Non-governmental media organisations express their concern and condemn the entrenchment of the practice of using Article 70 of the Contravention Code (Slander) to intimidate journalists and stress that these precedents have a deterrent effect on the exercise of the freedom of the press.
On 26 July 2022, following a complaint filed by a former employee of the Ministry of Interiors, Vitalie Grabovschi, the Chisinau District Court, Buiucani Office issued a judgment whereby the Managing Director of Jurnal TV, Val Butnaru, was fined and deprived of the right to hold positions of responsibility in a media institution for a period of six months. On the same day, just a few hours later, the Buiucani Police Inspectorate drew up a new report stating that the administrator of Jurnal TV had committed the offence of slander. Once again, the police officer who drew up the report asked the court to deprive Val Butnaru of the right to carry out his activity for a period of one year because he had allowed ‘false and defamatory information’ to be broadcast. This case has been brought against him at the request of officer Ion Țărnă and former police officer Alexei Vizdan. Both Vitalie Grabovschi and Ion Țărnă, as well as Alexei Vizdan were targeted in journalistic materials broadcast by Jurnal TV. Earlier, the TV station’s editorial team reported that Ion Țărnă and Alexei Vizdan forced their way into Jurnal TV’s headquarters, threatening journalists.
The signatory organisations recall that, according to the provisions of the Law on Freedom of Expression, the state shall guarantee the freedom of expression of the media, with journalists benefiting from a number of guarantees that provide increased protection against attempts to hinder the work of the media. Persons who consider themselves defamed may use the means of defence and restoration of rights provided for in the Law on Freedom of Expression, which involve ensuring that the requirements established for the press in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights are met.
We regret the perpetuation of the harmful practice of bringing contravention cases against journalists who carry out their mission of informing citizens on issues of public interest. It should be recalled that these are not the only cases where legal provisions on slander are used as a weapon against media representatives. Such practices are capable of deterring the press from expressing criticism and discouraging journalists from contributing to public debate on issues of interest to the society.
We repeatedly urge the law enforcement bodies dealing with slander cases to stop misusing legal provisions as a weapon against freedom of expression of the media and to refrain from misinterpreting the law in the future.
We ask the members of the Parliamentary Commission responsible for the media to take the necessary actions to exempt journalists from the category of subjects liable under Article 70 of the Contravention Code, highlighting the increased danger of the precedents set by the Buiucani Police Inspectorate employees, as well as the serious effects on the freedom of the press.
Independent Journalism Center
Environment and Ecotourism Journalists’ Association
Media Guard Association
Association of Independent Press
Center for Investigative Journalism
Press Freedom Committee