The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) supports the initiative to establish mechanisms for strategic communication as an essential component of the national security assurance system. However, the IJC believes that the draft law requires revision and improvement. According to the IJC’s opinion on the draft Law on the National Center for Information Defense and Propaganda Combating – Patriot, “the institutionalized mechanism of strategic communication is incompatible with simplistic approaches aimed at addressing complex and systemic issues.”
The document addresses several problematic aspects of the proposed bill published on May 30, 2023, by the Presidency of the Republic of Moldova. These include the future authority’s legal status, mechanisms for selecting and dismissing the Center’s director, potential risks to freedom of expression, funding of the Center, and more.
IJC recommends revising the legal organizational structure of the Center by incorporating it into the administrative framework of the government. It argues that the natural and appropriate place for the new institution can only be within the organizational structure of the governmental administrative system.
According to the IJC’s analytical note, several definitions of terms such as disinformation, misinformation, or propaganda in the current version are inappropriate for a legislative act. “Given that the social value protected by the norms of the proposed bill is the information security of the state, as part of national security, many of the definitions are in discord with the stated objective,” specifies IJC.
Regarding the funding mechanism of the Center, IJC has pointed out that allowing the creation of a public authority’s budget from external sources has the potential to undermine the independence of such an authority and may serve as evidence of external governance. Additionally, the document also presents arguments concerning the necessity to improve the selection and dismissal mechanisms of the Center’s leadership in order to ensure the independence of the public authority.
Some of the recommendations in IJC’s opinion include:
- Aligning the Center’s competencies with the original intent of the legislative initiative – coordinating and assisting all governmental tools in the process of strategic communication.
- Removing notions that have a broad potential for interpretation, as their improper application could lead to a restriction of constitutional rights to freedom of expression.
- Explicitly outlining the mode of interaction with other public authorities that have overlapping responsibilities with the Center, in order to avoid conflicts of competence and enhance the efficiency of their activities.
- Distinguishing between the functions of policy development and promotion from the functions of policy implementation.
- Revising the name of the legislative act, as well as the name of the Center.