The extra-parliamentary opposition in the Republic of Moldova continues to protest changes to the electoral system.
Moldova journalists, NGOs protest for publicity of court cases, Council of Magistrates partially fulfills demandhttps://t.co/ZU6XMxg70T— Moldova.org (@moldovaorg) October 10, 2017
The extra-parliamentary opposition in the Republic of Moldova continues to protest changes to the electoral system. On 1st October 2017, another protest took place with several hundreds gathered in front of the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection and Family. The crowd chanted anti-government slogans, such as "Down the Mafia". The protesters then gathered at the national television station – Moldova 1 - as opposition leaders claim that the public broadcaster has avoided them and does not invite them to participate in politically-oriented TV programmes.
On 10th October, a group of journalists and civil society members protested in front of the Supreme Council of Magistrates to demand full disclosure of information from court decisions. In an appeal to the Council, 70 NGOs declared that "the new rules would close off the judicial system from the public [and] decrease the trust in the justice system" (translated from Romanian).
On 16th November 2017, the Chişinău Court of Appeals ruled that President Igor Dodon cannot apply his presidential immunity as it relates to the public interest, as in the case of journalist Contantin Grigoriţă. As previously reported, Grigoriţă decided to sue Dodon for restricting the journalist's access to press conferences organised by the presidential administration. Grigoriţă contests that the President is a high level official obligated to answer questions regardless of the person inquiring, especially if the information is of public interest.
The third edition of the Moldovan Media Forum was organised in Chisinau from 14th to 15th November 2017. During the event, a Media Forum Resolution was issued condemning instances of the government attempting to limit media freedom. The resolution calls on the authorities to enable an environment for free and open media that benefit the whole society.
New regulations have come into force in the Republic of Moldova regarding the activity of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), namely that organisations will no longer be registered with the Ministry of Justice, but rather by a newly-established Public Services Agency. The Agency will register political parties, periodicals, press agencies, public associations, foundations, employers' unions, trade unions, mediation organisations and religious sects. The Ministry of Justice, however, retains the right to warn registered entities, if the case of any violation of or deviation from statutory provisions for NGOs. The Ministry can also notify the courts on suspending the activity or liquidation of entities if they carry out any activity that violates the law. At the time of writing, CIVICUS Monitor research partner reported that some in Moldovan civil society view the transfer of responsibilities as a potentially positive development; however, it remains uncertain as to how the new Agency will perform.
With a few exceptions, the freedom of association is well regulated and well respected in Moldova.
Freedom of association in the Republic of Moldova is regulated by the Law on Nongovernmental Associations, which was amended in 2007 to harmonise national rules with international standards on the development of NGOs. According to current legislation, a non-profit organisation can be created by a minimum of two individuals or legal entities. Information on the regulation of NGOs is also publicly available and the web portal of the Ministry of Justice has a special page dedicated to the associative sector where one can find both legislation regulating this field and models of statute necessary for the registration process of an NGO. Most representatives of non-governmental organisations appreciate the role played by the Ministry of Justice in the regulation of the sector. However, there are certain circumstances in which registration procedures are hampered by other public or private institutions, including the Tax Inspectorate, Ministry of Finance or banks. At the beginning of 2016, Moldova changed the procedure for opening a bank account, making it more difficult for some NGOs to open an account and negatively affecting their ability to receive funds from international donors. Civil society has also highlighted that unregistered, informal groups are not officially recognised or included in the legislation regulating non-profits. Consequently, they cannot compete with registered NGOs for funding for their initiatives. Additionally, most donors prefer to fund well-established, registered NGOs.
With the exception of protests in Transnistria, it is relatively easy for people to exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Moldova. Approval for protests is usually issued within 2-3 days, and the authorities must ensure the safety of those protesting.
It is relatively easy to organise and conduct a protest in support of most causes, even political ones - with the notable exception of protests in Transnistria. While freedom of assembly is guaranteed by law, in the past there have been situations in which this right was obstructed by the government authorities, for instance during the 'Twitter revolution' in April, 2009. There are signs of improvement however, and in the last two years several large scale protests - some of them anti-government - we successfully and peacefully held. Not all protests are carried off peacefully and on two occassions in January and April 2016 some protestors have used violence, resulting in the injury of several policemen. Mostly, civil society appreciates the police's neutrality during protests. On 22 May 2016, when there was a protest to raise awareness regarding the rights of sexual minorities (Fearless), the police played an important role in preventing possible violence between protestors and counter demonstrators. Although authorisation to hold a protest is required, it is usually issued within 2-3 days, and the authorities must ensure the safety of those protesting.
Free expression is generally respected although a politicised media sector undermines this to some extent. A proposed law to regulate cyberspace could allow authorities to block websites and monitor users' personal content.
Freedom of expression is guaranteed by law although much of Moldova's media is either politically controlled or used for political purposes. Additionally, independent media has restricted access to advertising revenue and is consequently financed mostly from external programmes. Access to public information is also regulated by law and in 2015 a platform was launched allowing the public to access data on the founders of Moldovan companies (www.date.gov.md). Civil society welcomed the new platform as a useful tool for monitoring private sector accountability. In March 2016, the Ministry of Internal Affairs initiated a bill designed to regulate the online public space in order to combat pornography and terrorism. The initiative, still under debate, has been criticised by civil society for potentially granting the investigating authority the right to block sites and check personal message. Discriminatory speeches are periodically documented - most are made by religious groups demanding the repeal the Law on Equal Opportunities. Freedom of expression is under particular pressure in the Transnistrian region, where Moldovan government authorities do not exercise control.