The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) has sent a letter to the parliamentary committee on the media, bringing their attention to the need to exclude the media from the category of subjects that can be held accountable for defamation. According to the IJC, the letter was sent in the context of “rooting” of the practices of using the defamation provisions of the Contravention Code “as a means for intimidating journalists.”
“In the letter addressed to the parliamentary committee, we emphasized the high danger of these precedents, as well as the serious effects on the freedom of the press in Moldova. Thus, the IJC asked the members of the parliamentary committee responsible for the media to take the necessary steps to exclude journalists from the category of subjects liable under Article 70 of the Contravention Code,” said Nadine Gogu, executive director of the IJC.
According to representatives of the IJC, if the media is excluded from the category of subjects that can be sanctioned based on the defamation provisions of the Contravention Code, journalists will not get total immunity, because there remains an alternative way of attacking the press in court – through the law on freedom of expression.
The IJC states that the need to amend the legal framework in order to stop the practices that undermine the freedom of the press comes in the context of “rooting of the practices of using the provisions of Article 70 of the Contravention Code (Defamation) as a means for intimidating journalists, which had been signalled by non-governmental media organizations at least three times in the last two years.”
The latest case was a court judgment of July 26, 2022, according to which the owner of Jurnal TV, Val Butnaru, was fined 4,500 MDL and deprived of the right to hold responsible positions in audiovisual outlets for half a year, after being found guilty of defamation.
Another case was registered in May 2020. Natalia Cebotari, journalist for the newspaper Znamya from Ceadir-Lunga, was fined by the police for information she published on social networks, which she obtained from sources.
The issue was also addressed in an edition of the Media Azi program, attended by a police representative and the IJC lawyer.
The IJC’s letter is accompanied by an explanatory note that addresses the issue from a legal perspective and reveals the main reasoning behind the organization’s request.