The COVID-19 pandemic underlined at least two of the problems of the mass media sector: access to information and fake news. Even at the start of the pandemic, to be able to report the first infections with the novel coronavirus among doctors, the journalists had to insist during several days and were accused by the Government of seeking sensation. This shows that attempts were made to hide information, to give the impression that the situation is under control. The campaign prior to the presidential elections of this autumn also left an imprint by discriminatory and hateful messages, said participants in the sixth Media Forum of the Republic of Moldova that is annually convened by the Press Council in partnership with media nongovernmental organizations, IPN reports.
Press Council president Viorica Zaharia said it can be presumed that namely the hiding of data during the first days of the pandemic favored the rapid spread of fake news about the novel coronavirus. As four years ago, when the presidential elections were held, hate speech, gender stereotypes and manipulation have persisted now too. The difference is that this time, the largest part of citizens didn’t tolerate fake news and turned their back to those who used this instrument.
“It was a year during which those who invested in propagandistic channels and tens of portals that misinformed and manipulated I hope understood that they did it in vain as things started to work in a different way and the people look more for information from credible sources,” stated Viorica Zaharia. According to her, a discriminatory message in a semi-private discussion is not equal to a message uttered by an official and disseminated through media channels.
EU Ambassador to Moldova Peter Michalko said the mass media are one of the fundamental elements of a society based on democratic standards. “It’s now opportune to bring together all the interested parties and to raise systemic problems faced in the mass media sector without which you cannot build a powerful society and responsible institutions. We will continue to support the mass media at the regional and local levels as they are very important for the people,” stated the EU official.
“Moldova needs honest voices in the mass media. The citizens need access to a variety of mass media sources and we should all learn to identify misinformation when we see it. Without the firm commitment of the leaders of the Republic of Moldova, the situation of the mass media will not improve,” said U.S. Ambassador in Chisinau Dereck J. Hogan.
Attending the event, President-elect Maia Sandu said the real journalists do their job, but experience many difficulties. This has happened during many years. On the one hand, the politically affiliated TV channels flourish because they disseminate lie and misinform, because they help their masters who finance them. “I want to make a commitment here - the presidential administration will become an open and transparent institution that will provide information and will present things correctly. This is what the Government did during those five months and the presidential administration will do the same,” stated Maia Sandu.
The Media Forum continues on November 25.