answer, without being told that ‘it was no time for questions’, ‘we are at a meeting’, or ‘come back later’”, Media Azi reporter states.

Mariana Rata, TV8 News Department Director, also emphasizes the need for the authorities to communicate directly with journalists. “Given that the statistics show that the number of COVID cases detected does not decrease, yet the Extraordinary National Commission for Public Health has decided to remove several restrictions, it is very relevant to communicate about such issues efficiently, also discussing the dangers related to these liberalizations. The change in the ministry’s attitude demonstrates that a joint effort by journalists and civil society can force the authorities to comply with their obligations and ensure transparency in their work. Probably we have to insist that this obligation be respected by other state institutions as well”, she explains.

Certain journalists mention the fact that some of the officials' replies at the conferences were vague and incomplete. “One of the conditions for participating in the conference was asking only two questions. Therefore, if the answer of the officials from the Ministry of Health was incomplete, we did not have any opportunities to ask further questions”, Liuba Sevciuc, Cu Sens media project founder, argues.

“I had to send the question to which I received a vague reply in writing to get the clarification. However, we are glad that the Ministry of Health has agreed to organize such online conferences and provide us with answers from the first source”, she adds.

The first conference of the Ministry of Health, where 20 media representatives directly asked their questions to the authorities, was held on May 1, after repeated requests launched by the journalist crisis team. Three other events of this type have taken place since then in the context where, according to the journalists, communication with the authorities has become more complicated with the onset of the pandemic in the Republic of Moldova. Initially, a joint request to the ministry was sent on April 13; it was signed by 25 organizations and media institutions. As a result of the request, the Ministry agreed to hold extended conferences once a week, which did not happen. Subsequently, the journalist crisis team sent another application asking the institution to keep to its commitment in relation to the media.