Case Study, NIT, Obiectiv, 6 August, 21.30 10.08.2009
The analyzed TV material envisages the transparency of the political negotiations aimed at creating a ruling coalition, conducted by the PLDM, PL, PDM and AMN – parties that got seats in parliament after the July 29 poll. The topic is treated in a partial manner, and the interpretation of facts bears a random character. Consequently, this media product is a divagation from the professional standards and norms, stipulated especially in the Broadcasting Code.
Naturally, the transparency of the political act harmonizes with the public interest, and the media’s effort to confer maximum visibility to it is welcome. Consequently, the intention of NIT TV station to tackle this topic as related to the parties engaged in the political dialogue to set up a post-electoral coalition is reasoned and timely. Reporting on this issue may be effective, credible and useful for information consumers only if it proves balanced, impartial and even discreet treatment. Any other type of approach turns to be strange to quality journalism. NIT chose the most dishonorable lane. The material abounds in labeling and pseudo-arguments. It tells of the dissonance between the statements of the author (station?) and the documentary material used, the latter being selected at one’s own discretion. The totality of the values invoked tells of the passionate attitude of the author (station?) towards the protagonists of this report.
Labeling and pseudo-arguments
“The most secret political negotiations since the formation of the Republic of Moldova”. Thisis the first label used straight by the news presenter. This way, the viewer is prepared (invited, convinced, imposed) to adopt an attitude, at least cautious, if not rejecting, towards the actors of the political negotiations in question. The statement “the most secret political negotiations” is correlated, later in the text and repeatedly, by the word “to plot” (“Both media and whole society are not informed what those four parties are plotting”; “the Liberal partners try not to disclose by any means what they are plotting.”) Thenegative attitude towards the parties involved in the negotiations is supported by the gratuitous assertion “The Liberals are sharing offices and get involved in the country’s fate in restaurants, in Chişinău’s outskirts, hiding from the public eyes and ignoring the public opinion.”
The following two labels were pronounced by the author of the report in the first sentence of the material: “Starting from their own belief that they won the victory in the elections, the leaders of those four small parties decided to launch the negotiations of setting up a coalition.” By the statement“starting from their own belief that they won the victory in the elections” theviewers are suggested they deal with some sort of imposters assuming something not belonging to them, by their own power. The qualifier “small” in the phrase “four small parties”, willing to mean the insignificance of those political parties, thus comes to back the idea from the previous assertion. Re-used on another occasion (“It’s not known yet who will rule: those four small parties or the party supported by half of the country’s population”), thatqualifier disseminates mistrust towards the parties in question and entails attachment to the PCRM as the big political force.
Another label is made by applying the method of analogy and envisages the would-be coalition of the Liberals and Democrats. Although not officially announced when the material was broadcast, NIT hasted to associate it with the Alliance for Democracy and Reforms of 1998 which, the author (TV station) says “livedforonly 9 months and died on the birth table, as some editorialists love to say.”) This way, NIT wants to suggest the short-lasting character of the 2009 alliance, and, consequently, it stands for more robust coalitions (probably like the one from 2005-2008.)
The labels from the analyzed material are accompanied by a series of pseudo-arguments. The first two are contained in the phrase “the partysupported by half of the country’s population”. Apparently, the author meant the results of the July 29 poll. Consequently, the question is about the results of the elections not attended by the population, but by voters – the first falsehood.The second falsityis about the number of PCRM supporters. According to data from www.alegeri.md,this partygained the votes of 44,69 %, i.e. less than half of the total number of voters attending the elections, i.e. 58.5% of the total population entitled to vote, and not 100%.
The analyzed report also contains such pseudo-arguments that are qualified in specialty literature as the call on majority (argumentum ad populum): “The process has started, and after two days of talks, the dialogue is marked by such secrecy that it was condemned by all the journalists”; “The journalists consider these are the most secret negotiations since the formation of the Republic of Moldova”. Through these arguments (“all the journalists”, “the journalists”) they claim that the made assertions (dialogue is marked by such secrecy, the most secret negotiations since the formation of the Republic of Moldova) are truthful because they are shared by a large number of supporters, though no concrete evidence is being brought about.
