Peter MICHALKO, Ambassador, Head of the European Union Delegation to Moldova
Eva GUTJAHR, Council of Europe Office in Moldova, Deputy Head of Office
Michael SCANLAN, Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova
James PETTIT, Ambassador of the United States of America in Moldova
Julia MONAR, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Moldova
Lucy Joyce OBE, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Moldova
Signe BURGSTALLER, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden in Moldova
The undersigned organizations, active members of the civil society, are hereby repeatedly bringing to your attention the alarming situation in which the independent mass media representatives from Moldova increasingly find themselves. Verbal attacks and denigrations are turning into intimidations and direct threats, and their frequency is intensifying.
We are witnessing how the independent media community in Moldova is subject to increasingly worsening conditions for performing their work as journalists, together with a general decline in the people’s democratic freedoms such as the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. This is particularly due to the repeated abuses committed or tolerated by the authorities, and the restrictive enforcement of the existing legal framework. In the same time, we are witnessing ever more political interference with the journalists’ rights and freedoms: it appears that the Moldovan authorities are ignoring the very core of journalism, which is to inform the public.
We have seen a series of violations of journalists’ rights and freedoms over the last six months, beginning with the apprehension of a shooting crew of Gagauzinfo.md by local police back in March 2017, to the conspicuous surveillance of Newsmaker.md editor-in-chief Vladimir Soloviev, to the verbal assault and manhandling of a Jurnal TV reporter by Vladimir Hotineanu, Member of the Parliament from the Democratic Party, to the public reprimand of investigative journalist Mariana Rata by judges of the Superior Council of Magistrates, to the selective restriction of access to events and places of public interest for the shooting crews of TV8 and photojournalist Constantin Grigorita, to whom the Presidential Administration has withdrawn accreditation for no articulate reasons.
For investigative journalists, as well as for other organizations monitoring the authorities on various dimensions, access to information is becoming a major challenge as public institutions resort excessively to the provisions of the law protecting personal data. This is an especially stringent issue when it comes to journalists investigating the way political parties are funded. Thus, in the first months of this year the Center for Investigative Journalism won a court case against the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) for denial of access to information on the donors of political parties. However, to this day the regulator has failed to abide by the court’s decision and withheld the information when journalists approached the institution again.
An additional source of concern is the repeated decision of the Broadcasting Coordinating Council (BCC) to postpone the examination of TV8’s cession application, which seeks to transfer formal ownership of the station to a public association founded by journalists. BCC decided in favor of postponing after receiving claims from copyright associations and commercial entities alleging due fees and citing court cases, respectively. Taking into consideration the lengthy judicial processes that may follow in such cases, there are serious grounds for expecting the ownership tranfer to last up to three years, thereby compromising the outlet’s capacity to sustain its financial activities and undermining its potential as an independent media institution.
This week alone, two journalists from Ziarul de Garda were openly intimidated by private security guards employed at the Global Business Center, owned by Vladimir Plahotniuc, head of the Democratic Party. The journalists were filming in a public location, and the persons barring them from doing so did not even represent any authority, being private citizens. Abuses like these are unacceptable and must be condemned. It must be the authorities’ mission to preserve and protect free press and the freedoms of journalists, creating optimal conditions for their work. Unfortunately the Moldovan authorities do not see their mission this way, preferring to stand idle when journalists are intimidated.
We, the undersigned organizations are expressing our concern with the deteriorating working conditions for journalists. Such violations are contrary to democratic norms and the rule of law and go against the European principles and values so often referenced by the Government. We see it as our duty to draw public attention and to call on the diplomatic community to step in and ask the Moldovan authorities to ensure the observance of fundamental media freedoms, which guarantee journalists’ unimpeded work.
We call on you to condemn these attempts and to bring our concerns to the attention of our authorities, as well as the international community. We demand the authorities reassess their role in preserving the democratic freedoms and become more proactive in ensuring transparency, access to information, and freedom of the press. This, sometimes, means punishing those who act against these values.
Independent Journalism Center
Association of Independent Press
Electronic Press Association APEL
Journalistic Investigations Center of Moldova
Association of Independent TV Journalists
Press Freedom Comittee
Legal Resources Centre from Moldova
Transparency International Moldova
Association for Efficient And Responsible Governance AGER
Institute for Public Policy
Association for Participatory Democracy ADEPT
Centre for Policies and Reforms