During the electoral race for the early parliamentary elections of 29 July 2009, the Moldovan TV channel NIT displayed a predilection to write stories about conflicts, on the basis of a single information source. It did so in 220 of those 305 news stories related to conflicts, which it broadcast during the reference period (see monitoring data compiled by the Electronic Press Association – http://apel.md/public/upload/md_13_Raport_Monitor_FINAL_rom.pdf). This drawback was preserved during the post-electoral period. The analyzed stories confirm this assertion.
The considered TV materials were about different events. The one broadcast on 14 August refers to the resignation of Ion Sturza from his office of a deputy manager of Rompetrol group, while the one aired on 17 August – to PLDM candidate Ion Butmalai getting his mandate of an MP. Those events were used by NIT as pretexts in its intention to attack the Alliance for European Integration by setting face to face the components of this post-election coalition and thus tried to discredit the PLDM and the AMN in the citizens’ eyes. Obtaining those goals, which by the by were displayed openly in those materials, is tried to be achieved by presenting opinions in an imbalanced way.
In the material of 14 August, NIT, launching (taking over) the supposition that Ion Sturza, after the resigning from his office of Rompetrol’s deputy director, may run for the presidency of Moldova, makes an incursion into the year 1999, when he was Moldova’s premier (“Media already write that Filat and Sturza try to resume their old friendship. In March 1999, Filat became a state minister in the Sturza government, a period marked by a series of economic scandals.”) The facts used by NIT on this occasion represent but accusations, brought both against Ion Sturza and Vladimir Filat (“The name of the present leader of the Liberal-Democrats was in the deal on selling a building in Chisinau’s downtown, in another transaction, also dubious, about selling six TU 154 aircraft at low prices, and in connection to the sale of the cement plant from Rezina at $200 thousand, although they proposed for it $15 million. Media wrote that all these cases were hushed up thanks to Filat’s being appointed as a state minister in the Sturza government. It was also that time that most of the food canning plants were piled up under the monopoly umbrella of SA ICON – the foundation of the food processing industry of Moldova. That firm was managed by Ion Sturza, before he was appointed as a prime-minister. The plants subordinated by him received numerous loans from international financial institutions. After being privatized, the biggest part of those companies apparently left the heavily indebted corporation, but already as companies free of debts.”).
That assessment is a point of view. The media also have adverse views about the subject tackled by NIT. Here is what of them writes: “Ion Sturza became an important public person by mid-90s, when is asserted himself as the manager of "Incon" S.A., under the umbrella of which 20 of the biggest canning plants from Moldova gathered. He was the optimist type of a manager, who banked a lot in re-launching the Moldovan agricultural business with the help of Western investors (...) After dismissing Ciubuc, president Lucinschi trusted him the mission to set up the new Cabinet. Thus the famous executive appeared, formed on the basis of the algorithm of forming the Aliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR.) That team observed more or less closely the weight of the political components in the then Legislature, and later gained the reputation of the most emancipated and progress-oriented government in the history independent Moldova. The Sturza government achieved the most radical reforms, facing the booing of the Communist opposition in and out of parliament” – see: http://www.vipmagazin.md/index.php?mod=article&id=22&type=8).
Thus, the analyzed story, despite the equivocal interpretation of the topic, is related to a conflict. Consequently, under the principles of professional journalism, it was to contain the adverse interpretations, too, or the views of the protagonists of this story – Sturza and Filat. NIT, by limiting itself to present a single view, displayed partial and disproportionate approach of this topic.
NIT did almost the same with a story aired on 17 August. That time, the accusations were brought against Ion Butmalai (on the basis of a clip on the Internet, NIT stated that the new PLDM parliamentarian cooperated with gangsters during the electoral race – “In the recordings posted on the Internet before the elections, the leader of the Cahul organization of the PLDM and the candidate on position 18 in the party’s list for the parliament appeared in an reunion of gangsters from the country’s south. From the discussions Butmalai has with the criminal authorities, it is understood that the latter ones got instructed by the Liberal Democrat to fight against the Communists, assuring them of all the PLDM’s support if it comes to power”) were not balanced with the viewpoint of the person in question. NIT’s reference to Vladimir Filat’s words (“The ones not staying in prison are men of Moldova”), although corresponds to the principle of the balance, is anyway insufficient to render the needed proportionality, since by duration it yields to the adverse view.
To conclude with, we’ll point out that: the analyzed TV materials, although dealing with conflict situations, ignore the professional norms and the legal provisions of applying “the principle of information from several sources” (Broadcasting Code, art.7, p.4, letter “c”). Consequently, they display attitudinal approach of the events, to the detriment of fairly and impartially informing citizens.
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.