The People’s Advocate: The attacks on the media are attacks on democracy
The People’s Advocate reaffirms that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are crucial to the functioning of a democratic society and continues to be so as well during the pandemic of COVID-19. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, also warned about this in a statement published before World Press Freedom Day: “Governments must protect the essential role of journalists in the field of democracy, especially in times of crisis. The media must be free to report on all aspects of the crisis. Journalists have a key role and a special responsibility for providing timely, accurate and reliable information. They need to be able to examine the authorities’ decisions in response to the pandemic.”
But in order to carry out their professional duties, it is important for the press to have unrestricted access to information of public interest in a timely manner, so that it can debate sensitive topics in dialogue platforms between authorities and various actors in society, thus counteracting rumors and misinformation which could lead to panic. However, during the state of emergency, the media’s access to information was limited, a fact reported by the People’s Advocate in his previous endeavors.
The People’s Advocate reminds that, according to international standards, people have the right to express their point of view, even if their opinions are offensive or shocking to others – provided they do not instigate to violence or hatred. Freedom of expression, supported by a diversity of independent media, allows citizens to make informed decisions and ensure that representatives of the government take into account their major interests.
According to the People’s Advocate, the attempts to suppress critical voices are alarming and the fact that they come from high state officials is even more disquieting. It is equally worrying and dangerous that intimidating messages instigate to violence against journalists at some media outlets and generate hatred and division among people.
The Ombudsman notes that such behavior is unacceptable, contributes to a general atmosphere of intolerance, fear and can act as an incentive for new cases of violence and media harassment.
The Ombudsman also reminds that in addition to the commitments made by the Republic of Moldova on guaranteeing freedom of expression and freedom of the press, the authorities also have obligations regarding the protection of human rights defenders, which includes the media.
The People’s Advocate calls on the authorities to observe international norms and standards on protection and safety of journalists, and to stop denigrating the press. At the same time, the Ombudsman addresses the representatives of the media community with the urge to observe the norms of the Professional Code of Ethics, without it there can be no high quality journalism.
2020 /05/ 05
Department for Promotion of
Human Rights and Communication