CSOs denounce vilification, tougher regulations for journalists adopted by parliament


CSOs denounce new book launched to villify Moldovan civil society

On 21st October 2020, member of parliament Bogdan Țîrdea announced the launch of a book in which he attacks Moldovan civil society. According to him, Moldovan NGOs control state institutions, including national security institutions, and promote foreign interests. He also claimed that the book contains public references to reports published by Moldovan NGOs and other evidence that would prove that civil society is de facto an enemy of the country.

The public accusations brought by Tirdea against civil society sparked intense debate on online platforms. Several civil society experts who analysed the book noted that the author used public data from reports published online, and that the information was taken out of context and misinterpreted intentionally. A few days later, several NGOs took public positions accusing the deputy of intentionally denigrating the sector. The National Platform of EaP CSF published a statement in which they criticised the book for propaganda and misinformation, presenting NGOs as enemies of the country and combining arguments that would produce fear and distrust in activities promoted by NGOs and their leaders.

Similarly, the EU Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, Peter Michalko, said that the book contains harsh, unfounded and malicious attacks against civil society.

SO Meter report 2020: Moldova

On 11th December 2020, the Promo-LEX Association presented a report titled “Assessing the Civil Society Environment in the Eastern Partnership Countries. Republic of Moldova Country Update 2020.” According to the report, between 2019 and 2020, NGOs from the Republic of Moldova had to face a series of constraints and impediments imposed by public authorities, and also by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges included restrictions on the freedom of assembly and attempts by authorities to restrict dissemination of information about the pandemic. The report however also highlights positive developments such as the adoption of the Law on non-commercial organisations.

Peaceful Assembly

Moldovan farmers organise protests

In October 2020, Moldovan farmers announced new protests to demonstrate against the government’s failure to meet their demands from a previous protest in the summer, and the government’s delay in compensating them for crops previously affected by drought. On 19th October 2020, the farmers followed through with their notice and held protests in at least eight districts in the country. Other demands made by the farmers included the payment of subsidies, a refund of VAT in the next two years and the maintenance of the VAT rate at 8%. Experts also explained that the farmers face great losses with regard to some of their produce. After the previous summer protest, the government approved a series of compensations which were yet to be made as the Intervention and Payments Agency for Agriculture blamed the farmers for not presenting the necessary documents for payments on time.

Two months later, on 15th December 2020, the farmers organised yet another protest, this time in front of the parliament building in Chisinau. The protesters blocked the central boulevard in Chisinau with tractors and forced their way into the Government building. The following day, they brought agricultural machinery in front of Parliament, where the police were awaiting them, and tried to mount the steps of Parliament with tractors. Incidents of violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement were reported during the protest, as the police used tear gas against the protesters. On the same day, several civil society organisations condemned the violence during the protests.

Amnesty International Moldova released a statement which read, in part:

Amnesty International Moldova condemns all forms of violence and the use of tear gas when it is not absolutely necessary, due to which journalists also suffered, on December 16 2020 before the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova”.

The Promo-LEX Association also urged the protesters to refrain from actions that would affect the peaceful nature of the assembly.

New study on the legal framework and exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly online

On 24th November2020, the Promo-LEX Association presented during a public event the results of a new report titled: “Study on the legal framework and exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly online in the Republic of Moldova.” According to the research findings, the mobilising of online peaceful assemblies is becoming a new trend and that, over time, online meetings could replace the classic format of public meetings. In this regard the research aimed to analyse the legal and practical framework which applies to meetings held online, which differ significantly from classic meetings.

Among other findings, the report found that standards by international mechanisms are inclined towards protecting the freedom of assembly in the online space. It also found that while Moldovan legislation does not prevent developments in organising online meetings, it also does not provide sufficient protection for organisers and participants of such meetings. The report also noted the advantages and challenges experienced in mobilising and organising online meetings and events.


Independent TV channel fined by the Audiovisual Council

The first round of presidential elections in the Republic of Moldova took place on 1st November 2020. During the electoral campaign period, the TV8 television station was fined 7,000 leu (USD 396) by the Audiovisual Councilfor not offering a right of reply on the "Politica" show. The issue was taken up by the Audiovisual Council after a petition was submitted by the Center for the Protection of the Rights of Journalists of the Republic of Moldova, an institution which is said by media experts to be anonymous. The organisation does not appear in the list of registered non-governmental organisations and the leader of this centre is not known.

The petitioners claimed that on 6th October 2020, during the show "Politica", hypotheses were put forward about an intention by Igor Dodon, the current president of the country, to rig the elections. According to the petitioners, the allegations made were not a political analysis by the experts, but direct accusations related to the competence of the criminal investigation bodies, which they made without offering the right of reply to the accused person.

On 31st October 2020 however, the Chisinau Court of Appeal annulled the fine imposed by the Audiovisual Council after TV8 filed an appeal in court . TV8 described the Audiovisual Council’s decision as intimidation of journalists and an attack on freedom of expression.

New regulations for audiovisual media institutions adopted

In December 2020, the Chisinau parliament adopted, in the first reading, new rules for audiovisual media institutions. The new legal provisions limit the data that journalists are entitled to withhold, define journalists’ responsibility to ensure correctness of information obtained from confidential sources and oblige them to disclose their sources whenever required by "national security" or "public order".

According to media NGOs, the proposals pose a danger to the work of audiovisual journalists, as the previous legislation allowed reporters the right not to disclose the identity of their sources or any information that could lead to their identification.