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Data Leaks during Criminal Prosecution in a Case of Rape. The Prosecutor's Office is Investigating ‘Who Took the Page from the File?’

14 May 2019
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The Chisinau Municipality Prosecutor’s Office investigates the disclosure of criminal prosecution data, after the materials of a criminal file in the case of double rape and attempted murder of a minor in the center of the capital appeared on the websites of some media outlets. The prosecutor for press relations at the General Prosecutor's Office, Maria Vieru communicated about this. Called by Media Azi, the PRO TV Chisinau representatives, who published a document from this file, refused to comment on the case. Viorica Zaharia, the Press Council Chairperson, suggests that, although both parties are responsible, the police should also investigate ‘who took the page from the file’.

The General Prosecutor’s Office (GP) announced on 8 May, in a press release, that it ordered the initiation of a criminal case at its own initiative after the file materials appeared in media. Prosecutors are to identify and hold accountable those who are found guilty of the disclosure of criminal prosecution data. The press release said the published act contains data about the ongoing investigation, and their disclosure was made contrary to the prohibition of the persons conducting the criminal prosecution.
The Prosecutor’s Office also condemns the way some publications address sensitive subjects and urge the press to pay attention when covering such cases, because they can provide erroneous and harmful information affecting the victim.

These statements did not go unnoticed by the Press Council (PC) Chairperson, Viorica Zaharia. She wrote on her Facebook page that she was interested in how the file would be settled. ‘The Prosecutor’s Office does not specify the name of the media outlet, but if we look at the press release, we can see that three out of six paragraphs are about the Prosecutor’s Office condemning the press’s actions. I’m afraid there will be less investigation of who took the page from the file and sent it to the press. Without any doubts, both parties have to be held accountable. I’m not taking sides here’, Viorica Zaharia wrote.

Contacted by Media-azi.md and asked about the details of the investigation, the prosecutor for press relations at the General Prosecutor’s Office, Maria Vieru, told us: ‘The criminal case was initiated on the disclosure of the data. It was not started against a certain person. (...) We will let you know as soon as the criminal prosecution is finalized and we have the results’.
We remind that on 7 May, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced that four young people were detained, who together with two other accomplices (who are now on the wanted list), would have raped two girls, one of whom was minor. (The young girl died at the Emergency Hospital on Tuesday, 15 May) - editor’s note). The case occurred on the night of 4 to 5 May, in an apartment in the center of the capital.
The PRO TV Chisinau journalists have covered this subject broadly. In one of the materials they also quoted a statement of one of the victims, supposedly received from ‘certain sources’ and ‘revealing awful details’.

Newsmaker.md wrote that copies of the testimonies of one of the victims were published on the PRO TV website on 8 May, but later the documents were removed. However, these testimonies still can be found on some portals.
Asked by Media-azi.md to give details about this case, the editor Sorina Obreja refused to provide any information. ‘I cannot answer any questions on this subject. The only thing I can tell you is that we are doing our job correctly. That’s all’, Obreja said.

Asked by Media-azi.md to comment on the case, the legal officer at the Legal Resources Center from Moldova, Ion Guzun, specified who could be the subject of criminal prosecution announced by the General Prosecutor’s Office regarding the disclosure of information from the file. ‘If the criminal prosecution was initiated under Article 315 as it was said in the press release of the General Prosecutor’s Office, then its subjects can be only people who had access to the said file or were involved in it. Here we speak, in particular, about the prosecutor, if he had sent this information; a lawyer who signed a non-disclosure statement, if he disclosed this information; about any other person who, at some point, gave some explanations, did some expert review or, if it is a investigative judge, drafted some criminal prosecution documents, allowing, perhaps, wiretaps and criminal prosecution actions. Respectively, journalists cannot be its subjects because they did not have access to the case materials, they did not sign any non-disclosure statements, and physically, they are not parties to the initiated criminal trial’, Ion Guzun explained.

Can the journalist be compelled to reveal his sources if the Prosecutor’s Office has announced that it has initiated a criminal case and is it clear that the press is involved? The lawyer’s opinion is that, the ‘journalists cannot be compelled to disclose their sources. It is a fact that if this information has been publicly disseminated, a journalist must comply with professional ethics and, certainly, when disclosing any kind of information, he or she must ensure that he doesn’t cause harm to injured parties or other adverse consequences for other people.
Note that the issue of the publication in the press of certain data from the investigation files of the investigative bodies is not new for the Republic of Moldova. Two years ago, several media outlets broadcast as an exclusive material a video of detaining Andrei Braguta, the young man deceased under suspicious circumstances of arrest, which also triggered discussions on journalistic deontology. Some media experts have called it ‘controlled leaks’, intended to justify the behaviour of state institutions.

Last year, the Press Council published Guidelines on media coverage of cases of rape, sexual harassment and violent sexual actions, in which several recommendations for journalists are made. Among other things, PC reminds media representatives that such materials should be written in a neutral language, with no judgements, exaggerations and ‘juicy’ details.