Media NGOs express their concern over Chisinau Court’s decision to sanction the Jurnal TV Managing Director

Media NGOs express their concern about the court decision to fine Jurnal TV Managing Director Val Butnaru for slander and believe that the excessive sanctions applied have a discouraging effect on the exercise of media freedom.

On 26 July 2022, the Buiucani office of the Chisinau Court issued a ruling finding Jurnal TV Managing Director Val Butnaru guilty of committing the offence of slander. Judge Elena Ungureanu imposed a fine with the deprivation of the right to hold a position of responsibility in a media institution for a period of six months. The contravention case was initiated after a former police officer, who was the subject of the TV station’s journalistic investigation, filed a complaint with the police. The former employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Vitalie Grabovschi, accused Jurnal TV of spreading ‘false and defamatory information about the commission of a crime, which damaged his honor, personal dignity and professional reputation’.

The signatory organizations 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 defense 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.

The deprivation of Jurnal TV’s Managing Director of the right to hold positions of responsibility within a media institution is an extreme and disproportionate measure, the judgment of the Chisinau Court setting a dangerous precedent for the freedom of the press.

We regret the perpetuation of the harmful practice of illegally bringing contravention cases against journalists who carry out their mission of informing citizens on issues of public interest. It should be recalled that this is not the only case 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 community.

In this context, we call on the authorities to refrain from the practice of misclassifying journalists’ actions as an offence under the Contravention Code (slander).

We 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.

 

Independent Journalism Center

Environment and Ecotourism Journalists’ Association

Media Guard Association 

Association of Electronic Press

Association of Independent Press

Center for Investigative Journalism

Press Freedom Committee 

RISE Moldova

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