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Media literacy measures to fight disinformation discussed at regional forum in Chisinau

Audiovisual regulatory authorities are engaged in media literacy activities in the fight against disinformation. During a regional forum dedicated to freedom of expression in times of war, an event held in Chisinau, Audiovisual Council president Liliana Vițu emphasized the role of the Council of Europe experts in promoting a normative framework conductive to self-regulation of the audiovisual space.

Looking back on media behavior, Liliana Vițu noted that, as early as mid-February 2022, it was possible to see how the likes of NTV, Первый в Мольдове and RTR were working to warm up the Moldovan public to the war that was about to happen. The aggression was being justified through news and broadcasts. On February 24, something unprecedented happened, those stations that intoxicated the public opinion willingly gave up rebroadcasting news and shows from the Russian Federation. “Until the middle of the day, they were still broadcasting. In the afternoon, by the evening, I no longer saw those toxic programs on their grid. At the same time, on that day the state of emergency was declared, and on the sixth day of the war, on March 2, Order 5 of the State of Emergency Commission was issued, which prohibited the broadcast, retransmission and distribution of informative-analytical news programs with military character”.

After that, work was done to amend the Code of Audiovisual Media Services, in particular Article 17, which concerns the security of the national audiovisual space. In July, a few months into the war, that provision from the March CSE resolution became part of national legislation. The legislators also came up with a definition of disinformation, Liliana Vițu mentioned, emphasizing the important role of the Council of Europe. “The experts of the Council of Europe recommended to us, the country, the legislators to review that definition, to reformulate it, to narrow it strictly to national security, because in the first formula it also referred to individuals and organizations”, said Liliana Vițu.

She added that there was no need to impose sanctions or to enforce Article 17. Self-regulation took place. But the saddest part, says Liliana Vițu, is that the disinformation has migrated online. “We had stations that prepared a newscast for TV and a completely different news content to go online. They were simply adding 15 minutes or inserting at the beginning or at the end already with all the manipulation. Why were they doing it? Because they knew that there was no one to look, to take measures”, said Vițu, hoping that the Center for Strategic Communication and Combating Disinformation will be able to enforce the existing legislation.

Aneta Gonța, vice president of the Audiovisual Council, believes that the application of Article 13 of the Code of Audiovisual Media Services, which refers to the provision of correct information, is capable of preventing or at least limiting disinformation. Last year the Audiovisual Council had around 300 monitoring reports on the application of Article 13 and imposed many sanctions, although the aim was not to apply sanctions. The important thing is that 25 radio and TV stations passed through the filter of this article, said Aneta Gonța, stating that some TV stations that last year were among those that most frequently violated the article on ensuring correct information, this year almost no longer do. Others were left with the same faults.

The Council of Europe Regional Forum “Freedom of Expression in Times of War” is an event aimed at facilitating continuous dialogue between partners from five Eastern Partnership countries on the main trends and developments in the field of freedom of expression in the region, including in the context of the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine, other important factors and the new Council of Europe standards and instruments in the field.

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