Parliament removes defamation article from Criminal Code

New York, April 26, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is pleased by the Moldovan Parliament’s decision to remove Article 170 from the country’s Criminal Code. Article 170 called for up to five years imprisonment for defamation.

Moldova’s authoritarian president, Vladimir Voronin, sponsored the initiative in March after European officials called on countries within the former Soviet bloc to decriminalize libel. The proposal was greeted with unanimity in an April 22 session of Parliament.

Media organizations and journalists in Moldova welcomed the initiative but emphasized the need to also amend the Civil Code, the Moldovan news agency Bassa-Press reported.

Angela Sirbu, director of the Independent Journalism Center, a nongovernmental press organization based in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, said that journalists are vulnerable to hefty financial penalties in the Civil Code for writing or broadcasting anything that insults a person’s honor and dignity.

In January 2003, the Moldovan Parliament passed new civil and criminal codes, widely viewed as government attempts to control critical media outlets. Under the Civil Code, journalists can be subjected to enormous fines even if the published information is factually correct.