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The BC rejected the IJC’s petitions regarding the violations found on some TV stations in the coverage of the electoral campaign. IJC lawyer: “The practice of superficial examination of petitions is strengthened”

31 October 2020
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The Broadcasting Council (BC) rejected the complaints of the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) regarding the violations found during the monitoring of the stations Primul în Moldova, Accent TV, NTV Moldova, and Televiziunea Centrală between October 7 and 14, 2020, the period of the IJC’s third monitoring report during the electoral campaign for the presidential elections of November 1, 2020. According to the IJC, television stations massively favored some electoral competitors, while others were either ignored or approached in a negative tone.

According to the IJC, Primul în Moldova, Accent TV, NTV Moldova, and Televiziunea Centrală neglected the legal provisions of the Electoral Code and the Code of Audiovisual Media Services, as well as the obligations assumed for the presidential campaign according to editorial policies, specifically its balanced coverage.

The IJC concluded that the targeted TV stations treated the electoral candidates differently, broadly covering the campaign activities of some of them, while other competitors were either ignored or appeared in news with a negative connotation.

In the newscasts of Primul în Moldova, Accent TV, and NTV Moldova, the independent candidate Igor Dodon, supported by PSRM, benefited from the most airtime, both in terms of frequency and duration of direct speech. Also, the IJC report finds that these stations pointedly covered the activity of the Government, as well as of the local and central public administration. Televiziunea Centrală offered more airtime to Shor Party and its candidate Violeta Ivanov.

In a letter to the BC, Accent TV representatives mentioned that the IJC’s petition does not comply with legal provisions and does not contain any concrete examples of the reported violations. They also believe that the only purpose of the IJC is to influence the editorial policy of the station and even to intimidate journalists who have their own visions. The NTV Moldova administration also claimed that the station was monitored by the IJC during the same period when it was monitored by the BC, and the petitioners’ requests have already been met. Televiziunea Centrală also found the IJC’s conclusions unfounded.

The BC stated that three of the stations targeted in petitions had been monitored by the BC itself and that the stations that had committed violations were verbally warned. In the case of Accent TV, the BC carried out a separate monitoring in which it found that the tone of the candidates’ presentation in newscasts was generally neutral and/or insignificantly positive or negative. Igor Dodon benefited from a markedly positive tone, and Maia Sandu – neutral and negative. Dodon also enjoyed the most airtime in Accent TV newscasts.

However, the BC members rejected all petitions submitted by the IJC. “We are often accused of selectivity, whether we monitor or not. And when a non-governmental organization that is quite well known and respected monitors only some television stations and not all of them ... it cannot show a correct picture,” commented the BC member Corneliu Mihalache.

“THE PRACTICE OF SUPERFICIAL EXAMINATION OF PETITIONS”

For her part, Cristina Durnea, the lawyer of the Independent Journalism Center, says it is unfortunate that the broadcasting authority “strengthens the practice of superficial examination of the petitions that report violations committed by the TV stations that obviously and unquestionably favor certain electoral competitors.” “On October 30, 2020, the BC unjustifiably rejected the IJC’s petitions, neglecting its role as guarantor of the citizens’ interest of being informed in a pluralistic and objective way – a higher interest than those of political, economic, commercial, ideological, or other nature,” considers Cristina Durnea.

NTV Moldova, Primul în Moldova, and Televiziunea Centrală were monitored by the BC, too. The IJC lawyer is of the opinion that the BC, despite finding violations after examining the first report, limited itself to a simple warning that does not produce legal effects. “Although the results of the BC monitoring examined on October 22 unequivocally showed the favoring of some electoral competitors and political parties, as well as the obvious violation of legal provisions, the BC only undertook a declaratory measure, which does not generate any legal effect and does not correspond to the legal control mechanism. Specifically, the BC president proposed to the BC members to make, by consensus, the decision to verbally warn the targeted audiovisual media service providers,” commented Cristina Durnea.

WHAT DID THE BC MONITOR AND WHAT DID THE IJC MONITOR?

The lawyer also finds “defiant” the fact that the BC rejected the petitions targeting NTV Moldova, Primul în Moldova, and TV Centrală on the pretext that it had previously taken note of the results of its own monitoring and “sanctioned” them with a verbal warning. “However, the petitions regarding the three providers were factually substantiated by an IJC report based on the extensive results of the monitoring of providers’ newscasts and programs. On the other hand, the BC report referred to the monitoring of only newscasts. Thus, the subject matter of the BC monitoring and the factual circumstances reported in the petitions did not coincide. The reason invoked by the regulator for rejecting the petitions denotes at least a superficial attitude,” maintains Cristina Durnea.

Regarding the fourth petition, which concerns the Accent TV station, which was not monitored by the BC, the regulator verified the reported factual circumstances and found a number of violations. “However, the BC members took note of the findings and inexplicably voted unanimously to reject the petition, without applying any sanction,” says Cristina Durnea.

The IJC lawyer finds “regrettable” the regulator’s conduct at the meeting where the petitions were examined. “In other words, the conduct of members of the BC, an autonomous public authority with broad prerogatives in the field of audiovisual media services, who used the time of a public meeting to initiate discussions of victimization and accusations of bias and non-objectivity towards the petitioner and some providers, is defiant and regrettable,” concluded Cristina Durnea.

The latest report of the Independent Journalism Center, which monitors ten TV stations during this electoral campaign, shows that four of them continue massively favoring certain electoral candidates, in particular Igor Dodon and Violeta Ivanov. Two other stations showed a tendency to slightly favor some candidates.