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19 October 2019
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Gheorghe Russu

Vice-director, The Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption

Parties-Phantoms, Parties - State Institutions, Parties - State Enterprises

Ion PREAŞCĂ

20 parties have registered in the current election campaign. Many people say it is a too big number for such a small country as Moldova. At the same time, much more parties could take part in the election campaign.

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Activists launch Moldova’s first ‘Space Camp’ © Susan Coughtrie

Monitoring Mass Media during the Campaign for Local General Elections of 5 June 2011: Case study No.1

NIT, “Curier,” 19 May, 22:00
Centrul pentru Jurnalism Independent, 9 June 2011, 13:07

Reporter: Sergiu Strungaru

On 19 May (at 22:18, news item 5), TV station NIT presented a "report produced by Sergiu Strungaru" that even at first sight did not exhibit the characteristics of = journalism built on data collected on the spot in a realistic and unbiased manner.

The item referred to an electoral ad for Dorin Chirtoacă that according to the reporter "caused debates" and further that "Internet users are rushing to comment on the ad." The reporter identified "two camps" among the ad's commentators: in the first one are those who appreciate, "the voice, videos, good music, the tie that matches the shirt," while the second camp is skeptical about the content of the clip and "doubts some of the achievements of which Chirtoacă boasts." By making this division into two camps, the reporter believed that he had formally addressed the need for diversity of opinions without, however, acknowledging that the first camp refers to how the candidate looks and the artistic quality of the ad while the other refers to the achievements of the candidate for mayor. This classifying of opinions using different principles is cheating from the outset.

The reporter then proceeds to counter five of the nine statements Mr Chirtoacă makes in the ad. The LP candidate for mayor first mentions, "...solving the issue of the unpleasant smell from the water cleaning station after 42 years," after which the reporter says, "Let us remind you that hundreds of tons of toxic mud were moved near Bubuieci which brought a protest from an environmental organization." To add credibility, the opinion of a councilor from Bubuieci who talks about the ecological risks of the mud is aired instead of that of a representative of an environmental organization. In the background the audience sees trucks unloading mud. The station does not specify where the videos were taken but does accompany the video with a song by Ada Milea: "Its snowing mud on us/ A grey layer has set ..." This is not the real and unbiased information that should appear in a report.

Another statement by Chirtoacă about the "implementation of the road repair program" is followed by the reporter's conclusion that, "This subject is one of the most painful ones as in recent years holes have turned into real craters." Three opinions about the quality of repairs on Alba Iulia Street follow, then videos of roads and Dorin Chirtoacă are shown all accompanied by the Russian song "my dear, dear, you were walking and gods were helping." The combination of music and videos puts the candidate in negative light without offering counter arguments to his statements in the electoral ad.

The reporter then raises doubts about the next achievement presented by Chirtoacă: "the procurement of 100 new trolleybuses of European standards." Mr Strungaru states that, "More than half of the trolleybuses brought to Chişinău had technical defects and have been taken out of service." As proof, an interview with a trolleybus driver is included.

Reporter: "What happened?"
Driver: "It broke down. The mechanic will come to look at it."
Reporter: "Did it break down while you were driving on the road?"
Driver: "Yes, while driving it on the road."

This dialogue is followed by a video clip shot from a mobile phone, as indicated on the screen, that contains a discussion between two people near an allegedly dysfunctional trolleybus: "Call Chirtoacă, ask for the password, (laughter). So should we vote for Chirtoacă or not?" (laughter) Again, viewers are not offered facts that dispute the achievements of the incumbent mayor but instead hear allegations from vague sources and circumstances.

Chirtoacă's claim that he set up, "...over 100 playgrounds for children" is counteracted by the reporter's statement, "In parallel people were complaining that scores of playgrounds have been transformed into parking lots or multistory blocs." This is followed by a report from a Chisinau site where an old playground has been demolished that includes only two opinions. One person regrets that the playground has been demolished because many generations grew up playing there, and the other voice states that there is no need for the old and rusty iron because it is dangerous for children. It is not clear from this segment that the playground was demolished in order to build a parking lot. This same segment appeared in another news item in the same newscast (item 7) in which it is clearly stated that the playground was demolished in order to build a new one according to documents presented by the mayor's office and that the decision to renovate the playground was made in February 2011 as part of the reconstruction of a number of old playgrounds. The item ends with a rhetorical question from the reporter: "Why such sudden concern from the authorities for children and playgrounds?" His conclusion is that their concern is part of the electoral campaign. The reporter's intention to prove that the playgrounds have been transformed into parking lots is nothing more than a distortion of reality and a manipulation of public opinion by presenting false information.

Chirtoacă's statement that he granted aid and compensation for pensioners and needy families is followed by the reporter's conclusion that, "As gratitude, Dorin Chirtoacă was one step away from being stepped on by the needy families and by pensioners." This conclusion is accompanied by videos from the archives-without specifying this fact-of a protest by pensioners organized by the non-government organization Salvgardare and Maia Laguta, in which the protesters pushed the mayor. The item does not make it clear that the protest took place before the granting of the aid referred to by the candidate.

Chirtoacă's last statement, "These are real results that we have obtained together" is followed by the song "If you for vote me, hear this: I will build houses and kindergartens/ for mothers and children/For you to have sport and stadiums/for working people/I will proactively plead/for budgets to grow/To put the country on a track/of normal development." The song is accompanied by a video of Chirtoacă serving wine, videos from the celebration of his birthday and tables with food, drinks and a lot of empty bottles. The item ends with Chirtoacă bursting into laughter while the song says "to put the country on a track /of normal development."

This approach fragrantly violates the provisions of the Broadcast Code that say that reality cannot be distorted through editing tricks, commentaries, devices or titles (Art. 7). Also, the provisions of the Regulations of the Central Electoral Committee on Covering the Campaign for the General Local Elections of 5 June by the Moldovan Media are violated. They clearly stipulate that, "Electoral advertising cannot be included in news programs, sport programs, children's programs, religious programs," (p.12) and, "Electoral items published or broadcast, both those of the Central Electoral Commission and of the electoral candidates, cannot be accompanied by commentaries" (p.17).

 



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