The Fifth Monitoring Report, prepared by the Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) for the period 21 October – 2 November 2019 and released on Tuesday, 5 November, during a press conference, found that only four out of ten TV channels monitored behaved neutrally during the second round of elections, i.e. Moldova 1 public broadcaster, Pro TV, TV8 and Jurnal TV. The other six either failed to ensure the pluralism of opinion, either favored or disfavored the candidates in the election race for the position of Mayor of Chisinau. Thus, according to IJC Report, half of the broadcasters had an unfair and biased behavior in relation to the two election candidates during the second round of elections.
Nadine Gogu, IJC Executive Director, said that no major changes were noted in the campaign’s coverage by the ten broadcasters during the last two weeks of monitoring. However, unlike the first round of elections, Prime TV and Publika TV channels manifested a certain bias for topics related to the Democratic Party and its representatives, which were covered in an exclusively positive light. Also, ‘during this period, we noted the favoring of Ion Ceban, PSRM candidate for the position of Mayor of Chisinau, who appeared more in a positive context, and the obvious disfavoring of the candidate of ACUM/PPDA/PAS Bloc, Andrei Nastase, who was the protagonist of the most negative news.
The IJC Executive Director also stated that, although the Broadcasting Council fined Accent TV and NTV Moldova TV channels for violating the law and the Code of Ethics during the first round of elections, they continued to engage in an open political partisanship in favor of PSRM and of the candidate Ion Ceban. Besides, the two TV channels also focused during the second round of elections on disfavoring Andrei Nastase, Ion Ceban’s opponent. The controversial news was formally balanced, several times mentioning that the parties concerned did not answer the phone to comment on the allegations.
As in the first round of elections, the Central Television engaged in an open partisanship in favor of ‘Sor’ Political Party, disfavoring both Andrei Nastase (ACUM/PPDA/PAS) and Ion Ceban (PSRM). Nadine Gogu presented as an example two pieces of news broadcast by the Central Television, where the TV channel was clearly biased when opposing certain candidates in the second round of elections in Taraclia. The first piece of news entitled ‘We know how to make it better!’ covered the candidate of ‘Sor’ PP, praising and appreciating him. The second piece of news entitled ‘Does the former mayor of Taraclia, Sergei Filipov, know how to solve the town’s issues?’ covered the former mayor of the town, the opponent of ‘Sor’ PP representative. Even if the news content had no negative labels or comments to the candidate, by the way the title was formulated, and by the question mark one can easily deduce that the editorial office did not wish to ensure impartiality and objectivity, engaging in a clear political partisanship in favor of ‘Sor’ Political Party and of its representatives.
RTR Moldova offered relatively equal air times to the two candidates in the general local elections in Chisinau. However, Nadine Gogu noted that ‘if the TV channel showed only a slight favoring in the beginning, after a month and a half of campaign, it constantly tented to cover Ion Ceban, PSRM candidate, in a positive context, while ignoring or neutrally covering the others’.
According to the IJC Report, only four TV channels monitored, i.e. Moldova 1, Pro TV, Jurnal TV and TV8, fairly and impartially covered the second round of elections.
Present at the event launching the Report, Polina Panainte, President of Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, urged the Broadcasting Council to be more responsive to media’s behavior in the future election campaigns and to intervene if certain violations do occur. ‘The BC ex officio monitored six broadcasters during this election campaign, four of which are neutral or not at all relevant, while ten other important broadcasters, which broadcast in Romanian and Russian, were not covered by the Council’s reports’, said Polina Panainte.
Note that as part of the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, the IJC monitored ten broadcasters during 20 September – 2 November: Prime TV, Publika TV, Jurnal TV, RTR Moldova, NTV Moldova, Accent TV, Pro TV, TV 8, RTR Moldova and Central Television. The media organization publicly presented five monitoring reports, which it sent weekly to the Broadcasting Council, notifying the latter about the violations found and asking it to sanction the TV channels that failed to comply with the applicable law.