Central Election Commission limits journalists' access to subscription lists and financial reports of electoral contenders. The Center for Investigative Journalism sent to CEC several requests for access to information in this regard. CEC members invoked personal data protection, addressing the National Center for Personal Data Protection. President of CIJM Cornelia Colonic believes that the authorities improperly limit journalists’ access to public information.
On October 7, the Center for Investigative Journalism has submitted to the Central Election Commission a request asking access to the subscription lists submitted by initiative groups for registration of candidates for presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova. "Interest in them is determined by debates in society regarding the correctness of developing the election campaign. We believe that any refusal cannot not be motivated by personal data. We take responsibility not to reveal personal data contained in the documents requested", writes the first application filed 2 weeks ago.
In addition to this, journalists of the Center have sent another request by which they confirmed again that they assume responsibility not to disclose personal data and not to photograph documents. To this end, the letter wrote that journalists Anastasia Nani and Mariana Rata were supposed to go to CEC. "While processing this category of data, the Commission must take necessary organizational and technical measures for personal data protection against destruction, modification, blocking, copying, distribution and other illegal actions. These measures aim to ensure an adequate security level in terms of risks posed by processing and nature of personal data. In this context, the Commission informs you that it requested the National Centre for Personal Data Protection to develop its views over the legal possibility to provide the Center for Investigative Journalism with subscription lists by requesting guarantees on personal data protection of advocates from lists", replied Alina Russu, president of CEC.
Another request recently sent to CEC relates to the access to financial reports of all election contenders, by indicating the jobs of donors. Representatives of the Press Service of the Commission replied that these data could not be disclosed because the rules of personal data protection tightened, to prevent intimidation of donors in the electoral campaign. So far, the full name of donors, year of birth, place of work, and the source of funding were public both in the parliamentary elections in November 2014, and in 2015 local elections.
Iurie Ciocan: „ You are free to study any document”
Public debates under the monitoring campaign for presidential elections’ monitoring, was organized by the Center of Investigative Journalism, Ziarul de Garda, the Center for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption in partnership with Freedom House. Iurie Ciocan, member of CEC, former president of the institution said in this event that the journalists had access both to financial reports and to other documents of public interest, on condition that the journalists assume responsibility of not revealing personal data. „You cannot take away documents from CEC, but you can study them. (...) If journalists are interested in information, you can send a written request to CEC, you mention the field of interest and you will get the information. You will not get access if you do not sign a statement under the Law that you assume responsibility for access and use of these data”, said Iurie Ciocan.
Cornelia Cozonac, president of the Center for Investigative Journalism in Moldova shares the opinion that the authorities limits intentionally and improperly journalists' access to public information. "Personal data about electoral contenders and party funding cannot be restricted because public interest is priority. These data should be open to all citizens. Journalists, by nature of their profession, must have access to information of public interest because they work in the interest of citizens. CEC and Center for Personal Data Protection restrict journalists' access to public information on the pretext of personal data protection and this is an abuse, citizens ‘access to public information is violated. These procrastinations, requests for all kinds of documents, confirmations, and promises endanger press freedom. They do it on purpose to prevent journalists from doing their job. The Center for Personal Data Protection is not an institution that protects the rights of citizens, it is a tool in the hands of authorities to protect private interests of corrupt officials and of the ruling parties, which aim to hide much information from citizens", says Cornelia Cozonac.
Lawyer Tatiana Puiu argues that though the Law on personal data protection contains several restrictions, journalists should have priority over public information. "Several provisions which impose restrictions do not apply in cases when the personal data processing is done for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes if they refer to data that were released voluntarily and expressly by the subject of personal data or data that are closely related to the position of official of subject of personal data or public character of his actions, under the provisions of the Law on freedom of expression. Subscription lists were drawn up based on signatures that have been collected voluntarily", said Tatiana Puiu.