The dissonance between the assertions of the author (station?) and the used documentary material
The author (TV station) twice used his own assertions in the contexts of statements made in particular circumstances. In the first case, the author (TV station) states: “In order to mime transparency, only chosen journalists have access to the negotiations, the rest of the media are not allowed to the dialogue.” Lackingproofs to back this assertion, in order to (at least!) create the illusion of its authenticity, they resorted to set names latin1;INSERT a fragmented statement by the PL president, made in quite another context, and which (the first sentence) sounds as approving the author’s (tv station’s) assertion: “I want to tell you that you should not get cross in this respect. I don’t agree it would be correct to announce you; what time should you wait for us, what place we shall tell you in. But there is no information that you have to know. We’ll tell you when it is there.”
In fact, the situation is not like this and M. Ghimpu’s statements may be found in full, not abridged at http://unimedia.md/?mod=news&id=12400). Without going into much detail, we will mention that, asked whether the Liberals would use the Communists’ methods in their relation with media, because they do not answer calls, etc. and referring to the media’s access to the dialogue of the Liberals and Democrats, M. Ghimpu really said the quoted words. But they were occasioned by the shown circumstances, not by those invoked by the author (station.) In addition, Ghimpu’s statements were longer, containing other ideas that were left off by the NIT. Among those: the idea that the dialogue has just begun and it’s natural that “we discuss among us”, and then, in the second stage, the media’s turn will come. Ghimpu also said there was nothing hidden from the media, as “we’ll start with the wrong leg, otherwise. How can we not respect the press? God save, it’s like refusing to drink water...” He added: “Moldova 1 must be genuinely public. All the televisions should have a single goal – to inform the citizens correctly. That’s democracy.” Purposely leaving off the details, NIT deprived the public from coherent and full information to let them freely shape a judgment about the Liberals’ views about the situation and prospects of their cooperating with the media.
The author (tv station) improperly used contextualization in another case. Referring to the fact that the results of the talks of the mentioned political parties are expected by the Communists Party and the diplomatic missions, he stated: “The Russian ambassador says the power equations in the future government are not clear. It is not known yet who will rule: those four parties or the party supported by half of the population.” In that case, the author quotes an authentic statement of the Russian ambassador in the first sentence (“The Russian ambassador says the power equations in the future government are not clear,”) (see http://www.infotag.md/news/580086), only to add an assertion of his own (“It is not known yet who will rule: those four parties or the party supported by half of the population”). Finally, as an argument for both reasons mentioned above, they set names latin1;INSERT the statement made by ambassador Kuzmin. This improper contextualization creates ambiguity in receiving and evaluating the delivered information.
In this case, the author (TV station) used an argument, known as argumentum ad verecundiam, which invokes an authority in order to back or reject an assertion. In this case, the gratuitous statement of the NIT reporter (“It is not known yet who will rule: those four parties or the party supported by half of the population)is tried to be validatedon the account of the authority of the Russian ambassador, the author’s words being abusively filtered into the text said by the author and the statements of the Russian diplomat.
To conclude with, we’ll find that tackling such an important issue as the one about the transparency of the political act was compromised by NIT by applying methods going beyond the professional standards of quality journalism and the norms provided by the Broadcasting Code (labeling, falsity, truncated presentation of information, improper decontextualization and contextualization, etc.). Point 4 of art. 7 of the Broadcasting Code establishes: “In order to insure the respect for the principles of social-political balance, equidistance and objectivity in the broadcasters' newscasts, they shall air every news story so that:
a) the information making the story shall be truthful;
b) not to distort the sense of the reality by tricks of montage, comments, way of wording or titles;
c) in the case of stories covering conflict situations, the principle of informing from several sources shall be respected.”
The analyzed material also illustrates that NITcontinue to broadcast in the coordinates of the editorial policies used in the electoral race, although that one is already history.
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.