Moldova: Investigative Journalism, a ‘Vaccine’ Against Political Influence


A study about investigative journalism sparks controversy about trust in media in Moldova.

A study on investigative journalism was recently published in Moldova. It involved respondents who have recently read at least one article published by a media outlet specializing in investigations. Nearly half of these respondents believed that investigations were ‘all politically ordered’. An additional 42% believed they were ‘financed by opposition parties’. These statements are included in the study ‘Media Trust in the Republic of Moldova: Public and Journalist Perception’. Media experts appear to disagree with this opinion. Executive Director of the Association of Independent Press Petru Macovei believes that this was an attempt to suggest that investigative journalism is not trustworthy.

‘A vaccine’ against political influence

Despite being completed in May 2017, the study was published only now at the request of the Friedrich Naumann STIFTUNG, which is a partner on the project. The document includes two studies – ‘Media in the Republic of Moldova. Investigative Journalism’, that was conducted by IMAS, and ‘The Media Market and Investigative Journalism in the Republic of Moldova’ developed by RISE Moldova journalist Ion Preasca.

Director of the Project Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom for Southeast Europe Daniel Kaddik attended the study launch event. Kaddick expressed concern that 80% of focus group participants stated that the media was under political control:

  • ‘If the local media market is controlled by a person or a group of persons, then we have a problem. If this media mogul is also a prominent political figure and a party chairman, we have another problem. If the Speaker of the Parliament is a member of that party, it is a problem as well. Fortunately, there is a vaccine against political influence on the media. It is called independent and courageous investigative journalists,’ said Daniel Kaddik.

German Ambassador to Moldova Julia Monar also talked about the importance of investigative journalism. The Ambassador expressed concern in regards to the rate at which false news is being spread.

  • ‘I find these messages and false news about Europe and Germany alarming. One example of this would be articles on how a certain candidate was willing to bring thousands of refugees from Germany into the Republic of Moldova,’ said Julia Monar.

According to the German diplomat, this election year is an especially important time for the public to know how citizens perceive the media.

Media trust at a reduced rate

Data collected by IMAS in April and May 2017 show that 46% of persons who claimed to have recently read at least one article published by an investigative media outlet believed that all investigations were politically ordered, whereas 42% claimed that they were financed by opposition parties.

According to IMAS study,

‘This kind of perception might have its roots in the population’s overall impression of the situation formed in recent years that investigative institutions act selectively, i.e., on command, and only criticize the government’s ‘enemies’. At the same time, this assessment is related to a different and well-founded perception. According to it, journalists write what their benefactors ask them to. These benefactors are, in turn, interested in discrediting their opponents through media.’

Four focus groups participated in the study. Two of them included persons who read journalist investigations, one was a mixed group and the fourth one consisted of persons who do not read journalist investigations.

The majority of respondents felt that media sources in the country inspired little confidence. The respondents were particularly sceptical towards political coverage in the media.

When asked to name a few sources they considered trustworthy, the focus group participants mentioned the following ones:, Liber TV, Unimedia, Pro TV, Ziarul de Garda, RISE Moldova and Moldova 1. These outlets were recognized as independent and having a staff of diligent professionals.

At the same time, the following outlets fell into the untrustworthy category: Publika TV, Prime, 2 Plus, Channel 3, Jurnal TV, Pro TV, Accent TV and NTV, as well as a couple of outlets that were previously listed as being trustworthy:  Moldova 1 and Pro TV.

A number of respondents argued that journalists are conducting high quality investigations, whereas some of the other participants claimed that our country is seriously trailing behind in this area, even though journalists are doing their best to put out interesting materials. One of the reasons for this is monopoly. Media in Moldova is manipulated and controlled by political leaders and parties.

Most of the participants were of the opinion that investigations carried out in the Republic of Moldova are not effective. The respondents mentioned Romania as an example of a country where, in their opinion, journalist investigations have a much bigger impact.

Perception of investigative journalists

IMAS study also included opinions of investigative journalists on their own audience. They believe the main reason of distrust is the fact that a number of high-profile investigations failed to get an adequate reaction from the authorities.

According to the study, investigative journalism is currently at the junction of negative and positive perceptions. Investigative journalism is assessed and brought into question against a background of distrust in state institutions.

Ion Preasca, RISE Moldova journalist and author of the ‘The Media Market and Investigative Journalism in the Republic of Moldova’ Study, claimed that media in Moldova was facing an overall negative tendency of being concentrated in the hands of certain politicians, while the investigative journalism was enjoying a genuine revival, and that the existence of numerous investigative journalist groups had a positive impact on the quality of materials.

Gaps found by media experts

During the Q&A session, sociologist and professor at USM Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences Andrei Dumbraveanu inquired why Russian TV channels were nowhere to be found in the respondents’ favorites lists, considering they appear in every audience top chart.

Executive Director of API Petru Macovei wished to specify the criteria for selecting focus group participants. In his opinion, the results of this study were ‘not exactly interpreted correctly by the company’.

According to the API Executive Director, this study was an attempt to suggest that investigative journalism is not trustworthy.

  • ‘There have been, in fact, other studies which show that public trust in investigative journalism in Moldova is growing. The conclusions of your research are aiming to diminish the importance of investigative journalism,’ said Macovei, also adding that ‘politics influence not only media, but sociological companies as well.’

The article is a contribution by the Independent Journalism Center in Chisinau, Moldova, a SEENPM member organization.