NTV Moldova Fined 6 000 Lei for Presenting Opinions in a Conflict-Based News Item in an Unbalanced Way

At the meeting held on October 28, the Broadcasting Council (BC) sanctioned NTV Moldova TV channel following the notification of the Community Public Association. According to the petitioner, the broadcaster breached the provisions of the Code of Audiovisual Media Services (CAMS) on providing correct information in a news item included in the main newscast of the day, on September 15, at 19:00.

Alexandru Antocean, Head of the Audiovisual Media Service Control Department, mentions in the monitoring report on the control initiated by the BC in this regard that the news item broadcast on September 15 referred to the censure motion filed by the deputies of the Bloc of Communists and Socialists faction. The monitoring revealed that the material in question was based on a single opinion on a conflict-based topic, which prevented the information recipients from having their own opinion about the covered issue.

More exactly, at the beginning of the news, the presenter declared: “A vote of censure for the Government headed by Natalia Gavrilita. A censure motion was submitted to Parliament by the BCS deputies. The authors of the censure motion affirm that, currently, the country has been facing major short and medium-term risks along with overlapping long-term threats for which no solutions have been found.” According to the monitoring results, the statement “vote of censure” sounds ambiguous and inaccurate, as the vote of censure was only suggested by the Bloc of Communists and Socialists. Further on, the reporter mentions that the signatory deputies also declare that, “since Gavrilita’s cabinet took over the governance, the country has been living in a permanent crisis which has impoverished its population.” In this context, the channel presented the statements by the socialist deputy Vasile Bolea made at the plenary session of the Parliament: according to him, “the Republic of Moldova is currently conducted by a government which is no longer legitimate, because it lacks the support of the sovereign of this state, the people’s support.”

“NTV Moldova presented the news unilaterally, without addressing the Government of the Republic of Moldova for the reaction. Therefore, the principle of impartiality and balance was breached, as well as that of contributing to free formation of opinions,” Antocean explained.

In a letter addressed to the BC, Exclusiv Media Company informed the Council that the reaction by Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita had been provided by NTV Moldova in the newscast of September 23. In the same letter, the company requested to settle the application amicably.

Although the legislation contains amicable settlement provisions, according to the BC, they are not applicable to the case in question, because they refer to the situations where personal accusations are brought against the petitioner, whereas the notification filed by touches upon the subject of informing the population, and the issue was under public debate. As to the fact that Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita’s reaction was broadcast by the channel a week later, the BC reminds that, when preparing a report, “a trustworthy journalist shall try to request an opinion to provide objective and correct coverage of the events instead of waiting for the reaction by the person concerned.”

The BC members agreed with the results of the monitoring conducted by the Media Service Control Department. Eugen Ribca emphasized that the news item referred to a “conflict-based situation,” therefore, presenting the opinion of the Government was necessary. Ruslan Mihalevschi considered that the channel should have at least requested the opinion of the Government press service to try to stay balanced.

According to Ana Gonta, the BC Vice President, the statement at the beginning of the news item, “A vote of censure for the Government headed by Natalia Gavrilita” is false. “Filing a censure motion to the Parliament and voting for or against it are absolutely different things,” she emphasized. As to the accusations against the government made by deputy Vasile Bolea who claimed that the Government did not have any political legitimacy, Ana Gonta regarded them as unbalanced statements, and Larisa Turea considered that the news item in question was a “premeditated disinformation.” “Even this information, a statement that the Government has no legitimacy, is erroneous from the very start, because the Government was voted for by the Parliament, therefore, it is legitimate,” she concluded.

The BC member Tatiana Crestenco had a different opinion. “Let me disagree with the conclusion of the monitoring team,” she said during the Skype conversation held at the meeting. Tatiana Crestenco compared the news item examined at the meeting with another material from the NTV Moldova newscast, in which the ministers of labor and finance had been discussing the compensations offered by the Government, and in which, according to her, the journalist had not invited any other persons, even ordinary citizens.

In their reply, the BC Vice President and the other BC members explained to her that the news about the compensations was informative, not conflict-based; hence, the journalist had no obligation to demand another opinion.

With four votes “for” and two “against,” the BC members fined NTV Moldova 6 000 lei. It should be noted that, in June, the channel was sanctioned with a public warning for breaching the same article.

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