Center for Investigative Journalism in Moldova (CIJM) demands the General Prosecutor’s office and the Interior Ministry to investigate the abusive actions of the Police Inspectorate of Taraclia, that ordered questioning of the authors of an investigation and confiscation of journalistic materials which served as basis of an investigation.
The journalistic investigation, carried out under a project of the Center for Investigative Journalism reveals a fraudulent scheme by which a state-owned lake became private property. The investigation wrote that town Taraclia may remain without pond that protected it from floods after the public good came into the possession of chairman of the cooperative "Rodina Nova", by a decision of the Economic Court issued in 2011. While the mayoralty of the town tried to recover lost property and prosecutors have struggled for five years to find how this lake became private property, the businessman put the lake on sale. Reporters have discovered the whole scheme, after posing as buyers and filmed everything with a hidden camera. The journalistic investigation was published on CIJM portals www.anticoruptie.md and www.investigatii.md, in the regional newspaper “Svet” and was broadcast on the local TV channel NTS.
On May 28, current year, 2 representatives of the Police Inspectorate Taraclia went to the offices of newspaper “Svet” in Taraclia and to NTS TV station and questioned the authors of the investigation. The police asked about the person who authorized the publication of this investigation, who ordered the investigation, who provided the video and why the investigation was made public namely by these media outlets. Also, they requested the agreement signed with CIJM and the unedited video material.
CIJM regards the actions of the police as abuse and direct attack on press freedom and over the journalists who did their job and carried out a public interest investigation. The actions of policemen are made outside criminal proceedings, which arouse doubts about the legality of asking for video. Journalists cannot be forced by orders of police to provide to law enforcement materials that served as basis for journalistic investigation. This action of police in district Taraclia and the questioning of journalists is a direct attack on press freedom. The police must investigate the case in terms of the offense committed by people covered in the investigation, not to settle accounts with journalists who have discovered the fraudulent scheme.
Audio and video recordings were made in compliance with ethical norms and is an evidence that discloses a damaging scheme for public property. Law enforcement’s request to show them journalistic materials which served as basis of an investigation is inconsistent with the provisions of the ECHR, which, by Article 10 on freedom of expression protects not only the content and substance of information and ideas, but also the means by which they are transmitted. The right of journalists to protect their sources of documentation and information is one of the basic conditions for press freedom in a democratic society. This protection results from the relevant national rules (art. 32 of the Moldovan Constitution, art. 13 of the Law on Freedom of expression, art. 14 of the Broadcasting Code of the Republic of Moldova, the Code of Ethics for Journalists) and is affirmed by international tools on freedoms of journalists.
Team of the Center for Investigative Journalism
June 3 2016