Primul in Moldova Sanctioned 10 000 Lei for Advertising Ilan Sor in the “Tema” Broadcast

On November 11, 2022, the Broadcasting Council (BC) examined the results of monitoring “Tema”, a show broadcast by Primul in Moldova TV channel on October 12, 2022. Previously, Liliana Vitu, the BC President, reported about that show, requesting to conduct a control of compliance with the provisions of Art. 13 of the Code of Audiovisual Media Services (CAMS) on providing correct information. The control data revealed that the moderator demonstrated a biased approach in relation to the statements made by Ilan Sor, the guest of the show, supporting the politician’s opinions, which did not contribute to formulating free opinions.

“Tema”, the show broadcast on October 12, 2022, included a 56-minute interview with Ilan Sor, the leader of the Sor Party. The interview was conducted in Israel where the politician resides.

Ruslan Mihalevschi, the BC member, paid attention to the fact that several statements made by Ilan Sor during the interview were at the limit of freedom of expression. He used the following quote as an example: “In any normal country, people demand resignation of the government, and if the government doesn’t attend to them or is reluctant to leave, people have the right to rebel. If they aren’t heard, they can elect a national salvation committee to conduct the country, or create a people’s tribunal to let the people judge those who conduct us today.” “Where is the dividing line between freedom of expression and calls for toppling the authorities which came to power as a result of democratic elections?” Ruslan Mihalevschi asked.

According to the BC member, the interview in question “does not comply with the professional standards in journalism,” because in an interview with a politician, a journalist should assume the position of the “guest’s opponent.”  “When a guest provides false information, a journalist should ask further questions, instead of confirming their affirmations,” he said.

“I guess this is a classic example of PR, not a journalistic product. (…) It’s an advertising interview lasting for an hour, aimed at creating a positive image of the politician,” Ruslan Mihalevschi concluded.

The BC members also remarked that both the interviewee and the journalist had the right to express their own opinions in an author’s show. Yet if the guest uses or makes statements which include certain false elements, a journalist “is supposed to intervene.” “As to this show, it included such elements,” Ana Gonta, BC Vice President, remarked. She also considers that the journalist’s travel to Israel in order to interview “a character who is both a politician and a businessman” demonstrates a biased attitude towards the guest.

Ana Gonta mentioned that, though the control was aimed to verify the compliance with Art. 13 of the Code, the monitoring team also detected the breach of Art. 63, para. 2 of the CAMS on the service provider’s obligation to demonstrate a clear distinction between editorial products and commercial content. “We’ve got evidence that such breaches were taking place during the entire program,” Ana Gonta said, referring to the advertising nature of the items placed in the temporary filming studio, such as leaflets, the pillow, and the flag with the Sor Party identification signs.

By a majority of votes, Primul in Moldova was fined 10 000 lei for breaching the provisions of Art. 63 para. (2) of the CAMS, according to which “audiovisual commercial communications shall be clearly identifiable and distinguishable from the editorial content, and shall comply with the provisions of this Code and the Audiovisual Content Regulation.”

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