Jurnal TV channel was sanctioned with a public warning for failing to comply with the legal provision according to which information should be verified and presented impartially and conscientiously. The decision was taken by the vote of four members of the Broadcasting Council (CA) during the meeting held on July 28.
According to the BC, on June 26, the authority received a petition from the Trans-Oil group of companies, according to which, on the evening of June 21, during the “Secretele puterii” show on Jurnal TV moderated by Alexandru Cozer, the freedom of expression, the Deontological Code of Journalists, and the Code of Audiovisual Media Services were “severely breached.” The petitioner also mentions that fake, distorted information and value judgments without any factual basis were presented when the moderator affirmed: “Trans-Oil is actually a company owned by Plahotniuc” and “part of Trans-Oil’s money goes to Plahotniuc and provides his existence, whereas part of this money returns to some political parties which declare they are in opposition.” The representative of the Trans-Oil group of companies affirms that it denigrates their image and causes them considerable damage, and that journalist Alexandru Cozer breached their right to dignity and professional reputation.
In his reply, during the June 28 show, Alexandru Cozer invited Vaja Jhashi, general director and founder of Trans-Oil Group, to participate in the broadcast and to offer him the right to reply. The person in question did not respond to the invitation, and, according to the BC, in the absence of a definite text of the denial, Alexandru Cozer again insisted on the connection allegedly existing between Vaja Jhashi and Vlad Plahotniuc.
On the other hand, when asked by the BC to comment on the accusations, Reforma Art, the company which owns the Jurnal TV channel, replied that the content of the show was within the limits of the right to free expression. “As to the right to reply, a possibility to choose an acceptable way of reacting was provided, including a written answer. Therefore, there is no reason to state any elements of deviation in the actions of Jurnal TV,” Reforma Art representatives consider.
Upon monitoring the case, the BC concluded that the show host had resorted to presenting some opinions as facts without mentioning their source. As to the way Alexandru Cozer offered the right to reply, the BC’s analysis states a lack of good faith and a condescending manner of treating the person concerned, because the host had kept insisting on the close connection between Vaja Jhashi and Vladimir Plahotniuc. Hence, the BC considered that Jurnal TV had breached the Code of Media Services, according to which providers should inform about a fact or event correctly, and information should be verified and presented impartially and conscientiously. However, the BC members emphasized that the institution sanctioned media companies, not journalists, and annulling the show and apologies requested by the petitioner referred to the sphere of freedom of expression, which did not fall within the BC’s sphere of competence.
Eugeniu Ribca, one of the two BC members who voted against sanctioning Jurnal TV, emphasized the BC’s limited authorities in this case. “I believe that the right to reply is a serious sanction for any audiovisual media service which has its influence on the market, and I am sure that even broadcasting a reply, a text which contains a disproof, already has an impact on the image of the audiovisual media service. Applying additional sanctions by the BC in this case is disproportionate,” he explained.
In his response, Alexandru Cozer criticized the Broadcasting Council’s decision. “First and foremost, the BC should make a distinction between a talk show and a newscast. In an author’s talk show, proving any claim is impossible, regardless of who makes it. The BC’s decision seems to me to be arbitrary and superficial, and, personally, I do not accept it,” the journalist declared to Media Azi.