Journalists from the regions trained on how to cover good governance and human rights issues
A group of journalists from eight regional media outlets participated in two thematic webinars, run by API.
A group of journalists from eight regional media outlets participated in two thematic webinars, held by API on 14 and 15 April this year, as part of an information and civic engagement campaign to promote good governance and human rights. During the two days, journalists were trained on how to identify and document issues on transparency in decision-making and budgeting, how to use data and tools on public procurement, and how to report objectively on human rights. At the first webinar, entitled "Transparency and good governance at local level", expert and trainer Diana Enachi spoke to participants about the steps, principles and mandatory criteria for decision-making and transparency by authorities, methods of civic engagement of citizens, NGOs and other local activists: "Unfortunately, there are serious gaps in LPAs, even if they publish information about these processes on the institutions' websites or in other public places. Often this information is incomplete or in a form that is difficult for the general public to access and understand, making it difficult for citizens to get involved". The expert added that instead of using effective civic engagement tools, some LPAs blame citizens for being passive and not getting involved in community affairs. She advised journalists to check more often the State Register of Local Authorities, where authorities are obliged to publish all decisions and provisions adopted. "Some authorities deliberately publish decisions late on the Actelocale.gov.md portal and thus restrict access to information. Others publish decisions to be seen only by representatives of the State Chancellery, who have access through certain tools, but they are not accessible to citizens and journalists. We always warn the Chancellery, which often reacts to our complaints and takes appropriate measures", said Vitalie Hotnogu, editor-in-chief of the portal Ziuadeazi.md from Cahul. Diana Enachi also mentioned that the transparency and civic involvement of citizens in the process of drafting and adopting budgets is not good either, adding that in a recent world ranking, Moldova is seen as a country with limited transparency in the budget process. Another topic concerned transparency in the procurement process. The expert referred to the stages of public procurement, the tools for detecting corruption risks, explained how data from the electronic procurement system can be used, what should be drawn attention to during public tenders, etc. Diana Enachi recommended journalists to carefully follow up on the complaints submitted by participants in procurement tenders, as there may be violations committed by some participants or authorities. The guest of the first day's session was investigative journalist Lilia Zaharia who gave journalists from the regions several tips on how to document stories about good governance, how to access and use open data from LPA websites. She also urged them to report on existing problems and good practices in this field to provide examples to other authorities. One session of the webinar was dedicated to the presentation of the monitoring report on anti-corruption policies in central public authorities, prepared by Transparency International-Moldova experts Ianina Spinei and Mariana Kalughin. In the second webinar - "Reflecting human rights in the media: positive practices and mistakes to avoid", legal expert and trainer Dumitru Russu presented journalists with international and national human rights protection mechanisms and instruments, which can be useful in documenting thematic issues. He referred to legislation and practices on the non-admission of discrimination, inhuman and degrading treatment, the avoidance of hate speech, etc. The expert spoke at length about freedom of expression, which is vital for journalists, the limits of this right and the abuses allowed by the authorities. At the request of the webinar participants, D. Russu commented on the publication by some media outlets of information about COVID-19 infection of public officials, disclosing their personal data. "The general rule is not to disclose the names of individuals, including those in public office, especially in situations of this kind, except in certain situations where the public interest outweighs the private interest. If we refer to the case of some district presidents who have been mentioned in the press, we can disclose names and other data only with their consent. At the same time, if that person is diagnosed with an illness and continues to work, your task is to make this information public to avoid putting other people at risk. You also have the right to ask why person X or Y is not at work, and if they are on leave, why now in these difficult times. Citizens need to know why the region is without a leader," the expert replied. The second day's guest was journalist Natalia Porubin, a member of the Press Council, who spoke to journalists about techniques for identifying subjects and protagonists, ways of documenting and rules for reporting cases of discrimination and other human rights violations. She also spoke about the terminology to be used in order not to harm the persons concerned, gave advice to journalists on how to dialogue properly with people with disabilities and how to interview children. "Serious mistakes also occur at well-known media outlets, which I respect and appreciate for their work. They are not made with malicious intent, rather out of ignorance or haste. It is important to be very careful not to do more harm to the people we are trying to help", concluded N. Porubin. Some journalists from local TV stations said they have difficulties in identifying the protagonists for their reports, as doctors, law enforcement agencies and social workers refuse to provide certain information under the pretext of protecting patients' rights. "For us it is not enough to broadcast information, we have to show pictures, but it is often very complicated because of the many restrictions that are related to the rights of these people", said one of the webinar participants. Natalia Porubin advised them to contact regional or national NGOs more often, as they have information, can suggest topics for journalistic material and can even help persuade people to speak on camera. In turn, Dumitru Russu recommended journalists to explain to the protagonists where and how this information or images will be used and to have with them a standard form by which people give their consent for the disclosure of certain information, so that unpleasant situations can be avoided later. Each of the two webinars was attended by 16 journalists from 8 regional media institutions: TV stations Drochia TV and BASTV (Basarabeasca), Radio Orhei, newspapers "Cuvântul" (Rezina) and "Expresul" (Ungheni), news portals Nokta.md (Comrat), Ziuadeazi.md (Cahul) and Edit.ocn.md (Ocnita), which are API's partners in the information and civic engagement campaign to promote good governance and human rights. "Journalists in the regional press find it difficult to obtain information of public interest from the authorities, because they understand the concept of transparency in their own way. It was useful to find out what laws and regulations we have to refer to when we ask for information, what rights we have, how to use databases to find information more easily, we were also presented with concrete cases from journalistic practice. The trainers are well prepared and the webinar was productive and effective", said Ludmila Topal, editor-in-chief of BASTV. "I paid a lot of attention to the information about public procurement, especially as some legal provisions have been changed recently and it is good for journalists to know about these changes. The tips on how to access and use open sources and data such as Mtender, tender.gov.md, how to filter data, search them, etc. were very useful. It is good that the webinar was interactive and the trainers answered journalists' concrete questions and gave them several recommendations", Tatiana Djamanov, director of Radio Orhei, noted. "The topic of human rights is a very sensitive one and it is not exactly easy to reflect on. Sometimes, in the rush for hits or views on the website, we forget about the rules of respecting the rights of the people we are writing about, that's why such trainings are welcome to remind us and strengthen our knowledge. The information provided by the trainers will help us to refer more often to the laws and the rules of ethics, and the articles we will write will be approached correctly", said Natalia Junghietu, director of "Expresul" newspaper. Recordings of the webinars can be viewed on the Mediaforum.md portal: Transparency and good governance at local level "Reflecting human rights in the media: positive practices and mistakes to avoid" Contact person: Ion Mazur, e-mail: email@example.com, phone: 022 220995. The event took place in the framework of the project "Regional Media for Good Governance", implemented by the Independent Press Association (API) with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.