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Media NGOs Find Public Reprimands against Journalists an Attempt to Intimidation

19 July 2017
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Media NGOs express their concern about the Superior Council of Magistrates (SCM) members’ attitude towards investigative journalist Mariana Rata, who was subjected to public reprimands at a meeting of the SCM.

After publishing the investigation titled “Judges of the Stolen Billion” on Anticoruptie.md, the journalist was invited to the SCM meeting with the stated purpose of “reporting accurately and correctly informing the public.” At the meeting it was found that the journalistic investigation contained an inaccuracy – the name of the judge who issued the court order referred to in the article was misstated. Although the author of the investigation acknowledged the error and committed to removing it immediately—explaining that mistakes could have been avoided if she had received a response to her request for access to the documents published on the courts web portal—SCM members deemed it necessary to publicly reprimand her for about half an hour. The judges criticized the journalist for failing to make efforts to find out the real name of the judge who issued the court order. It is worth noting that the SCM focused not on the serious problems of the system disclosed in Mariana Rata’s investigation, but rather on the unfortunate error committed by the journalist, which is an error quite insignificant in comparison with the problems she raised.   

We consider the SCM members’ attitude inadmissible and qualify such collective public reprimands as an attempt to intimidate journalists.
We shall remind that for more than six months access to court judgments published on the courts web portal has been limited since the option to search decisions by the names of parties involved has been removed. At the time, representatives of media and civil society organizations issued repeated warnings as to the fact that these restrictions may cause the press to commit mistakes, as journalists are unable to verify the information they are dealing with.

We urge authorities not to restrict journalists' access to information of public interest. We repeatedly demand re-launching the option to search court judgments by names of the parties involved and restoring the functions previously available on the courts portal. We demand that the Superior Council of Magistrates members refrain from actions that might be interpreted as intimidation of journalists.
We also draw attention to the fact that media have their own self-regulation body – the Press Council. Persons who consider themselves damaged by the publication of a material in the press may appeal to the Press Council or settle the situation by discussing it with the editorial staff.
The declaration is open for signing to all interested parties.

Journalistic Investigations Center
Independent Journalism Center
Association of Independent Press
“Acces-Info” Center
Electronic Press Association
Association of Independent TV Journalists
Press Freedom Committee
Center for Legal Resources of Moldova
Transparency International Moldova
Amnesty International Moldova