courts have reviewed more than 800 cases involving the media. Most of these cases involved alleged libel, and journalists lost the majority of the suits57. In spite of this practice, there have been cases when the courts ruled in favour of the media.
One such relevant example was the case of the Investigative Journalism Centre, which won for the first time in a suit against the GPO, which had refused to issue accreditation to a reporter58.
The government’s actions in the area of regulations are not guided by a clear and coherent strategy. The authorities seem to have no concept or systemic view of how media should develop and how to ensure media freedom.
Other shortcomings are, for example, the discriminatory treatment applied to the media loyal to or critical of the government by granting to them different degrees of access to information, advertising preferences, etc. Although the Go- vernment relinquished its ownership over the official national publications Mol- dova Suverană and Nezavisimaia Moldova, many independent experts in the field assessed this decision as a formal one. The Government displays insufficient ini- tiative either in terms of legislation or in terms of strategy, or operational activity.
Journalists are dissatisfied with the way Ministerial press offices work.
The attitude towards the watchdog role of the media has not changed. This role is taken on mostly by investigative journalism, which focuses on socially relevant issues such as the management of public money, personnel policies, corruption, the system of public healthcare, etc. This type of journalism is hit hardest by the policy of obstructing access to information, while the journalists themselves are in a quite difficult situation: “Journalists working on investigations enjoy no gua- rantees, legal benefits or support by law enforcement bodies”59. Moreover, public administration and law enforcement bodies do not react to the results of investi- gations published by the media. The “uncomfortable journalists” may be subject to intimidation and even physical attacks—in 2005-2006 newspapers announced cases of intimidation and aggression involving journalists (e.g. Alina Anghel, Ion
57 Journalists were involved in some ECHR cases that they won: the case of Giulieta Saviţchi (judgement of 01.02.2005—violation of art. 10 of the Convention, freedom of expression);
Busuioc (judgement of 27.04.2004—violation of art. 10 of the Convention, freedom of expression). – Cf.: Guvernare şi democraţie în Moldova. E-journal, year IV, no. 70, 14-28 March 2006
58 In December 2004 the newspaper Moldavskie vedomosti lost a law suit against the President’s Office of Moldova regarding the accreditation of the paper’s editor-in-chief; this case is now pending at ECHR. The Supreme Court of Justice took a similar decision, ruling in favour of the Parliament in a case initiated by the newspaper Timpul. The newspaper alleged violations of the Access to Information Law. In May 2004 Timpul had requested from the Parliament the transcripts of the autumn-winter 2002 session. The Parliament’ administration refused to issue the materials referring to an interdiction in this respect stipulated by the Parliament’s
regulations (Cf.: http://www.acces-info.org.md/upload/RAPORT_ANUAL_2005.doc.)
59 Cf.: http://www.acces-info.org.md/upload/RAPORT_ANUAL_2005.doc.
Robu60), and pressure was exercised on publications critical of the authorities (e.g.
Moldavskie Viedomosti, Unghiul61, Observatorul de Nord, Cuvântul62). The inves- tigative journalists should associate into a professional union, which could sup- port the profession to the benefit of society as a whole.
On World Press Freedom Day, 11 media outlets issued a statement where they emphasized the inappropriateness of removing from the Civil Code the ceiling on fi- nancial compensation in libel cases. This issue has been debated for a long time, and the main concern is that journalists have no trust that the courts are independent and impartial. This new provision both encourages self-censorship and represents a tool by which the media could be subject to financial pressure. Thus, the courts can decide on compensations which are far above the financial capacity of media outlets, thus bankrupting them. Art. 16 of the Civil Code, “Protection of Honour, Dignity and Pro- fessional Reputation”, places on the defendant the burden of proving the authenticity of the information published, and the publication can be sued along with the source who made the statement, regardless of whether the publication supports or not that point of view. Such legal provisions obviously do not help the development of a truly free media and must be reviewed professionally with the involvement of the relevant actors.
In fact, the consultations between the Parliament and civil society on issues of media freedom are not very effective, a fact revealed during the public debates held on the subject of the draft Broadcasting Code.
Conclusions and recommendations
• There is a need to evaluate the legislation regarding the activity and freedom of the press and review the stipulations criticised by the actors concerned, in particular stipulations limiting the freedom of expression, relating to defamation, state secret, privacy, etc. There are some indications that decision-makers might accept some recommendations made in the context of the EUMAP, for example to include into the newly developed legal acts the notion of the right to rejoinder63, but more eﬀort is needed in this regard.
60 Cf.: http://www.api.org.md/presasubpresa3.html
61 Cf.: http://www.acces-info.org.md/upload/RAPORT_ANUAL_2005.doc.
62 Cf.: www.acces-info.org.md.
63 The regulation of the Central Elections Commission concerning the media coverage of the Parliamentary elections campaign—http://www.alegeri2005.md/cecdocs/reflectareamassmedia/
• Transparency should be ensured during the law-making process; the Law on Transparency of decision-making should be promoted64; allowing journalists should be allowed to access public information held by the governmental institutions.
• A modern concept of media support should be developed and enforced, to ensure; eﬀective cooperation between the media and the state.
• The working conditions of the media should be improved, treating the media as an enterprise rather than as a tool of political inﬂuence; Western
investment into the media should be promoted; economic levers should be used to support the development of independent media, including VAT exemptions or discounts.
• There should be projects implemented to strengthen the local private media.
• The state should contribute to the establishment of an alternative press distribution network.
• An action plan regarding the professional training of journalists should be prepared and implemented, in line with European standards in the media ﬁeld.
• Independent mechanisms of scientiﬁc assessment of media work should be established.
• Draft laws that would regulate issues to emerge in the medium term should be prepared, especially such issues as the concentration of ownership, Internet-based media, building complex communication structures, etc.
• Cooperation and information exchange with Western media outlets should be deepened, as well as with specialized bodies in EU member states.
• Projects to support the development of cross-border media networks should be prepared and implemented.
• There should be adequate assessment of future media regulations and their approximation to EU standards in the ﬁeld.
64 Cf.: www.acces-info.md.