Civil society continues to monitor potential changes to NGO law

Association

Civil society continues to monitor the government's plans to amend the legislation on non-governmental organisations (NGOs). A Moldovan NGO - Promo-LEX Association - published the European Center For Not-for-Profit Law's (ECNL) opinion on the current draft NGO law. In the opinion, ECNL expressed its appreciation for the government's efforts to improve NGO-related laws. However, it also mentioned concerns in civil society over the Ministry of Justice's attempts to introduce changes to the bill, in particular on foreign funding of NGOs, which have not been opened to public debate and consultation. ECNL stated that the Ministry of Justice's proposed changes to the law: 

"...threaten [civil society organisations'] CSOs’ ability to take part in the conduct of public affairs and their right to access domestic and foreign resources. They also impose burdensome reporting requirements and penalties, including for managers of the CSOs".

Moldovan civil society remains divided between those who believe that the regulations proposed by the Ministry of Justice could negatively impact the work of independent organisations and those who agree with limiting foreign funding. Moldovan civil society organisations not in agreement with the newly-proposed changes sent an opinion to the Ministry of Justice, indicating the challenges and threats to freedom of association, should the new NGO regulations be approved. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 20th July 2017, several opposition political groups organised a protest in front of the parliament, along with civil society representative and citizens, who stood in front of the building all night in protest over that day's parliamentary vote to modify the electoral system. Police were present to prevent protesters from approaching the building.

As reported previously on the Monitor, civil society has adamantly opposed the parliament's plans to change the election law, which many assert would solidify majority parties' hold on power. The parliament's vote also ignores the Venice Commission's recommendations and other external partners' cautions not to change to a mixed system

The protest organisers urged citizens to join another protest against the election-law changes on 30th July, stating that:

“The protests will continue in Moldova until the demands of the citizens will be heard by governmental authorities”.

On 11th July 2017, Amnesty International Moldova organised a protest in front of the Turkish Embassy in the Republic of Moldova, petitioning the Turkish authorities to release Idil Eser and eight other arrested activists. As reported on the Monitor, Amnesty International Turkey Director Idil Eser was detained on 5th July 2017, along with seven other human rights defenders and two trainers at a workshop on digital security and information management. 

Expression

Several non-governmental media organisations from the Republic of Moldova have recently condemned restrictions imposed by state authorities on the media's access to certain events of public interest. In particular, the Association of the Independent Press (AIP) and other signatory organisations issued a statement denouncing the Presidential Administration's decision to forbid reporter Constantin Grigoriţă from attending the meeting between President Igor Dodon and media representatives on 26th July 2017 at Condriţa Presidential Villa. The journalist’s participation at the event was initially approved; however, prior to leaving for the presidential villa, he was informed that he could not attend the event. Grigoriţă claims he was denied access to the event due to the nature of his questioning at other meetings with the head of state.

AIP's statement on Grigoriţă's case asserts that the administration's decision contravenes domestic law and international standards of free press: 

"Media law guarantees journalists the right to obtain and disseminate information, to make audiovisual prints, to film and photograph, and the ungrounded refusal to provide journalists with access is a form of discrimination and abuse".

AIP and the other signatory organisation have also called on President Igor Dodon to publicly explain the reasons for prohibiting Grigoriţă's attendance at the event. They also urge state institutions to show transparency and build a relationship with the press based on mutual trust. 

On 29th August, AIP and its partner media NGOs once again issued a statement due to another incident wherein Grigoriţă was prohibited from attending a press briefing with President Dodon. In the statement, the signatory media organisations requested that Dodon and his administration revise the communication strategy and process of interacting with media representatives so as to avoid any anti-democratic practices of selecting and accrediting media representatives.