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Youths questioned by prosecutor's office over opinions expressed on web forums

(IJC/IFEX) - The following is a joint press release by IJC and other media organisations:

Media NGOs express their concern about the continuous worsening of the situation of the Moldovan press

Even though at the recent meeting with Moldovan media managers President Vladimir Voronin guaranteed the government would not violate the right to free expression, on 11 June 2008 young commentators on http://www.forum.md , http://www.torrentsmd.com/ , http://www.desteptarea.info and http://www.unimedia.md were invited to the General Prosecutor's Office in order to provide explanations for their comments.

The youths are accused of having repeatedly called for "a violent upheaval of the constitutional regime and liquidation of the statehood and territorial integrity of Moldova through the portals forum.md, torrentsmd.com, desteptarea.info and unimedia.md".

We express our concern over the investigation and seizure of the computers of several young people from Chisinau by the Prosecutor's Office, after they expressed their opinions on web forums.

We call attention to the fact that the opinions expressed by the youths should be separated from alleged violations falling under the Criminal Code, at least in the case of the comments published on Unimedia's forum; there is no legal ground to qualify them as "public calls for a violent upheaval of the constitutional regime and for the liquidation of the statehood and territorial integrity of Moldova."

The harassment of the teenagers is the third action of this kind in 2008. In January-March the legal authorities interrogated listeners of the "Vocea Basarabiei" radio station and participants in open-air debates organized by the Union of Journalists. The ground for interrogations was similar: "alleged instigation of a violent upheaval of the constitutional regime".

We note that according to the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice no. 8 of 9 October 2006, "no one may be found liable for criticising or insulting the nation, the state or its symbols, except when those are able to lead to incitement to imminent violence". The 12 February 2004 "Declaration on freedom of political debate in the media", of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, states: "Because of their dominant position, these institutions as such should not be protected by criminal law against defamatory or insulting statements. Where, however, these institutions enjoy such a protection, this protection should be applied in a restrictive manner, avoiding in any circumstances its use to restrict freedom to criticise".

Finally, we call on authorities to live up to their promise to not undermine freedom of expression in the Republic of Moldova.

Independent Journalism Center
Independent Press Association
Association of Electronic Press
Acces-info Center
Journalistic Investigation Center
Union of Journalists from Moldova
Committee for the Freedom of the Press

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