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Recent legal developments threaten freedom of expression and access to information

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 17 September 2008 press release by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate:

SEEMO Expresses Concern at Several Recent Legal Developments in Moldova

Vienna, 17 September 2008

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is concerned about several recent legal developments in Moldova that contain threats to press freedom, freedom of expression, and the right of access to information.

According to information before SEEMO, Moldova's Parliament has passed an amendment to the Law on Editorial Activity that came into effect on 26 June 2008. The Law on Editorial Activity now includes a ban on printing material that challenges or defames the state and the people, incites war, aggression, national, racial or religious hatred, discrimination, territorial separatism, public violence or in any other way threatens the constitutional regime. SEEMO supports the Publishers' Union of Moldova in their claim that this amendment could result in self-censorship.

SEEMO is also alarmed by the recently adopted restrictive regulations concerning the assessment, selection and publication of textbooks for pre-university education, which favour the state publishing houses subordinated to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism over other publishing houses. In recent years, several Moldovan publishing houses invested money and human resources in projects concerning textbooks and created a complex editorial system. The government, however, has discounted these efforts by introducing the new regulations, which could negatively affect the education system in Moldova.

Furthermore, SEEMO would like to express its concern at a worrisome draft law, the Law on Preventing and Fighting Crimes Committed by Means of the Information System, which is soon to be passed by Parliament. According to the draft law, internet service providers will be required to store the personal data of users and provide this information to the authorities upon request.

Moreover, the draft Law on State Secrets, which is soon to be adopted by Parliament, would result in a limitation of public access to official information. The draft would provide far-reaching powers to public authorities and the Security and Information Service by enabling them to declare as classified any information they consider to be a state secret.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic expressed concern about these recent legal developments in Moldova. He emphasized that "a free and independent media is a crucial component of a modern democratic society" and that "it is important to ensure a pluralist media environment, since it contributes to an educated and informed public."

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