Alarming pressures on journalists in Moldova: from intimidation to criminal trials

Anticoruptie.md
24/01/2017
Conferinţa de presă organizată la sediul Centrului de Investigaţii Jurnalistice. Foto: CIJM

Case of the journalist Mariana Rata from the Centre for Investigative Journalism, subject to criminal proceedings initiated by prosecutors following a complaint lodged by Vladimir Botnari, former chief policeman of the capital, proves the reluctance of the authorities to investigative journalism. On the other hand, the Law on personal data protection invoked by Vladimir Botnari is a refuge of the authorities and corrupt officials who try to protect themselves under the umbrella of these provisions. However, if journalists continue to be intimidated and legislative initiatives on protection of personal data extension are promoted, this could mean "end of investigative journalism". These opinions are shared by several NGOs in a press conference about  pressures on journalists, hosted by the Center for Investigative Journalism.

"We are witnessing several attacks over the investigative journalism and that worries us very much because a society is not democratic without strong and professional media. Vladimir Botnari’s complaint is not worth summoning a journalist to prosecution. This subpoena is an intimidation. We could talk about any other journalist from now, who before doing an investigation will consider if he/she is summoned to prosecution? Why the person is not questioned upon complaints of torture even after one month, and in the case of a simple complaint, the journalist is summoned immediately? In the last two years we are witnessing a hideous interpretation of the legal provisions on the protection of personal data", said Nadejda Hriptievschi, expert at the Centre for Legal Resources.

Galina Bostan, director of the Centre for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption claims that the Law on personal data protection is a refuge of authorities to protect themselves.

"There is self-protection of civil servants under the umbrella of this law. Personal data have become perhaps the most popular instrument for corrupt officials’ protection. If for an innocent article as this one, an investigative journalist was summoned to a public authority,  what happens if an investigation with very important elements is published?  I assume that the message was different: «Do not investigate!" If intimidation of journalists continues and legislative initiatives to extend protection of personal data are promoted, this would mean the end of investigative journalism, one of most effective anti-corruption instruments in a society. I wonder where are the cases initiated upon journalistic investigations: there is evidence, information? ", asked rhetorically Galina Bostan.

 

The case of journalist Mariana Rata proves that there are problems with the Law on personal data protection, said Nadine Gogu, executive director of the Independent Journalism Center. "Unfortunately, there are not so many investigative journalists in Moldova and such cases prevent other people to do investigative journalism. This case proves that there are problems with the Law on personal data protection.  We point that journalists do not have access to information. We should intervene in this law and improve it so that the provisions pertaining to freedom of expression will not hinder the work of journalists”, said Nadine Gogu, executive director of the Independent Journalism Center.

"I saw the case of Mariana Rata in the context of recent attempts to intimidate investigative journalists who carry out well-documented investigations. Also, there are pseudo investigative journalists who are conducting investigations to order and do not face such problems. We are surprised that the so-called pro-European Government of the Republic of Moldova, the Parliament that has a pro-European majority, should be the first to worry about ensuring favorable legislative context for the activity of journalists, did not react in any way. This proves that the legislature and the government do not see this problem which in fact is a problem. This Government, through the National Center for Personal Data Protection, misinterpret the European Convention on the Protection of Personal Data ", said Petru Macovei, executive director of the Independent Press Association.

Alina Radu, director of Ziarul de Garda stressed that an important report on the situation of journalists is examined in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Tuesday, January 24. "Moldova is a member- country of PACE. Moldovan delegation includes several MPs - Vladimir Voronin, Valentina Buliga - who did not show interest to these cases. I wonder how they go there without being interested in these issues. It is obvious that the public authorities have no interest to understand and be partners with the press", said the journalist.

"Journalists are working in the interest of citizens and many times they do the job of the authorities in denouncing corruption schemes. We do not work for us personally. When you choose to discover what officials do not like, they put pressure on you. We will try to show the authorities that they are not right", said Cornelia Cozonac, adding that representatives of NGOs will conduct a series of activities aimed to raise awareness regarding the media situation and try to have a dialogue with the authorities.

 

Embassy Spokesperson Jed Wolfington attended an important press conference today at the Center for Investigative Journalism. The U.S. Embassy in Moldova is closely monitoring the situation about press freedom in Moldova. Investigative journalists fulfill an important role in exposing and denouncing official corruption. The Embassy will continue to support journalists in their efforts to bring corruption to light”, reads a message of the US embassy, posted on Facebook.

Team of Center for Investigative Journalism in Moldova found that the number of cases of journalists’ intimidation, especially of investigative journalists and attempts to limit freedom of expression on behalf of civil servants has increased significantly in recent years. 

 

 

Anticoruptie.md
24/01/2017

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