Media NGOs condemn the intention of the President of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) Mihai Poalelungi to promote reinstating criminal liability for defamation in mass media. Justice Poalelungi said in an interview with the Moldova Curata portal that he would, “…do everything possible to promote the idea of reinstating criminal liability for defamation into the Criminal Code of Moldova.” The magistrate was disturbed by the fact that over the past year the media published a large amount of information about him that he considered defamatory.
We qualify the statement of the SCJ President as an attempt to pressure journalists that could lead to limiting freedom of expression in Moldova. International standards tend to decriminalize defamation. Moldova is one of the countries that eliminated criminal liability for defamation, libel, and insult in 2005, thus aligning itself with European standards. Considering the important role of mass media in a democratic society, including monitoring government and the justice system, we find reinstating criminal liability for defamation in mass media inadmissible.
If journalists are subjected to criminal sanctions for defamation, it would mean a step backwards for the democratic development of Moldova and would create conditions for abusive persecution and punishment of journalists for criticism as well as conditions reinstating the situation that some categories of public officials cannot be criticized. According to the Law on the Freedom of Expression, “Public officers can be subjected to criticism and their actions to verification by mass media in terms of the manner in which they exercised or exercise their responsibilities, to the extent to which it might be necessary to ensure transparency and responsible exercise of their duties.”
We are also appealing to journalists and media outlets to demonstrate professionalism in producing all types of material. We urge journalists to present information in an honest and balanced manner and only after taking steps to verify it and requesting the opinion of all relevant parties, as required by the Moldovan Journalists’ Code of Ethics.
Independent Journalism Center
Association of Independent Press
Journalistic Investigations Center
Electronic Press Association
Young Journalist Center of Moldova
Association of Independent TV Journalists
Press Freedom Committee