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Media NGOs Condemn the Abuses of Ceadir-Lunga Police Inspectorate That Served the Journalist Natalia Cebotari a Contravention Notice

19 May 2020
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Media NGOs express their concern regarding the violation of the right to freedom of expression of the journalist Natalia Cebotari through abusive and illegal contraventional sanctioning.

In March 2020, several employees of a textile factory from Ceadir-Lunga sent the journalist of the regional newspaper ‘Znamea’, Natalia Cebotari, information regarding several violations committed by the employer regarding employees' working conditions. To be more precise, the employees of the factory complained that they had to work in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces and that the employer refused to comply with the hygienic and sanitary requirements. They also asked the journalist not to reveal their identity, to avoid being persecuted and fired by their employer.

After the journalist published the information on her Facebook page, the manager of the factory had allegedly put some pressure on his employees in an attempt to find out who sent the information, while Natalia Cebotari became the target of intimidations and threats coming from the manager. Moreover, the representative of the factory filed a complaint against the journalist at Ceadir-Lunga Police Inspectorate. As a result, on 14 May 2020, Natalia Cebotari was sanctioned for slender[1], i.e. for deliberately spreading untruthful information that defamed another individual and faced a fine of MDL 2.400.

We believe that the law enforcement bodies applied an unfounded sanction against the journalist who acted in accordance with the law[2] and fulfilled her professional duty of informing the citizens about issues of public interest. Moreover, the Law on Freedom of Expression[3] stipulates that the protection of honor, dignity and professional reputation cannot prevail over the freedom of citizens to receive information of public interest.

Please notice that the current legal framework[4] stipulates that the state guarantees the freedom of expression of the media, stating that no one may forbid or prevent the media from disseminating information of public interest unless it is done within the limits of the law.

In these circumstances, we would like to highlight that the contravention sanction imposed on Natalia Cebotari represents an interference of the law enforcement bodies in the editorial activity of the media and constitutes, according to the law – a censorship mechanism[5]. Moreover, the requests of the investigating officer to reveal the identity of those who provided the information contravenes the legal provisions guaranteeing the protection [6]  of the sources of information. 

Consequently, initiating a contravention case against journalists who exercise in good faith the task to inform citizens about issues of public interest is a dangerous, abusive and unlawful practice and is unacceptable in a democratic society.

Given the above mentioned, we call on Ceadir-Lunga Police Inspectorate to check the legality of the investigating officer’s sanctions and if they are found to be illegal – to take necessary actions to hold the employee of Inspectorate liable, according to the law. We would also like to make a particular call on the law enforcement bodies not to allow the restriction of media's rights by applying sanctions in an abusive and unlawful way in the future.
 
Independent Journalism Center
Association of Independent Press
Center for Investigative Journalism
Association of Independent TV Journalists 
Association of Electronic Press
Press Freedom Committee 
‘Access-info’ Center

 

 


[5]  Law on Freedom of Expression, Article 2 ‘censorship – (...) any manifestation of public authorities to interfere in the editorial activity of the media (...)
[6]  Law on Freedom of Expression, Article 13(2) ‘The individual who disseminated to the public the information obtained from confidential sources may npt be obliged to reveal the identity of the source during a civil or a contravention proceeding.’