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How the journalists’ crisis cell managed to unite the journalistic community during the pandemic

22 June 2020
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The journalists’ crisis cell, launched in Moldova for the first time by the Independent Journalism Center in the midst of the crisis caused by the spread of the new coronavirus, managed to unite representatives of the journalistic community in the face of common challenges. With the support of media outlets and media NGOs, the cell managed to persuade the Ministry of Health officials to hold online conferences where the media could ask questions live. It also filed to the Parliament a petition signed by over 350 citizens, asking for access to information, and reported abuses by officials and dignitaries against the media.
 
  • The cell was launched by the IJC in early April, in the context of the state of emergency established as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and reports about lack of transparency and restricted access to information of public interest. One of the first initiatives was a joint request to the Ministry of Health, in which 25 media organizations and media outlets asked the authority to organize weekly press conferences online, where the media could ask questions and receive answers live. After repeated requests in this regard, the ministry acted on the initiative, and the first conference with ministry representatives took place on May 1. Six other such events have been organized so far.
 
  • On Press Freedom Day, held on May 3 in Moldova, too, the journalists’ crisis cell launched a petition asking the authorities to ensure media access to information of public interest, restricted over the past few years under various pretexts. By May 18, the initiative was supported by over 350 people and was sent to the Parliament. In an official response, the Parliament informed us that the petition was redirected to the Government.
  • The problem of restricted access to information was also reported in the public space through a cartoon launched on May 3 and massively promoted on social networks. Dozens of journalists and netizens joined the campaign, and several media outlets published the cartoon on news portals and in newspapers.
  • During this period, the crisis cell showed the people in charge of what information they should and are obliged to make available to citizens. Specifically, we sent to several authorities a document listing all types of data that need to be published during the crisis caused by Covid-19, based on legal rules and international standards in the field. According to the authors, the proactive publication of information of public interest aims to increase the level of trust in state authorities, mobilize collective efforts for effective management of the pandemic crisis, fight and reduce misinformation, and prevent possible abuse and collective panic.
  • In the past few months, the crisis cell reported and condemned, through public statements, several abuses committed against journalists. In one of them, signatories referred to the unfounded accusations and defamatory information launched from the rostrum of the Parliament by the MP Vlad Batrincea, vice-president of the Parliament, who said that journalists receive hidden salaries of thousands of euros without paying taxes, and noted that during the pandemic Western partners orient their financial support to media outlets.
  • In early May, media NGOs also condemned the attacks launched by the Prime Minister Ion Chicu against the media, after he posted on a social network a message with criticism of media outlets, particularly the Pro TV Chisinau television station: “Our amazing artists no longer fit on the screens of ‘Pro TVs’ – the manele music replaced them (…) ‘independent media’ financed by manele has no chance.”
  • On May 18, media NGOs expressed concern about the restriction of the right to freedom of expression of the journalist Natalia Cebotari, who was fined after she wrote on her Facebook page about alleged violations by the management of a factory in Ceadir-Lunga, the information being provided by the current and former employees of the company.
The journalists’ crisis cell was launched with the support of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.