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Media NGOs Express Their Concern over the Impact of the SCJ Findings on Right of Access to Information

30 June 2020
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Non-governmental media organisations are deeply concerned about the dangers entailed by calling inapplicable the Law on Access to Information – a regulatory act that ensures the access of all citizens to information of public interest and is a basic tool of the media in carrying out journalistic work.

On 17 June 2020, the Civil, Commercial and Contentious-Administrative Matters Collegium of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) issued a decision likely to have a negative impact on exercising and claiming the right of access to information of public interest.

More specifically, while public hearings are being held in Parliament on the assessment of the impact of the Law on Access to Information and the proposals to amend it, the Supreme Court found that the Law on Access to Information has become obsolete, ruling in this regard that the law in question became inapplicable since the entry into force of the Administrative Code, on 1 April 2019. Therefore, this Code alone shall apply in exercising and defending the right of access to information of public interest.

The findings of the SCJ magistrates, whose decisions serve as benchmarks for consistency in national case-law, may give rise to a flawed judicial practice. At the same time, the Supreme Court’s rulings lead to numerous issues relating to exercising, using and claiming the right of access to information of public interest, including:

  • The impossibility to submit requests for information to suppliers, other than in the category of public institutions/authorities;
  • The impossibility to apply contravention sanctions (art. 71 of the Contravention Code) for violating the legislation on access to information;
  • The extension of the deadline for providing the answer by the supplier to the requests made by the inquirers;
  • The mandatory completion by the applicant for information of a preliminary procedure provided by the Administrative Code.
We emphasize that the media representatives have so far faced a multitude of obstacles and difficulties in obtaining information of public interest, and in the context of those evoked by the SCJ Collegium, we note with concern the existence of a danger likely to lead to restrictions on the constitutional right of access to information.

With regards to the above, we call on the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, the Superior Council of Magistracy and the Plenum of the Supreme Court of Justice, as by virtue of their legal duties:

  • to ensure a sufficient, efficient and functional legal framework in the field of access to information, in particular by examining and adopting the draft law amending and supplementing certain legal acts with a view to improving access to information of public interest, prepared by media NGO experts and submitted to the Parliament in June 2020;
  • to take the necessary measures to remedy and mitigate the impact of the SCJ's findings on exercising, using and claiming the right of access to information;
  • not to allow restrictions and limitations on the constitutional right of access to information of public interest.
 
Independent Journalism Center
Association of Independent Press
Center for Investigative Journalism
Association of Electronic Press
Press Freedom Committee
Association of Independent TV Journalists 
‘Access-info’ Center
RISE Moldova
Ziarul de Garda