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Case study. Moldova 1, Mesager, 28 August, 21.00

In covering the first sitting of the newly elected Parliament, Moldova 1 harmed the citizens’ right to fair and equidistant information about the public affairs. 

The constitution sitting of the parliament elected in the July 29 elections was mirrored by Moldova 1 in four reports, consecutively set names latin1;INSERTed into the newscast Mesager of 28 August. The first was a report on the first constituting sitting of the new parliament, the second was about the election of the parliament’s speaker, the third portrayed the new speaker and the last was about Marian Lupu’s view on some procedural issues. In all the cases Moldova 1 committed derogations from the professional norms. The most serious of them were in the report on electing the parliament’s president. Below, we’ll consider it in detail.

The citizens’ right to fair and equidistant information was harmed by presenting the treated subject in an estimative way

The estimative manner in presenting the facts in the report was applied from the first stage – “After the Communists Party left the hall, the Liberal-Democrats started to elect the parliament leadership, in places proving ignorance of the respective procedure”  (the evaluation is marked in italics.)

Other two estimations result from the following statement of the report’s author: “We remind that the president of today’s sitting of the parliament, the PCRM parliamentarian Ivan Calin announced a break till September 4, a term provided by the law, but ignored by the Liberal-Democrats.” The first consists in the fact that September 4 is discreetly qualified by the author as “a term provided by the law”, and the second is contained in the phrase ignored by the Liberal-Democrats”.  Neither in the first, nor in the second cases did the author have any right to make the quoted evaluations, under the professional norms.

The evaluating connotation is also contained in the phrase “in fact which, through the author’s will, questions the legitimacy of continuing the parliament’s sitting (“Continuing today’s sitting, which, in fact, was adjourned by its chairman is considered as legal by the Liberal-Democrats, while the PCRM considers that the decisions adopted at it have no legal support, since the sitting took place by grossly violating the law.”)

The estimative approach is also felt in the repeated reminder (in different phrases) that the parliament’s sitting was adjourned by the sitting chairman, the oldest parliamentarian, the PCRM deputy Ivan Calin for 4 September:

--- “We remind that the president of today’s sitting of the parliament, the PCRM parliamentarian Ivan Calin announced a break till September 4  (...)”

--- “Continuing today’s sitting, which, in fact, was adjourned by its chairman(...)”

--- “The Communists Party will sue, at the Constitutional Court, the decision of the parliamentary parties PL, PLDM, PD and AMN to continue the parliament’s sitting and to elect the leadership of the legislature, after it was adjourned by the sitting chairman for September 4 (...)”

The author, by assuming the mission to give marks to the events having occurred in the parliament’s sitting, acts contrary to the provisions of the Code of Principles, Standards and Recommendations of the Producers of the Public Company “Teleradio-Moldova”, approved by its Observers Council decision no. 1/35(3)  of 07.11.2007, including the provision from point 5.1: “A reporter may not express his/her personal opinion.” This requirement and the one following it (“The audience shall not learn from the TRM’s programs the personal opinions of the presenters and reporters”) are construed by the code as conditions to acquire impartiality in newscasts. In this regard, significant do we consider the following remark from the code: “When there appear clear axiological notions and wordings, the traditional frame of a news story disappears.”

A citizen’s right to fair and equidistant information was affected by mixing up facts with the author’s opinions

The analyzed material makes no distinction between the facts invoked and the author’s comments, in certain cases the latter ones being unduly conferred the status of a fact. An example of presenting the author’s opinion as a fact can be noticed in the following assertion: “We remind that the president of today’s sitting of the parliament, the PCRM parliamentarian Ivan Calin announced a break till September 4, a term provided by the law, but ignored by the Liberal-Democrats.The statement according to which 4 September would be a deadline “provided by the law”, although being a simple opinion of the author (no law sets that date as a deadline for a break in the parliament’s works), is presented as an indubitable fact.

Similar tings may be found in the report on the first sitting of the parliament, aired on Moldova 1. Thus, in the phrase (“The representative of the Communists Party Maria Postoico stated the PCRM asked for a break till September 4 to set up the parliamentary faction. Thus, according to the parliamentary procedure, Ivan Calin announced a break in the parliament’s work till September 4,”) the author’s own interpretation is presented as a fact – “according to the parliamentary procedure.”

Such a practice runs counter the professional norms. In this context, we’ll remind that point 8 of the Code of the Producers of “Teleradio-Moldova” reads that objectivity “is a trait of the professional research and reporting, which tries to separate the information from the comment in an objective, non-partisan and objective way”.

A citizen’s right to fair and equidistant information was restricted by presenting a viewpoint about a controversial situation

The adverse views of different factions from the parliament (the Communist MPs wanted a break till September 4, while the MPs from PLDM, PL, PDM and AMN wanted to continue the parliament’s work) gave the event mirrored by Moldova 1 a controversial character.  In this regard, they should have taken into account the provisions of Teleradio-Moldova’s Producers Code, which repeatedly stresses the timeliness of using multiple, different sources (views), independent from one another. Thus, its point 11 reads: “The news programs should be, in general, a balance coverage of both the reality and the controversial subjects, avoiding to favor someone’s particular ideas or to be a simple, photo-like presentation of the events. The reporters, coordinating editors and department directors shall take into account the importance of insuring the balance and impartiality in presenting the controversial subjects (...). The coordinators shall do their best so that Teleradio-Moldova’s obligation to promote pluralism, to possible present a variety of ideas shall be observed.” In point 11.6, dedicated to the correctitude of the news, they expressly require: “If the issue is contradictory – it’s necessary to consider all the relevant views.”

