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The Media Failed the Professional Maturity Test in the Election Campaign

25 November 2016
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The Independent Journalism Centre and the Association of Independent Press launched on Friday, 25th of November, a final report on media monitoring during the election campaign. Both the quantitative and the qualitative findings have been presented during the event. The experts have found that the media, this time again, “have failed the test of professional maturity and adequate information of the electorate”. The event was attended by journalists, media experts, civil society representatives, representatives of the Broadcasting Coordinating Council (BCC) and of the Parliamentary Committee on media.

From the quantitative perspective, the 12 TV stations broadcast 5923 products (total length - 502 hours). Maia Sandu was the most publicized candidate. Marian Lupu was overall the most favoured candidate, being followed by Igor Dodon, while the candidate Maia Sandu was the most disadvantaged. “Based on the report’s findings, it was concluded that Prime TV, Canal 2, Canal 3, Publika TV, NTV Moldova, Accent TV and Jurnal TV stations have openly campaigned, promoting and / or disfavouring certain candidates. The other stations - Moldova 1, TV 7, PRO TV, Realitatea TV and N4 displayed a relatively balanced behaviour, without favouring / disfavouring massively the candidates in the elections”, the IJC Executive Director, Nadine Gogu, said.

The 12 websites subject to monitoring have published a total number of 4485 materials, and the 4 newspapers - 345 news. The candidate Maia Sandu was favoured the oftenest by them, and Marian Lupu was the most disadvantaged. The API Executive Director, Petru Macovei, pointed out that the results of the monitoring conducted throughout the two months revealed that “the editorial policies of media outlets monitored in this campaign were often directed towards a partisan presentation of the information, and just a few media aimed at providing public interest information”.

The event was attended by the authors of case studies annexed to the 7 previously presented reports – the Executive Director of the Electronic Press Association (APEL), Ion Bunduchi, and the media expert, Viorica Zaharia, who is the newly-elected Chairwoman of the Press Council. According to them, the coverage by the media of this election was “disastrous and manipulative”, and some media presented news about the visits and the activities of certain candidates, not about their programmes. “The media have to a large extent, this time again, failed the test of professional maturity and adequate information of the electorate. It remains to guess to what extent this fact influenced on the final vote, but for sure, voters were not sufficiently informed, in particular about the programmes of the candidates. The elections are over, but the manipulation, the propaganda and the misinformation still continue”, Ion Bunduchi stated.

On the same note, the author of case studies on the online and print media segment, Viorica Zaharia, pointed out that a more serious problem faced by the two areas consists in the fact that they are not regulated by the Broadcasting Code, similarly to TV stations. The media expert noted: “We have not had a civilized campaign, neither in terms of language and attitude towards the candidates, nor from the perspective of the endeavours to inform the consumers. The majority of manipulation techniques were used to denigrate the electoral competitors, and most of the rules of the Code of Ethics and the generally accepted journalistic standards were violated. The press, especially the online media, have become a springboard for forgeries that were further taken over and circulated, exaggerated, etc. There was no competition of ideas, nor analysis of the electoral programmes in opinion articles, but there were rather attacks based on fakes, rumours, unsubstantiated opinions, and personal attacks”.

“The selective presentation of the information about various events was another way of manipulation used in this campaign”, Inga Burlacu, Press Council member, added.

The participants in the roundtable criticized the BCC activities in this campaign, as, in their opinion, the monitoring of TV stations began too late and the legal provisions requiring the gradual sanction were not respected. “We, the civil society, must try to do everything we can. Let us try to persuade the BCC members, to work together with the media committee, so that, from the perspective of the legislation, everything would be in place for the next campaign. So that the BCC could not have any justification for failure to duly apply the required penalties and to impel the broadcasters to do their job, working for the public, as the legislation requires, not for the interests of their employers”, Nadine Gogu concluded.

The monitoring was conducted during the period 15th of September – 13th of November 2016. 28 media outlets were monitored, including 12 TV stations, 12 websites and 4 newspapers. The selection was done based on a number of criteria – ownership, language of publication or broadcasting, geographical coverage, reputation or audience.

The monitoring is conducted in the framework of a project financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (USA) and the Council of Europe. The project is aimed at monitoring and public opinion information about the editorial behaviour of media institutions during the electoral period and campaign for the presidential election in the Republic of Moldova.