The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Moldovan authorities, and in favour of investigative media outlet RISE Moldova after the latter was sued for defamation.
The suit was brought against an article alleging that the Moldovan Socialist Party’s 2016 presidential election campaign received offshore financing from Russia. The Socialist Party leader, Igor Dodon, secured the Presidency that same year.
“The European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights,” the court said in a press release.
RISE Moldova was also awarded 3,800 euros in damages, costs and expenses by the court.
In September 2016, RISE Moldova published an article entitled “Dodon’s Bahamas money,” in which the outlet reported that a Bahamas-based offshore company with links to Russia transferred 1.5 million euros to a Moldovan company in 2016. The head of that company was a member of the Socialist Party, and had close ties to Igor Dodon.
According to the RISE Moldova piece, those funds arrived in Moldova only a few months before the country’s 2016 presidential elections. At least one third of the money was withdrawn in cash for distribution to individuals with ties to the Socialist Party, in the form of “free loans.”
In response to the article, the Socialist Party initiated a civil defamation suit, arguing that if there had been any illegalities found in the financing of the party, then the Socialist Party and Igor Dodon would be banned from participating in the elections.
In December 2017, the first-instance Centru District Court found in favour of the Socialist Party, and the ruling was challenged by RISE Moldova. After both the Moldovan Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Justice rejected the legal challenges, RISE Moldova’s director Iurie Sanduta filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in January 2019.
“Moldovan judges issued a decision in favour of Dodon, who had already become president. We decided to go to the ECHR and fight for freedom of expression because our investigation had a lot of evidence that exactly proved the facts described in the journalistic investigation,” said Sanduta.
“Today’s decision is a strong encouragement for Moldovan journalists and investigative reporters to do their job honestly and without fear of frequent pressure from corrupt politicians.”
“Protesters camped near European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg” by Arran Bee is licensed under CC BY 2.0