This norm is ignored twice in the analyzed material.  In the first case, the PCRM’s view presented (the set names latin1;INSERT with V. Ţurcan’s state – “Today’s events in the Moldovan Parliament are appreciated by the group of Communist parliamentarians, those 48 deputies, first of all, not as an unusual event, an unprecedented event, in the sense of grossly, obviously violating the Moldovan Constitution. In this case, too, not only the rights of each of those 48 MPs were violated. Through this method, the rights of those over 700 thousand voters that those 48 MPs represent were violated”), but the view of the other side on the verge of this controversial issue was neglected. As a result, the program consumers have no possibility to freely and conscientiously evaluate the events having occurred in the Moldovan parliament in order to make their own judgment.

In the second case, the controversy is about the Liberal-Democrats’ request that the public broadcaster should present the plenary sittings of the parliament live. On this occasion, the PCRM’s view was presented, through MP V. Mişin’s statement (“The live transmission of the parliament’s sittings and especially on television will reduce from the efficiency of the parliament’s work. The artistic skills of every MP will get on the first plane. Everybody will try to demonstrate his/her skills of a person of arts.”) This view however was not unconditionally balanced by the reason of the ones wanting live broadcasting from the parliament’s plenary sittings.

In this context, we’ll make two specifications. The first is that the author exceeded his power by saying (“According to the Broadcasting Code, nobody is entitled to change the program schedules of the public television and radio.”) That’s because of point 10.2 of the Producers Code, “The company “Teleradio-Moldova” and not its employees can express its own considerations about broadcasting issues”. The second specification refers to the inexactitude of quoting the Broadcasting Code. The author has distorted the Code by saying “nobody” can change the program schedule. Article 51 of this law provides that the company’s administration bodies, by promoting the editorial and creation independence, are entitled to adopt decisions on “drafting the editorial policy, adopting and modifying the program schedule of the company.” (We do not tackle the legal frame of the live broadcasts of the parliament’s sittings, since this issue exceeds the frame of this analysis. We’ll just remind  art.99 (2) of the Law on adopting the Regulation of the Parliament of 02.04.96, which reads: “The parliament’s plenary sittings, except for the close-door ones as provided under paragraph (1), may be broadcast live by the public national radio and television stations in conformity with the provisions of the Broadcasting Code, and following the Parliament’s decision, through a decision adopted by the majority of attending MPs” (see:

Returning to the unilateral presentation of controversial events, we shall remark that this manner (partisan, in our opinion) is found in a series of cases in the other materials. Thus, in the report on the first sitting of the parliament, generally edited in an adequate tone, the view of the PCRM parliamentarian V. Ţurcan was set names latin1;INSERTed, as it referred to the continuation of the parliament’s work contrary to the PCRM’s requesting for a break, but the view of the opposing side lacked. “Airing just a viewpoint in any issue of common interest, reads the quoted code, is but an exception that may be aired only after being coordinated with the company’s administration.” It seems that the things qualified as exception in the code have become normal at Moldova 1.

Moldova 1 left off, in a partisan way, the verbal violence of the PCRM leader used in relation to the PLDM

“The scandal-related scenes from the Parliament, “the war” of replies among the parliamentary factions and parties shall be broadcast by  TRM only in newscasts, if the reason of the conflict has wide echo, socially adequate” – this provision from Teleradio-Moldova’s Producers Code perhaps urged the public broadcaster, not like other media, to leave off the verbal aggression of the PLDM leader on behalf of the PCRM leader (Vladimir Voronin used swear words and shouted in Russian from his place in the hall: "Idi na khren! My s toboy razberyomsya drugimi metodami, patsan!" (“F…k you. We’ll clear it up with you by other methods, kid!”, quoted from In this context, plausible does another supposition seem: this omission discloses not Moldova 1’s temperateness, but rather its partial selection of facts. 

To conclude, we find: Moldova 1, by broadcasting the analyzed material, harmed a citizen’s right to correct and impartial information. The public broadcaster committed multiple derogations from the Broadcasting Code and from the Code of Principles, Standards and Recommendations of the Producers of the public company “Teleradio-Moldova” which, in the long run, decreased the possibility of program consumers to freely make opinions about the first sitting of the Moldovan Parliament – an event of major public importance.

The Videomonitor is produced in the Project “Monitoring the political/electoral actors’ presence on the main television channels during the electoral campaign for the early parliamentary elections in Moldova in 2009 and enhancing the impact of the monitoring by depicting the cases of severe violation of legal provisions and professional ethics.” This project is financially supported by the Eurasia Foundation from the resources provided by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of the commentary do not necessarily share the views of the Eurasia Foundation, SIDA or USAID.
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