Amnesty Moldova wins awards for national TV series on how to claim human rights

By Chloe Roset London,

Amnesty Moldova awarded six prizes in the prestigious “Best TV Project Awards” for their documentary series on Human Rights

Igor Stoica, Programme Coordinator at Amnesty Moldova speaking on detention rights in the human rights documentary which won first prize at the Best TV Project Awards, 26 June 2014, Moldova © Amnesty International

Moldova is a country with a soviet heritage. Our research shows human rights are not well understood here, either people are not aware of their rights or they don’t know how to react when they are being violated,” says Violeta Terguta, Media and PR Officer at Amnesty Moldova. “We managed to adjust to people’s needs by offering very practical documentaries that give people the tools to fight human rights violations, and fill their human rights knowledge gap.”

It is a good model for promoting human rights, the films are convincing, they are genuine and far away from declarative, tearful or fake statements –like we see too often in our media
Ion Bunduchi, Member of the jury of the 'Best TV Project Awards'

Using real life cases

The educational human rights film series presents real life testimonies and practical advice from human rights experts and state officials to better understand how to react when confronted with human rights violations. The series is aired monthly on Moldova's national state broadcast channel.

Each episode is based on the principles stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first episode, on freedom from torture and degrading treatment, was aired at the end of March 2014 to commemorate the five year anniversary of the 7th April 2009 protest during which over a hundred people were arrested, and some tortured, for protesting against what they judged as fraudulent elections. The 12th and final episode airs on 26 March 2015. All broadcasted episodes are available on the Amnesty Moldova website. (http://www.amnesty.md/media/type/emisiunea-carta-drepturilor).

Meeting the needs of viewers

In preparation for the work, Amnesty researched which human rights areas would be more relevant to the national context in Moldova. Cristina Pereteatcu, Executive Director at Amnesty Moldova, believes the success of the documentaries is due to evaluating the needs of the Moldovan people when it comes to understanding their human rights.

The key to the success of the series is the way it conveys complex information in a simple manner. Cristina explains, “The episodes are based on true stories from Moldova, they are about people whose rights have been violated and those testimonies are accompanied by experts in human rights and governmental officials explaining step by step how their rights should be claimed. The series should be seen as a human rights guide that does not impose personal opinion on any fact or situation. It informs the public about the relationship between rights-holders and the state, in a fair, accurate and clear way.”

The episodes are aired on the last Thursday of the month at 22:20, and last 25 minutes. Each programme is also rebroadcasted two or three times after that.

Reaching a national audience

Up to now, Amnesty Moldova’s educational work has been centred on implementing programs in schools, mainly raising awareness among youth. By contrast, the documentary series aims to include the rest of the population in protecting their human rights.

The National Public Broadcaster, the channel airing the series, covers the whole country’s territory, making the program accessible to rural regions.  Here people have varying levels of formal education, have lower access to internet and as a result tend to be less aware of human rights issues worldwide.

Surveys showed the Church and television are the two most trusted institutions in Moldova and the National Public Broadcaster is among the most trusted of the channels. “Last year, the National Broadcaster ranked second in the general national rating but ranked first in the rural area media rank. The rural population is the main target of our program. People have less access to information and media there,” explains Violeta.

1st Prize for documentaries on the right to decent prison conditions and on the right to decent standards of living awarded to Amnesty International by the ‘Best TV Project Awards 2014′, Moldova, December 2014 © Amnesty International

Positive feedback

Violeta and Cristina have received feedback on the work done. Amnesty Moldova has received a number of positive letters both from its Amnesty network and from national viewers. After the release of the first episodes some visitors came to the office to express their appreciation.

The official recognition came on 10 December 2014 when Amnesty Moldova was awarded 6 prizes in total, while competing with 49 other works. They won two first prizes, for the documentary on the right to decent prison conditions and an episode  on the right to decent standards of living. They won two third prizes for their documentaries on volunteering and discrimination and were given two “special mentions” from the jury for their work on freedom of speech and on the right to democracy.

In Moldova these are prestigious awards, especially amongst journalists. Ion Bunduchi, member of the jury, explains: "We gave the highest score to those works because they profoundly address pressing issues and presenting them like they do here increases the chances of solving those issues. On top of this, it is done very professionally, information comes from real stories, with conclusive data and it is done in compliance with professional standards. It is a good model for promoting human rights, the films are convincing, they are genuine and far away from declarative, tearful or fake statements –like we see too often in our media".

The idea of the project was born two and a half years ago, when the National Public Broadcaster reached out to non-governmental organisations in order to produce educative programs for national TV, to which Amnesty responded.

Each episode takes on average more than a month of pre-production, a month of production and a few weeks of post-production. This experience allowed Amnesty Moldova to gain visibility in the country. At the time of writing, the series has reached more than 800 000 viewers, with an increase in viewers each week.

The last and most watched episode so far, on the right to education, was aired on 26 December and received 140,466 viewers (Moldova’s total population is 3.56 million).

Andrei Shura, Editor at NEBIRU production studio, editing the human rights series, 9 December 2014, Moldova © Amnesty International

More to come?

Both the channel and the producers are delighted by this success and another series of 12 episodes is already under discussion: “this documentary series is a fresh approach to editorial and graphic concepts, as observed by both the public and the world of television. This is an efficient collaboration that we intend to continue,” said Mircea Surdu, Director of Public Television.

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