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IJC Report: Three television stations out of the ten engaged in political partisanship for Igor Dodon during the campaign for the second round of elections

17 November 2020
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Three television stations out of the ten monitored by the Independent Journalism Center (IJC) during the electoral campaign for the presidential elections of November 15, 2020, continued massively favoring Igor Dodon, independent candidate supported by PSRM, and disfavoring Maia Sandu, the PAS candidate. These stations broadcast a large number of tendentious materials, as well as ones that felt like electoral campaigning. At the same time, some of the other monitored stations slightly favored or disfavored both candidates. These are some of the main conclusions of the sixth monitoring report, published by the IJC of Tuesday, November 17, which covered the period between November 2 and 14, 2020.

According to the report, Primul în Moldova, NTV Moldova, and Accent TV had similar editorial policies, demonstrating open political partisanship in favor of the independent candidate supported by PSRM, Igor Dodon, and to the detriment of the PAS candidate Maia Sandu. The stations treated the candidates differently, in a large number of biased materials with a hint of electoral campaigning. Igor Dodon was massively favored both by the high frequency of appearances/the airtime allocated to direct speeches, and by the positive tone. Furthermore, these stations broadcast a lot of positive materials about the activity of the Government and of the local public administration, as well as about PSRM, which were favorable for Igor Dodon. The PAS candidate Maia Sandu was cited or mentioned most of the times in news stories with a negative connotation. Sandu was also disadvantaged by the news stories in which PAS appeared  in negative light.

The public television station Moldova 1 offered equal access to electoral candidates, the tone of presentation being neutral for both candidates in most of the materials. Compared to the first round of elections, Moldova 1 showed slight favoring of Igor Dodon. The independent candidate supported by PSRM was also favored by the selection of topics for coverage. Maia Sandu, the PAS candidate, was presented  mostly neutrally.

Prime TV and Publika TV had similar editorial policies, offering relatively equal access to both electoral competitors, and the tone of presentation of candidates, political parties, and public institutions was in most cases neutral. However, in the second round of elections there was slight favoring of Igor Dodon.

Jurnal TV offered access to news to both electoral candidates, who were presented mostly neutrally. The station treated competitors equally in the news, informing about the electoral activities of both. However, during the reporting period, there was a slight disfavoring of Igor Dodon.

Pro TV Chișinău had a balanced behavior, without obviously favoring or disfavoring any electoral competitor. Both candidates were presented mainly in neutral light. However, Igor Dodon, independent candidate supported by PSRM, had several appearances in negative light.

TV8 covered the electoral campaign in a balanced manner, and the electoral competitors were presented mostly neutrally. Igor Dodon had some appearances or mentions in a negative context and was disadvantaged by some negative news stories about the Government and one about PSRM, while Maia Sandu was presented neutrally.

Televiziunea Centrală covered the campaign for the second round briefly, presenting candidates neutrally, as well as negatively and positively. Slight disfavoring of the PAS candidate Maia Sandu was obvious, as she was presented several times in negative light. Igor Dodon had two appearances in positive light.

By monitoring media outlets, the IJC aims to inform the public about the behavior of the media during the electoral campaign and the access of electoral competitors to the media, but also to notify regulators about trends that could affect media performance or compromise their ability to provide the public with truthful, unbiased, and pluralistic information.

The IJC recommends the Broadcasting Council to use monitoring reports in order to take note of the facts and to assess whether the monitored stations have complied with the right to full, objective, and truthful information.

A total of ten television stations were monitored: Moldova 1, Prime TV, Publika TV, Jurnal TV, NTV Moldova, Primul în Moldova, Accent TV, Pro TV, TV8, and Televiziunea Centrală. The stations were selected according to the following criteria: audience/impact (national, regional), type of media (broadcasting), form of ownership (public, private), language of broadcasting (Romanian, Russian).

This report has been produced by the Independent Journalism Center as part of the project “Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova” (MEDIA-M), implemented by Internews in Moldova with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UK. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funders.