The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) joins representatives of NGOs in Moldova, after the Minister of Justice pushes forward dangerous draft measures for the regulations of non-governmental organisations in the country.
The new draft law was presented to the public in the beginning of July, and it is including three articles that have caused an outcry in the country and international community. Articles 28, 29 and 30 include provisions regarding political activity of NGOs, like activities such as advocating for the improvement democracy. This will directly affect their scope of work and prohibit foreign financing causing most of NGOs in Moldova to lose their main source of support.
On 11 July 78 NGOs in Moldova, including leading media NGOs, have signed a letter urging the government to oppose the measure. According to this letter: “In spring 2016, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Vladimir Cebotari, accepted the proposal of several civil society organizations to improve the legislation on non-governmental organizations and established a working group to this end, composed of representatives of non-governmental organizations and the Ministry of Justice. The group worked for more than a year and prepared a draft law intended to replace the Law on Public Associations and the Law on Foundations. This draft is in line with the best international standards and practices and may represent, if adopted, a step forward in ensuring a sustainable and independent associative sector in the Republic of Moldova. The draft was endorsed by international experts and subjected to public consultations with participation of non-commercial organizations held on 14 September 2016 by the Ministry of Justice. During its activity, the working group enjoyed independence and was not subject to undue influence by the leadership of the Ministry of Justice or any other authorities. The draft Law on non-governmental organizations is ready to be promoted for adoption Last week, the representatives of NGOs, members of the above-referenced working group, received from the representatives of the Ministry of Justice, part of the same group, a proposal to complete the draft with three additional articles (Articles 28-30) presented by the Minister of Justice. The additions include “special provisions on political activity of non-governmental organizations”, which significantly limit the activity of non-governmental organizations and establish prohibitions for their direct or indirect foreign financing. These restrictions refer to organizations that contribute to development and promotion of public policies intended to influence the legislative process. At the same time, these restrictions apply to the organizations that, according to the initiative, could participate or intervene in political activities, electoral campaigns, electoral programs, support political parties, their leaders or candidates, promote them or any other actions undertaken by them, either jointly or separately, both, in elections within the meaning of the Electoral Code or matters subject to a referendum, or beyond elections. These organizations will be prohibited even from accessing the 2% mechanism. The adjustments also aim at additional financial transparency rules for all organizations that benefit from financing outside the Republic of Moldova. They should submit to the Ministry of Justice quarterly and annual financial reports, even though such reports are submitted monthly and annually with the Tax authorities of the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, the NGOs should publish other reports confirming the origin of the organization’s funds and revenues, and of the members of its management bodies as well. Additionally, organizations will have to submit a written declaration on incomes and expenditures ratio for “political activities” to the Ministry of Justice and the Central Electoral Commission and publish it on their website. For breach of the above requirements, the Ministry of Justice will apply sanctions to the nongovernmental organization and to the members of its management bodies. Some of the provided sanctions are a financial penalty in the amount of the monthly salary fund of the organization or in the amount of the material value of which the financial organization benefited in committing the breach, whichever is greater, as well as the liquidation of the organization, based on a court decision.”
“We are gravely concerned for the survival and proper functioning of non-governmental organisations in Moldova” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated earlier today. “We call on institutions in Moldova to drop this draft proposal” Vujovic also added.
SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe.