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Police on the PSRM Deputies’ Complaints against RISE Moldova: The Journalists Were Acting Legally

05 February 2021
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The National Investigation Inspectorate (NII) considers that RISE Moldova journalists acted legally during the Desantul investigation, after examining the complaints filed by several Socialist Party deputies against the journalists last autumn, according to the institution’s official response to Media Azi. The parliamentarians complained about intrusion into privacy, and law enforcement officials claim they closed the case on December 1, 2020.

The complaints were filed by the Socialist deputies Vlad Batrincea, Gaik Vartanean, Nichita Turcan, and Vladimir Odnostalco in November, after the publication of the journalistic investigation titled “Desantul”/Восемь друзей Додона (in Russian) (i.e. “Landing Force”/”Dodon’s Eight”), in a series of materials titled “Kremlinovici”. The investigation reported about the meetings of several political consultants from the Russian Federation with some Socialist deputies and the spokesperson of the candidate Igor Dodon for the presidential elections held in autumn 2020. The article mentions that Igor Dodon’s staff denied any communication with Russian consultants throughout the first-round election campaign.

According to an official response from the NII, Vlad Batrincea, vice-president of the Parliament and the PSRM deputy addressed the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MAI) on November 13, i.e. one week after the investigation was published. The parliamentarian complained about intrusion into privacy, as well as into the privacy of the other deputies. Three days later, on November 16, his colleagues Gaik Vartanean, Nichita Turcan, and Vladimir Odnostalco filed a collective complaint to the Ministry of Interior, listing the same reasons.

According to Iurie Stoian, the head of the NII, the deputies also mentioned the conditions, as well as the way of using special technical means for recording communications and obtaining images. “During the checkup, it was found that no unfavorable circumstances had existed in this regard and that there was no indication that the pictures had been taken clandestinely or by equivalent means likely to make such a publication illegal,” Iurie Stoian replied.

The head of the NII states that the deputies’ complaints were not examined in accordance with the procedures stipulated for a criminal investigation. According to him, on December 1, 2020, the case was closed according to a decision, and the materials were sent to the archive.

“POLITICAL PRESSURE ON MASS MEDIA”

However, RISE Moldova journalists mention several ambiguities related to this case, because, after December 1, their newsroom was visited by the police. In more detail, on December 21, an employee of Chisinau Central Police Inspectorate informed the journalists that the Central Police Inspectorate had registered the complaints and requested some explanations from the authors of the investigation. According to him, the deputies had allegedly demanded initiating a criminal case against RISE Moldova for the journalistic article which had referred to them.

Vladimir Thoric, the author of the article, describes the complaints filed by the PSRM as political pressure on mass media.

“There is pressure on the journalists and an attempt to hinder our professional activity. Moreover, the deputies are public figures, and our activity is also related to monitoring public figures’ actions in public places. We did not bring any camcorders to their beds or their rooms. We merely monitored their contacts in public places which were widely discussed in society; by the way, they did not respond to our requests in this case. I sent them all the requests related to these political technologists,” Vladimir Thoric commented for Media Azi.

The journalist also mentions some ambiguities regarding the information received by Media Azi compared to the information presented by the police officer who visited them at their office in late December. RISE Moldova editorial staff requested additional explanations from the NII and the GPI (1, 2), but has not obtained full answers yet.

On the contrary, according to Vladimir Thoric, the police visited the newsroom in February, informing the journalists that they had received the documents with the request to complete the dossier from the NII a week earlier. Thoric filed a new request for information to the police to gain access to the complaints.