The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), welcomes the July 11 ruling of Moldova’s Supreme Court dismissing previous court decisions on a defamation lawsuit against the Chisinau-based investigative weekly Ziarul de Garda. The Supreme Court decision quashed an Aug. 1, 2011 ruling by the Central Court of Chisinau as well as a subsequent court decision sentencing the publication to pay 30,000 EUR to two prosecutors who sued the paper. The excessive fine, as SEEMO had warned, imperiled the very existence of the publication.
The case goes back to Feb. 10, 2011, when Ziarul de Garda published a story on two district prosecutors allegedly involved in corruption. The case was investigated by the Centre for Combating Economic Crime and Corruption (CCECC) but later the charges were dropped. The two prosecutors sued the paper and demanded compensation for moral damage.
The Supreme Court decision was welcome by the Ziarul de Garda director, Alina Radu, and the magazine’s staff. “The decision means a lot for us: if the decision of the first court would have been upheld, the newspaper would have gone bankrupt and would have had to be closed,” said Alina Radu in a conversation with SEEMO. “The decision shows that the law can work properly in Moldova that prosecutors as well as other public officials should accept criticism, and that journalists should keep digging on corruption scams.”
On their behalf, the Chisinau-based Independent Journalism Center (IJC) praised the court decision and encouraged Moldovan courts to apply European standards for defamation – especially the provisions on freedom of expression.
“I am very happy that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of press freedom and hope that in the future, defamation and libel will be addressed according to international standards,” said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General.