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“What Do the Media Need?” Forum Makes Recommendations for the Donors Supporting Independent Media

09 March 2017
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On Thursday, 9 March, the Baltic Center for Media Excellence (BCME), Latvia, in partnership with the Independent Journalism Center (IJC), with support of European Endowment for Democracy, organized in Chisinau the forum titled “What Do the Media Need?”. The results of the analysis of independent Russian-language media in the Eastern Partnership (EP) countries were presented at the event.

The analysis of independent Russian-language media has been made in EP countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The purpose of the forum was formulated by Rita Ruduša, the Executive Director of the BCME, who moderated the event. In the opening address she underlined that the research sought to identify independent Russian-language media in the EP countries and to determine how well they work for their audiences. Country experts also highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of these media and proposed solutions to eliminate gaps. “We want to prepare recommendations for donors and for organizations supporting the media, so they could find ways to financially support the media more efficiently,” Rita Ruduša said.

Nadine Gogu, the Executive Director of the IJC, mentioned that in recent years the countries of the Eastern Partnership and the European Union have contributed by means of many activities to promotion of media pluralism and reduction of the effects of propaganda. Referring to the situation in Moldova, Nadine Gogu said: “We have a lot of media in the Russian language, but their content is not produced domestically, it comes from abroad, mostly from the Russian Federation, so our public, the target audience, is exposed to messages that come from the Russian Federation. (…) Authorities should get involved, too; they should see what they can do to reduce these effects of propaganda,” she underlined, adding that MPs had been invited to the event, too, but they failed to come.

One of the serious problems found by the participants is of financial nature, namely, the lack of business models for outlets’ development, which is common to all the six member states of the EP. Expert Victor Gotisan, who presented the situation in Moldova, drew attention to this aspect. He analyzed seven independent media outlets that have partially or totally content in the Russian language – four national (TV7, Newsmaker.md, Ziarul de Gardă and Info Prim Neo) and three regional (SP, Gagauzmedia.md and Canal Regional TV).

“Russian-language media face practically the same problems as Romanian-language media: lack of funding and concrete needs to develop journalists’ capacities. The most pressing problems for journalists are related to design, layout and graphics, while for media managers they are related to finding new business and funding models,” said Victor Gotisan. He also noted that in Moldova Russian-language journalists self-isolate from Romanian-language journalists based on the language principle. As a result, in his analysis he recommended “to create common platforms between Russian- and Romanian-language journalists for an interesting and successful collaboration.”

Forum participants identified one more problem: practically none of the EP countries conducted studies about the target audience of media outlets. Such studies, according to experts, would help in the coverage of topics by taking into account the interests, age, living conditions and other characteristics of media consumers.

Those present at the “What Do the Media Need?” forum came to the unanimous conclusion that the support of international organizations for independent media should continue and that this support should be not only financial, but also by means of training and consulting.

The research will not be available to the general public, but its recommendations will be offered to all donors supporting media outlets in the six EP countries as reference points to provision of financial support.

Presentations about the situation of independent Russian-language media in their countries were made by other speakers, as well: Boris Navasardian (Armenia), Arif Alief (Azerbaijan), Pavel Bykouski (Belarus), Nino Danelia (Georgia), Roman Shutov (Ukraine).

Among the guests of the event there were Floriana Fossato (Reuters Institute), Gillian McCormack (Internews), Iulia Semeonova (Association of Russian-Language Journalists of Moldova), Timur Onica (European Endowment for Democracy).