The case of Val Butnaru, administrator of Jurnal TV channel, who was found guilty of slander and deprived of the right to hold positions on the TV and radio for half a year will be re-examined by the court of original jurisdiction. The Chisinau Court of Appeal admitted an appeal filed by Val Butnaru. The decision was taken by the magistrates on Tuesday, February 21, according to Jurnal TV.
According to the decision of the court of appeal, the case will be re-examined by the same court of original jurisdiction, but by another panel of magistrates.
“Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal did not fully exercise its procedural powers to additionally establish the nullity of the proceedings and to put an end to that shameful contravention procedure initiated against Val Butnaru by our authorities. But we hope that, during the re-examination of the case, the court will take the arguments brought by us into account, due to the fact that they were ignored at the first examination of the merits of the case. We still believe Val Butnaru is not guilty of any action. The facts imputed to him are non-existent, and the procedure for confirming this contravention was obviously illegal,” Dumitru Pavel, the lawyer of the TV channel, commented for Jurnal TV.
Media Azi has previously written about the fact that, in 2022, Val Butnaru was fined 4 500 lei and deprived of the right to hold important posts in broadcasting institutions for half a year after being found guilty of slander, according to the decision by Chisinau Court of July 26, 2022.
The contravention procedure was initiated after a former police officer mentioned in an investigation by Jurnal TV filed a complaint with the police. Vitalie Grabovschi accused Jurnal TV of spreading “fake and defamatory information on having committed a crime, which damaged his honor, personal dignity, and professional reputation.” “Grabovschi is the ex-head of Dubasari Police Inspectorate mentioned in a Jurnal TV investigation dated July 2021, along with two other police officers, Ion Tarna and Alexei Vizdan, allegedly involved in cigarette smuggling. Citing the breach of Art. 70 of the Criminal Code, the police officer recommended to the court that our TV channel be deprived of the right to practice its activity for a year,” Jurnal TV wrote at that time.
In late 2021, Val Butnaru was charged with defamation, and the relevant proceedings were issued. The material was filed to the court by the police officer Alexandr Spoialo, with the suggestion to sanction the owner of the TV channel and to deprive him of the right to practice the activity for a year. The court considered that the Jurnal TV administrator’s guilt was fully proven.
In July 2022, the media organizations expressed their concern about the decision made by Chisinau Court. “Depriving Jurnal TV administrator of the right to hold responsible posts within a media institution is a grave and disproportionate step, and the decision of Chisinau Court creates a dangerous precedent for the freedom of the press,” the statement of the media NGOs affirms. The organizations also requested the legal authorities which examined the cases related to defamation offenses “to cease the abusive application of legal provisions as a weapon against the media’s freedom of expression and to avoid erroneous interpretation of the legislation in the future.”