Dr. Martin talks with the Moldovans.

Moldovan Journalists and NGO Leaders Discuss Elections During Visit to Grady College

Eight Moldovan journalists and NGO leaders learned about media law in the United States and the role of media in elections while visiting the the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia in late October.

The program, organized by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, included meetings with Dr. William Lee, professor in the Telecommunications Department, Dr. Hugh Martin, assistant professor in the Department of Journalism, and Harry Montevideo, publisher of the UGA students’ newspaper, The Red & Black.

The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“The legal system in the United States is designed to protect freedom of speech and access to information,” Dr. Lee told the Moldovans. “However, the government sometimes has tried to keep important information far from the media. The role of the journalists is to find this information and to make it available to the public.”

The Moldovan visitors gave examples of the difficulties journalists face in emerging democracies such as theirs while investigating corruption cases, and asked how risky a journalist’s job is in the United States.

“I know few cases when the personal safety of American journalists has been endangered while working on investigations,” Dr. Lee said. “Of course, I don’t include the war reporters here. There may be some problems, such as the recent issues related to the confidentiality of the sources, but nothing beyond that.”

The Moldovan participants who visited the Grady College were: Sergiu Buscaneanu, program coordinator of the Association for Participatory Democracy (ADEPT); Dorin Chirtoaca, coordinator of Freedom of Press and Elections Projects; Dina Clapco, editor-in-chief of TV channel “Euro-TV Chisinau;” Inesa Dorogan, program coordinator of the League for Defending Human Rights (LADOM); Mihai Godea, head of the Secretariat of the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections “Coalition – 2005;” Iraida Margineanu, project manager at IMPACT Media Agency; Adela Raileanu, news program director of TV National Public Company “Teleradio Moldova;” and Nicolae Sanduleac, director of newspaper “Unghiul.”

Moldova is a former Soviet State seeking to build democratic institutions along western models.

One of the goals of the program was organized by the Cox Center was to help the visitors learn more about the U.S. media coverage of elections and the impact the press has on voters.

“The most important role of the media is to provide a fair and exhaustive coverage of the elections,” said Dr. Martin. “If the information about the candidates records and agenda is accurate, hopefully voters can make the right decisions. Media should not attempt to influence people by partisanship and bias.”

Dr. Martin noted, however, the U.S. media have been more polarized during the recent presidential elections than in previous campaigns.

One question on the minds of some of the Moldovans was whether candidates in the U.S. often sue media organizations for inaccurate or biased coverage. Dr. Martin said that people in United States who run for government positions understand that, once they make this decision, their public life is open to public scrutiny. As a result, it is very rare that a government official would file a law suite against a journalist or a media organization.

Dr. Lee B. Becker, Cox Center director, and Dr. Tudor Vlad, Cox Center assistant director, gave the Moldovan visitors an overview of journalism training programs conducted by the Cox Center in emerging democracies and emphasized that all of the programs are designed as partnerships with local organizations. Drs. Becker and Vlad described recent programs in Ukraine and Romania on coverage of elections. The two mentioned that American and local participants identified many common accomplishments and challenges in their work as journalists.

During the comments with the Moldovans, Dr. Becker suggested to the visitors that they access an online course on public opinion research created by the Cox Center for distance training programs.

The journalists and NGO leaders from the Republic of Moldova received a tour of the Grady College and concluded their program in Athens with a visit to The Red & Black, the University of Georgia's student-run newspaper. There Publisher Harry Montevideo talked about the history and operation of the publication.

The Moldovans asked questions about the hiring strategies employed by the newspaper and about the decision-making process in the newsroom. Montevideo told them that the students make all these decisions without any supervision.

The Moldovans returned to their country on November 6, after a three-week program sponsored by the United States Department of State's International Visitor Program. The Georgia portion of their trip was coordinated by the Georgia Council for International Visitors.