Mass media is politically biased, CIJ and API report says

The mass media is politically partial, says the second monitoring report on the covering of the election campaign by 24 media outlets in Moldova.
Info-Prim Neo, 11 March 2009, 18:31

2009-03-11/15:44/ Chisinau (IPN) The report was presented at Info-Prim Neo Agency on March 11 by the Independent Journalism Center (CIJ) and the Independent Press Association (API), as part of the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections - Coalition 2009.

The 24 media organizations had been monitored between February 19 and March 4, 2009. "Analyzing the monitoring results, we can say that most of the mass media outlets do not take into account the people's need to know relevant information about the election contenders. There were few cases when the press covered the events organized by the candidates without exceptions and without making interpretations or taking their statements out of the context," said Nadine Gogu, acting director of the CIJ. According to the authors of the report, this shows that the press is politically biased to a certain extent.

The election runners do not have equal access to mass media. Some of them are treated better than others, the report says. The media institutions financed from the public budget, with some exceptions, favor evidently the ruling party. "We consider that these outlets violate the voters' right to be informed about all the contenders so that they could make a conscious choice. As a result, a large part of the voters from rural areas who have access only to the public stations Moldova 1 and Radio Moldova receive unilateral and tendentious information," Nadine Gogu added.

The monitors identified cases when the media outlets that are not loyal to the ruling party were intimidated. One of these was Albasat TV channel. "We think that the initiation of inspections at this channel during the election campaign can be regarded as attempt on the part of the power to harass the press whose editoria l policy is anticommunist," the acting director of the CIJ said.

The number of electoral materials presented during the two weeks rose from about 3.600 to 5,000 compared with the first two weeks of the start of the election campaign. According to the study, this shows the press's increased interest in the current campaign on the one hand and the activism of the election contenders and the Central Election Commission on the other hand.

The trends in the broadcastings sector have not changed compared with the previous report. "As in the previous period, the public stations Moldova 1 and Radio Moldova covered the activities of a single election runner, the PCRM," said the CIJ expert Nicolae Negru. The PCRM was also favored when broadcasting the electoral adverts. Its ads were shown at the start or in the end, or both at the start and in the end. The private stations NIT and Antena C also favored PCRM, ignoring or disfavoring the Opposit ion parties. EU TV further discredited some of the Opposition parties, while the PCRM and PPCD were slightly favored. On the other hand, PRO TV, TV 7 and Vocea Basarabiei stations offered broader access to the Opposition parties, preserving the pluralist and more neutral policy, including towards the ruling party, which was presented both in a favorable and unfavorable light, but most often unfavorably.

The print media continues to cover the election campaign from different positions, according to the sympathies and antipathies of the editors, said Petru Macovei, the executive director of the API. Some of the media outlets (Moldova Suverana, Nezavisimaya Moldova, the state-run agency Moldpres, favor evidently the PCRM and criticize the other election runners, resorting even to unaccepted language and attacks on the person. Other institutions (Jurnal de Chisinau, Timpul de Dimineata, Moldavskie Vedomosti, present the PCRM only in a negat ive light, favoring other parties, especially the Liberal ones. Some of the outlets (regional weekly SP in Balti) criticize the PCRM without favoring evidently another party, while others (Infotag agency, Cuvantul newspaper in Rezina) try to present all the runners in a balanced way.

The report was prepared as part of the Monitoring Mass Media during the Election Campaign for the 2009 Parliamentary Elections Project, which is financially supported by the Representative Office of Eurasia Foundation in Moldova from the resources of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the United States Agency for International Development.

2009-03-11/12:31/ MEP Alin Antochi calls on European institutions to pay increased attention to limitation of freedom of expression in Moldova

Chisinau (IPN) Romanian MEP Alin Antochi (PSD) asks the European institutions to pay special attention to the alarming signals of new cases of intimidation and attempts to limit the freedom of expression in the run-up to the legislative elections, coming from the civil society in Moldova, Info-Prim Neo reports.

In a communiqué released on March 11, the European MP says that the number of complaints from Opposition political parties, civil society and independent press in Moldova about intimidation acts by state bodies has increased. "Among these are violent actions aimed at hindering the activities carried out by election contenders, intimidation and forcing of the voters by different methods to support the ruling party, bias by the media outlets subordinated to the power in favor of the Communist candidates," the communiqué says.

Alin Antochi stresses that these examples add to the obstacles imposed by the Communist authorities on the p olitical parties and people by the new electoral legislation: rise in election threshold to 6%, ban on forming electoral blocks and alliances and restrictions imposed on the persons that have dual nationality, hindering them from holding public posts, etc.

"It is regretful that the recommendations of the European Parliament, the Venice Commission and the OSCE regarding the electoral legislation have been practically fully ignored by the Moldovan authorities. Such an attitude does not favor the development of the Moldova-EU partnership and questions the Communist authorities' wish to see Moldova part of the European Union. Therefore, the progress in the talks over a new association agreement between Moldova and the EU must be correlated with the way that the legislative elections are held in this country," the Social-Democratic MEP said.

Alin Antochi says that the EU should very attentively monitor the election campaign in Moldova so that i t is conducted correctly, by observing the human rights and the freedom of expression of the Moldovan people.