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Foreign Diplomats at Moldova Media Policy Forum: ‘When Democracy Faces Deceitful Attacks, Freedom and Transparency Are Its Main Weapons’

14 May 2019
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The fight against misinformation in the media or social networks and the role of the media in providing quality information, including during election campaigns, when citizens should make the right choices, were the discussion topics of the second Forum Media Policy, held on 14 May in Chisinau and attended by journalists, media experts, political analysts and representatives of civil society. The event was attended by foreign diplomats who urged the audience to promote freedom of expression in the Republic of Moldova, because it is an universal right and a pillar of democracy.

Dereck J. Hogan, the Ambassador of the United States of America in the Republic of Moldova said that USA supported media pluralism worldwide and that negative phenomena such as fake news and media misinformation should be unmasked. Dereck J. Hogan said that he personally was the target of some media attacks in the Republic of Moldova, despite the fact that he was new to the country. ‘I was the target of misinformation campaigns and personal attacks aimed to undermine our work. That is why I understand the desire to silence or censor these voices. However, this is not the right answer. When democracy faces deceitful attacks, freedom, transparency and open renewal of commitments are its main weapons’, the American Ambassador said.

As regards misinformation which appears in the media during the election campaigns, Dereck J. Hogan mentioned: ‘Unfortunately, our joint commitment to these freedoms is put to the test by dishonest actors who try to use fake stories to confuse the audience, to disseminate division in the society and undermine democratic values, particularly during the election period. This challenge is widespread worldwide and it affected even my country’.
At the Forum, Urszulla Pallasz, charge d'affaires of Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova, also addressed a message to those present. The European official highlighted that media freedom is a complex issue, that must be protected not only through laws, but by the civil society, Government, journalists and the judiciary as well. Urszulla Pallasz also referred to the importance of the media during elections, reminding of agreements concluded between the Republic of Moldova and the EU. ‘We primarily base our work on a bilateral framework, namely the Association Agreement which was concluded five years ago, and on the Association Agenda – 2017-2019 Action Plan. Both documents include provisions on media freedom. These provisions are mutual commitments between the Republic of Moldova and the EU’, Urszulla Pallasz said.

The EU representative mentioned that the European Delegation deemed it necessary to adopt draft laws that were developed previously within the parliamentary group on improving the media law. In particular, these are draft laws on advertising, access to information and tax incentives for the media.
In her speech, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom in the Republic of Moldova Lucy Joyce highlighted the role of the media in the society and the fact that in a democracy the media must become resistant to political and financial pressures. ‘In the longer term, we try to do our best to reduce barriers to the media freedom and to end direct or indirect attacks against journalists’ Lucy Joyce said.
Representative of the Embassy of Canada in Romania, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova Christopher Duggan, said that his country was concerned that journalists found it increasingly difficult to present the truth. He emphasised that according to the indices of international organisations, media freedom in the region decreased significantly – by 3 positions in Romania and by 10 in the Republic of Moldova in a year.

Christopher Duggan noted that his country would support media freedom and fight any attempts to prevent journalists from ‘communicating what they have to communicate’.
Forum’s first plenary session was moderated by Corina Cepoi, Internews Chief of Party in Moldova.

Other thematic sessions were held on the same day, to discuss the following topics: protecting the digital space during the election period, trends and practices in Europe and Eurasia; protecting the rights and freedoms of all people, freedom of expression during elections; policy solutions to protect the media and promote media pluralism during election campaigns.
The second edition of the Media Policy Forum in Moldova was organised by the Freedom House in Moldova, Internews in Moldova in partnership with USAID, UK Aid and other international institutions.

Photo source: Internews in Moldova