Media Non-Government Organizations condemn the abusive actions of Buiucani Police Inspectorate, in particular the contraventional process started against Jurnal TV, and urge authorities to avoid the harmful and erroneous legal classification of journalists’ actions as a deed stated in the Contraventional Code (Defamation).
On 22 December 2021, employee of Buiucani Police Inspectorate Alexandru Spoialo drafted a protocol ascertaining that Jurnal TV committed the offence of defamation. The contraventional proceedings were started on the basis of the complaint filed by a former police officer, featured in a journalistic investigation carried out by the TV station. Former employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Vitalie Grabovschi, accused Jurnal TV of allegedly disseminating ‘fake and defamatory information about a committed crime, thus affecting his honor, personal dignity and professional reputation’.
Invoking violation of Article 70 of the Contraventional Code, the official examiner sent the case to Chișinău Court, Ciocana office, recommending that the court deprives Jurnal TV manager, Valentin Butnaru, of the right to perform his activity for one year for allowing the broadcast of the contested information.
We remind to employees of Buiucani Police Inspectorate that, according to the Law on Freedom of Expression, the state shall guarantee the freedom of expression of the media and no one can prohibit or prevent the media from disseminating information of public interest except under the law.
We regret that the harmful practice of starting contravention cases against journalists who exercise the task of informing citizens about issues of public interest is perpetuated. We remind that this is not the only case when legal provisions on defamation are used against media representatives.
We underline that the persons who believe to have been subjected to defamation can use tools of defense and restoration of rights, stated in Law on Freedom of Expression, such as ensuring the adversarial principle, as well as the safeguards stated in the European Court of Human Rights case law.
In this context, we underline that starting a contraventional case against Jurnal TV can be only viewed as an attack against the media outlet’s right to freedom of expression.
We urge that law enforcement authorities that have the power to establish and resolve cases of defamation to prevent persons, who consider themselves affected, from using abusively these legal provisions as a weapon against the freedom of expression of the media, and to abstain from misinterpreting the law.
Independent Journalism Center
Environment and Ecotourism Journalists’ Association
Association of Electronic Press
Association of Independent Press
Center for Investigative Journalism