Fake axe, real vine
“European Union urges Romania to axe its vines” – such reports are actively being spread around Moldova, warning that ‘its vineyards are also at risk’. Both the Moldovan authorities and EU officials have denied these reports. However, the fake news continues to spread, largely as there is some truth to it. Ziarul de Garda, JAMnews’ partner in Moldova, offers an analysis of the situation.
An article about the EU allegedly forcing Romania to destroy its vineyards was published on Vedomosti.md at the end of March. The media outlet blamed French farmers of conspiring against Romanian winemakers. According to the Romanian winemakers, ‘French farmers have been overproducing in recent years’, and they believe that their income on the EU market has significantly dropped due to the competing newcomers. The article was illustrated by an image of an axe cutting a vine, with the axe blade featuring the EU emblem.
The media outlet warned that the same fate may befall Moldova’s vineyards. “Starting from 1 April, certificates for the production of champagne, cognac and cahors will no longer be issued [in Moldova]; this measure is stipulated in the 2014 Association Agreement with the EU.”
Although the passage is true, its context raises questions: Moldova will stop using Western brands in the names of its products. That is, starting from 1 April, it undertakes to use ‘sparkling wine’ instead of ‘champagne’, to replace brandy with ‘divin’ and cahors with ‘pastoral’.
“These are Moldovan brands and that’s exactly what Moldova should be promoting instead of calling something ‘champagne’ when it isn’t,” said economist Vyacheslav Ionita to Stopfalse, an online media resource created specifically for fact-checking and detecting false information.
Stopfals.md asked the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development to comment on the aforesaid. The Committee officials said that Europe was assisting Romania in upgrading its vineyards, not destroying them. For this purpose, the EU allocates over EUR 47 million per year to Romania.
“Romania can spend it on promotion its wine on the market, on improving vineyards, on the introduction of new innovations in this particular field,” the European Parliament’s Commission on Agriculture and Rural Development said in response to the information request filed by Stopfals.md.
The Romanian Ministry of Agriculture answered the same, stating that Romania has recently built new vineyards. “Fine grape varieties have been planted on land areas of about 30 000 hectares,” the ministry said.
Despite the official comments, fake news has proven to be resilient and some dubious web-sites and numerous social media users keep reprinting this story.
It isn’t that first time that Moldova has a problem of websites purposefully disseminating false information. Creating fake news is easy, and its’ almost impossible to punish anyone for that.