Access to public information
Context
Lately, we are witnessing the restriction of access to information of public interest at the expense of transparency. This situation is a problem for investigative journalism, the fight against corruption, justice reform and public administration.

Information of public interest must be treated as a public good and we consider that any barrier to it is a violation of the citizens' right to access what rightfully belongs to them.

Often, public institutions restrict the access to public information under different pretenses, one of the most popular being - the right to privacy. At the same time, the private life of the citizen is not adequately protected in cases where actual protection is required (e.g. wiretaps).
June 2017
In June 2017, CPR Moldova requested information from a series of public institutions, on topics including:
  • the involvement of Igor Dodon in the privatization of the "Codru" hotel;
  • persons decorated with State distinctions;
  • travel expenses for Moldovan Members of the Parliament within and outside the country.
In total 50 requests of information have been sent.
June 26
The Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) calls for public discussions on the draft amendment to the Regulation regarding the procedure for publishing court decisions.
June 29
CPR Moldova organizes a first round of consultations with investigative journalists on the obstacles encountered by mass-media in the process of obtaining information of public interest under the pretext of personal data protection.
July 11
CPR Moldova sends to CSM its opinion on the draft Regulation on the procedure for publishing court decisions .
It mentions that the proposed changes adversely affect the right to information, freedom of expression and of the press, and also the public interest in an open, fair and inclusive justice, without establishing a fair balance with respect to the right to private life.
July 13
CPR Moldova conducts a survey among media representatives regarding cases of violation of the right to access to information, motivated by the personal data protection.
August 15
CPR Moldova publishes the study "How does the State restrict the access of the press to information of public interest?" which identifies and analyzes six methods by which the Moldovan authorities restrict the access to information of the investigative press, taking into account the legislation regarding the access to information, and the personal data protection.
August 28
CPR Moldova has found that, for more than two months, the State Register of Legal Entities' dataset on enterprises registered in the Republic of Moldova has not been updated, and request the resumption of the regular publication of data, according to previous arrangements.
The Public Service Agency of the Republic of Moldova motivates the lack of information updates by stating that: "between July and September 2017, the enterprises with attributions of registrar and holder of the State Register of Legal Entities were involved in the process of institutional reorganization regarding the establishment of the Public Service Agency".

The next day, the Public Service Agency publishes the dataset.
September 1
Mihai Poalelungi, President of the Supreme Court of Justice, publishes a study on the issue of anonymization of court decisions in the Republic of Moldova:
"The right to privacy and transparent justice: two balancing exercises"
September 4
CPR Moldova sues the Ministry of Economy for limiting access to information on the privatization process of "Codru" hotel.
September 5
CPR Moldova carries out a survey on transparency, access to information, personal data protection from the perspective of the business sector. The purpose of the survey is to analyze how the lack of access to information affects domestic businesses.
September 8
The conclusions of the CPR Moldova study "How does the State restrict the access of the press to information of public interest" are followed by an analytical article that contains the most important arguments and findings on this subject.
September 15
The subject is discussed, with the participation of CPR Moldova, on the TV8 media channel, during the Cutia Neagră (Black Box)TV show.
September 28
CPR Moldova organizes a public debate addressing the role of fiscal transparency and public accountability in preventing corruption.

Transparency, including fiscal, is the best and most affordable guarantee againts corruption, abuse of power, money laundering and tax evasion.
October 4
CPR Moldova attempted for three months to obtain information on the travel expenses of various public officials. Authorities in possession of this information have found various pretexts for not offering us a clear answer.

In the end, the information on the expenses for international travel of the Members of the Parliament for the years 2015-2016 is obtained from the Secretariat of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova.
October 9
Media institutions, journalists and civil society organizations are making a public appeal in the address of the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) expressing their puzzlement about the inclusion of the new CSM's agenda, for October 10th, of the new Regulation on publishing court decisions.

The project stipulates the identity anonymization of all individuals (physical persons) in the published court decisions.
The President of the Supreme Court of Justice disagrees with the provisions of the draft Regulation on publishing the court decisions.

Mihai Poalelungi proposes an alternative Regulation that will ensure compliance with the right to access to information and the right to personal data protection.
October 10
Peaceful protest in front of the Superior Council of Magistracy against the anonymization of court decisions.

