Media NGOs statement regarding the sanctioning of Ziarul de Garda for defamation

Media NGOs speak out against the judgment issued by a Court from Chisinau, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, sanctioning Ziarul de Garda for pretended defamation of two prosecutors from Glodeni.
Centrul pentru Jurnalism Independent, 3 August 2011, 17:04

On February 10th, 2011 the independent investigation week publication Ziarul de Garda (ZdG) published the article „Mita pentru procurori" (Bribe for prosecutors), targeting two prosecutors from Glodeni - Ion Grisciuc and Constantin Cojocaru. Later on, the prosecutors sued ZdG for defamation requesting circa 1 million lei as compensation for moral damages. On August 1st, 2011, the judge Ion Busuioc from Centru Court, Chisinau, partially satisfied the claimants' requests and obliged Ziarul de Garda to pay a total amount of 500 thousands lei to the claimants as moral damages.

Considering that the article published by ZdG give no negative appreciation, the claimants have been offered the right to reply, and all factual reports brought by the author are true, we find the judgment contrary to the provisions of national legislation regulating the defamation issues. The legislation in force expressly foresees that mass-media shall not be held materially liable for the republication in good faith of untrue facts and/or value judgements not based on sufficient facts, concerning matters of public concern, if such information is contained in written or verbal statements made by other individuals; or this information has been disseminated before in press-releases of public authorities; or during the criminal investigation by the participants to the process, including witnesses.

We consider that the judgment issued by judge Ion Busuioc is intolerable in a democratic society. Moreover, the Strasbourg Court stated in a case against the Government of Moldova (Timpul Info-Magazin and Anghel v. Moldova) that a fine - even considerably lower than disposed by I. Busuioc - imposed to the newspaper "have a chilling effect on the newspaper, and that its imposition is capable of discouraging open discussion of matters of public concern by silencing a dissenting voice altogether".

We urge the Superior Council of Magistrates, as a guarantor of judicial independence, to objectively and transparently examine the case instrumented by judge I. Busuioc, and to pronounce upon the procedures and arguments which determined the pronouncement of verdict in favour of two prosecutors.

Independent Journalism Center
Independent Press Association
Committee for Press Freedom
Center for Investigative Journalism
"Access-info" Center
Union of Journalists of Moldova
Moldovan Young Journalists Center