Moldova: Government-approved draft law might cause censorship on the Internet

internet censorship

A Government-approved draft Law, which did not consider Media NGOs’ proposals, might cause Censorship on the Internet in Moldova. 

Article by Media Azi web site of the Independent Journalism Center (Chisinau) 

On March 30, the Government approved and sent to the Parliament for examination a draft law on modifying and supplementing some legislative acts, developed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which caused harsh criticism on the Internet. A year ago, when the draft law was at the stage of discussions, media NGOs drew attention to the fact that some provisions had to be improved so as not to allow censorship on the Internet and violation of the law on freedom of expression. Civil society proposals, however, were ignored.

Although the provisions of the draft law mostly refer to combating and preventing child pornography and cybercrimes, involving inclusion of sanctions for these crimes into the criminal code and contraventions code, netizens claim that the authors of the draft law in fact intended to introduce censorship on the Internet.

The document was severely criticized online: “If they want to block child pornography, then they should oblige Internet service providers to reveal the IP addresses of those who post such things, not give the RIGHT to close websites at their discretion,” a netizen commented. “Should we laugh or should we cry? The Court of Justice of the EU annulled an EU directive with provisions that have now been included into the law approved by the Government yesterday,” Tudor Darie, director of Interact company, wrote on his Facebook page.

In April 2015, three media organizations – Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Association of Independent Press (AIP), and Association of Electronic Press (APEL) – sent a letter to the department for development and approval of regulatory acts under the General Legal Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, expressing their concern about this draft law, mentioning that “some of the supplementations proposed are general and leave room for interpretation, so they might lead to violation of the right to freedom of expression in online media.” In particular, the letter referred to article 2471, letters b), f) and g), proposed in order to supplement the contraventions code, which “might, by extension, be used against freedom of expression of all citizens and against their right to freely share their opinions online.”

At the same time, media NGOs asked the authors of the draft law to take into consideration online proposals regarding this document, so as not to allow censorship on the Internet and violation of the law on freedom of expression. “We then proposed that socially dangerous facts, which were to be covered by those provisions, be correctly defined, but our proposals were neglected,” said Zinaida Gheata, program coordinator at the Policy and Media Law Department of the IJC.

A number of organizations – the Circulations and Internet Audit Office, StarNet, Interact Media (Agora, EA.md), Miraza (UNIMEDIA), youth news site #diez, Privesc.EU, Ziarul Național newspaper, Center of Journalistic Investigations, and Anticoruptie.md – signed on March 31 a declaration stating that “those modifications are contrary to European standards on neutrality and freedom of the Internet and aim to increase censorship and allow abuses in order to block politically uncomfortable websites (e.g. North Corea, China, Russia, etc.).”

Media Azi asked journalist Dumitru Ciorici, co-founder of the Agora portal, to share his opinion about the document approved by the Government:
“This draft law has been gathering dust on shelves for a long time. The country’s leadership had been trying for quite some time to approve it furtively. They did it now. This draft law allows certain law enforcement agencies to block news websites or any other online platform. There are no rules on how they can do it, so they can do it as they want. It is a serious violation of freedom of expression, and it will affect online freedoms in Moldova,” Dumitru Ciorici said.

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