OSCE praises the implementation of Law on Freedom of Expression in Ziarul de Garda newspaper’s case
OSCE welcomes the recent decision of Moldova’s Supreme Court on dismissing previous court decisions on a defamation law suit against the Moldovan investigative newspaper Ziarul de Garda.
“This decision sets an important precedent. Media should be free to criticize public officials for the benefit of their societies and should not risk going bankrupt due to extortionate moral damage awards paid to public officials,” OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said.
Ziarul de Garda was ordered to pay 33,000 Euro in August 2011 to two prosecutors for reporting about their alleged involvement in corruption. The two men’s case was previously investigated by the Centre for Combating Economic Crime and Corruption but no punishments were applied.
The judgment was upheld at the end of last year by the appeals court, although the amount of damages was reduced.
“Today’s ruling provides an example of due implementation of the national Law on Freedom of Expression, which entered into force in 2010. All judges in Moldova should be guided by this precedent when applying the law and establishing a balance between media freedom and protection of reputation,” the OSCE official said.
An official of Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) previously said that imposing excessive fines implies silencing the media. If the fine was to be applied, Ziarul de Garda would have been subject to closure due to incapability to pay 33,000 Euro.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay who visited Moldova in November 2011 said at that time that Moldova registered a significant progress and major steps have been made in reforms around freedom of press. Even though things get better, the UN Commissioner noted that there are certain matters of concern in this field.
“I am very concerned at a punitive fine issued against the weekly journal Ziarul de Garda. This case is currently still the subject of legal proceedings. The mere fact of the threat of this fine has a troubling, chilling effect on independent media. Such measures are incompatible with democratic societies based on the rule of law,” Navi Pillay said at the end of 2011.
The United Nations Mission to Moldova believes that the country still deals with serious issues, such as threats to journalists for reporting fairly, the freedom of the media to broadcast on difficult thematic issues is violated, and sometimes there is no respect for diversity of opinion, including as a regulatory issue.