This article is written by Vitalie Cojocari, a journalist and broadcaster with Euronews in Romania. He is a mentor for the Thomson Media project "EU support for local media institutions in the Republic of Moldova". It was written just before the release of RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index when Moldova’s ranking rose even higher.
The Republic of Moldova may be behind Romania in many regards, but there is one thing that, surprisingly, Moldova is ahead of Romania. I say surprising because for years Chisinau has been low down in the world rankings, and in 2022 it made a huge leap.
Reporters Without Borders publishes an annual World Press Freedom Index of 180 countries. Romania was ranked 48th in 2021 and fell to 56th last year.
While Moldova was 89th in 2021, last year it was 40th. The best result ever. In other words, journalism in Moldova has never been so free. At least that's what the Reporters Without Borders index shows.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, the Republic of Moldova is facing an information war with Russia. Instead of soldiers, tanks and planes, Moscow is sending “information bombs” to Chisinau. Chisinau is doing its best defending itself. It tries and succeeds at breaking away from Moscow. And the key question is: in the circumstances of the information war, what stance will Moldovan citizens take?
This is why Moldova needs passionate, curious and dedicated journalists who can provide people with relevant, interesting stories, explain phenomenon and put information in context.
There is so much fake news, so much information warfare, that only some good and credible journalists can help people understand what is going on. Be aware, journalists are not war fighters, they are, we can say, a kind of information ‘sanitarians’. They have respect for the public interest and produce material relevant to Her Majesty, the public.
Where there are journalists who do their job, who dig for information, who ask relevant and curious questions, there is democracy, free elections, politicians who can be held accountable and other elements of a European society.
"Be aware, journalists are not war fighters, they are, we can say, a kind of information ‘sanitarians’."
Fair journalism is at the core of European values, and Brussels has repeatedly announced that it will support journalism in Moldova as a priority. I do not know whether the leap in the independence of the press in Chisinau is due to European aid. I would speculate if I made a connection.
What I do know is that the European Union in the Republic of Moldova has set up a project called "EU support for local media institutions in the Republic of Moldova". It is being developed by the Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation.
This is because journalism in the Republic of Moldova, although freer than in Romania, is very young. That is, it has many young journalists. That means enthusiasm, desire and hard work, but there is a problem. Youth brings a dose of inexperience. Something that can be fixed, European donors have determined. The implementors have selected newsrooms in Moldova that need an injection of experience. After, they set up a database with a number of experts, but mostly journalists who have experience in media. The journalists, the experts are both from the EU and from Moldova.
"They may not realise it, but they have fantastic potential."
Small newsrooms have the possibility to select from the database experts or journalists to work with to develop their work. This allows them to get more depth in their articles, better organise their editorial work, identify new topics, have innovative approaches in their material and much more.
Well, a few months ago I was contacted by the implementors in charge of the above-mentioned project. I agreed to participate in a selection process. I was thus entered into the database of journalists willing to mentor journalists and newsrooms in Moldova.
I recently found out that two newsrooms in Chisinau have expressed their willingness to share my modest experience. Which I will do, because it is an honour, but also a moral obligation. I don't know if you feel the same way, but I do. When a place has given you something, there comes a time when you have to give back.
And there's something else. That's how I met some extraordinary new journalists from the Republic of Moldova. Some who inspire me too. They may not realise it, but they have fantastic potential. My job is to convince them of that.
Moldova has made significant progress in the World Press Freedom Index in 2023 moving up 16 places to the 28th position from their 44th ranking in 2022. The report says freedom of the press and the right to information are guaranteed by law, and best practices are encouraged by a journalistic code of ethics. Access to information is sometimes undermined, and arbitrary defamation lawsuits are frequent.
The programme "EU support for local media institutions in the Republic of Moldova" is funded by the European Commission through SlovakAid. It aims to conduct audience research, encourage the growth of media startups, and promote independent journalism. The ultimate goal is to provide citizens with access to high-quality, balanced, and reliable journalistic content while strengthening the technical and financial capacities of local media outlets. Our partners in the project are PIN Slovakia, PIN Czech Republic, Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) and CU SENS.
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