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Media Forum: War forced journalists to swiftly adjust to new reality

The war started by Russia against Ukraine forced the journalists and society to swiftly adjust to the new reality and to modify the approaches on the way. The social networking sites and other media platforms serve as a ground for another war, of disinformation, with which the journalists in Moldova meet daily. The press in Moldova showed that it knows and is able to resist corruption attempts and authoritarian actions. But the precarious financial sustainability of the national media outlets, the deformed advertising market that inhibits the development of the sector, the insufficiency of professional training programs for journalists show that the press in Moldova needs long-term investments and institutional support, said participants in the seventh Moldova Media Forum that is organized by the Press Council in partnership with media NGOs, IPN reports.

The head of the Press Council of the Republic of Moldova Viorica Zaharia said the war forced the journalists to suddenly focus on exigencies that until now didn’t represent a priority, such as field security of journalists, filtering out of information provided by the belligerent sides, deontology of reports, victims and refugees. “In times of peace, we insisted on equidistance and neutrality of journalists, while in times of war scarce reporting of facts wasn’t as valid. Explaining the developments to the public became a pressing necessity,” stated the Press Council head.

The social medical became a battlefield. “Earlier, we were preoccupied with the verification of information and publication of this, but now the journalist needs to also follow the comments and not to allow hate speech or other messages banned by law there and must refute manipulations and fake news. These new realities in parts lead to additional costs for an editorial office and also to the rethinking of the professional practices to which we got used,” stated said Viorica Zaharia.

Soros Foundation Moldova executive director Petru Culeac said that while Ukraine is at war, Moldova faces a series of existential challenges, such as energy blackmail, cyber-attacks, information war, media intoxication. These challenges risk undermining Moldovan democracy. A free and courageous press that the Republic of Moldova can also have is the best remedy against authoritarianism.

Invited to the opening of the Forum, Parliament Speaker Igor Grosu said that 2022 is the year of the war that has shaken the whole world. The Internet, the social networking sites remain an uncontrolled dimension. These are used by those who disseminate disinformation, propaganda. “You were those who from the start related, argued, valorized our citizens’ empathy with the Ukrainian refugees. You were those who sensitized from the start to the attempts to place particular cleavages between the refugees and our citizens and this enabled us to stop this antagonism on time. The information war became part of our life. I appreciate the courage of those who went to Ukraine and reported from the scene,” said the Speaker, addressing the journalists.

Janis Mazeiks, the Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Moldova, said the journalists play an important role in disseminating authentic and impartial information. The detection of disinformation, fake news can save lives and strengthen democracy. That’s why the European Union will continue to support the free press in Moldova, financially as well. The EU will help to prevent the distribution of false information and not to encroach on the right to freedom of expression.

Laura Hruby, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moldova, noted that the free and independent press plays a crucial role in a democratic society. “The challenges faced by the independent media need our urgent collective action. Through the programs implemented by the Public Diplomacy Section and USAID, we make effort to extend the citizens’ access to a variety of perspectives based on facts, supporting the development of a professional independent media sector that is resistant to political or financial pressure,” stated the diplomat.

The Media Forum 2022 will continue on Wednesday, November 23. The program includes a number of workshops and informal thematic discussions on issues of professional interest.

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