Journalists and civil society representatives protested in front of the Superior Council of Magistracy building against the adoption of a new Regulation on publishing the court decisions.
The Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) adopted a new Regulation on publishing court decisions of the national Courts portal and on the website of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ).

CSM adopted the alternative Regulation, promoted by the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Mihai Poalelungi. Unlike the original CSM draft, the CSJ draft stipulates a publication of court decisions without anonymization.
October 18
CPR Moldova signs an official address of the Moldovan civil society to foreign diplomatic representatives accredited in the Republic of Moldova.

The signatory organizations call for the condemnation of the alarming situation in which the representatives of independent media institutions are increasingly facing, and the sanctioning of those who act against transparency, access to information and freedom of press.
November 17
CPR Moldova published a second note on the travel expenses of Moldovan officials, this time of Ministers. The note shows the data obtained through information requests sent by email in September (given that law on access to information specifically mentions that request can take any form, including electronic).

Interestingly, four ministries did not provide any information in response to our request, while only two ministers - Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection - provided timely and comprehensive responses
December 5
CPR Moldova hosts a workshop with young businessmen and businesswomen on barriers to launching and running a business in Moldova, including from the perspectives of transparency and access to information. The event brought together young representatives of different sectors of the business community: restaurant business, tourism, transportation, construction, financial consulting, IT, textile industry etc.

Among the findings of the workshop are the lack of transparency and of free access to specific public information which is crucial to a startup.

In the same event, CPR presents the preliminary findings of a study on the same topic.
December 8
CPR publishes an analysis on access to information in the context of the business environment:
How the lack of transparency and accessible information affects the business environment in Moldova. Case study: micro, small and medium enterprises.

In the study we provided evidence on the ways in which lack of different kinds of information limits the transparency, predictability and competition for businesses in Moldova.
December 11
In response to several public authorities' decisions (by the Minister of Health, Labour and Social Protection and the Mayor of Chisinau, in particular) that seek to limit the freedom of communication between civil servants and institutions on the one hand and the media and the public, on the other, on CPR Moldova published an Appeal to public authorities to cancel secondary legislation that has a negative impact on institutional transparency.

In our document, we highlight that:
„(...) these normative acts will certainly have a negative effect on transparency, access to information, freedom of the press, but also respect for the public servants' right to opinion and freedom of speec".
December 20
CPR Moldova hosted a public debate on the anonymisation of court decisions, i.e. concealing the names of the parties as well as other personal information in the text of court decisions.

In the debate, the Government team proposed a policy whereby different standards are applied when publishing court decisions of significant public interest (those concerning public officials, corruption cases, etc) - where publication of names should be the rule - as compared to other cases, where anonymisation is advised.

The Opposition team argued for full transparency of court decisions so that transparency of justice warrants public trust in courts.
December 28
Based on information requests submitted by CPR Moldova to the Center for Implementation of Reforms (CIR), the Center for Journalistic Investigations published an article about the way CIR spent its budget money in 2017.

In our request, we pointed out that, although CIR is a public institution, it does not yet have a webpage, nor is the information about its structure, budget or expenses, plans and priorities otherwise available to the public.

The director of the institution, Iurie Ciocan, denied that his center would lack transparency.
December 29
CPR Moldova has sent a request to the Ministry of Finance and the State Tax Service, demanding the authorities urgently resume the publication of data on taxpayers' debts to the state budget.

According to authorities, the publication of this data had been ceased because of errors in the functioning of informational systems. The issue has persisted for over four months, which proves that, meanwhile, nothing was done to solve the problem.

The publication of said data would contribute to better transparency and predictability for businesses in Moldova, as well as a better trust in the Government institutions.
February 5, 2018
CPR publishes a study on access to information in the justice sector of the Republic of Moldova. The study deals with the different problems that affect the access to information in the justice area, including those related to the anonymisation of court decisions.

In the study we have found that the anonymisation of court decisions as carried out in the past, was applied in inconsistently, haphazardly and, most often excessively. As a consequence, the texts of the decisions become effectively unreadable, basically blocking the public's access to information of public interest.

CPR has also found that, even after a new Regulation was introduced by the Supreme Magistrates' Council (providing for the disclosure of the name of the parties when publishing court decision), its provisions are violated - decisions are still published with crucial data eliminated from them.

Another finding is that the authorities in the justice sector also resort to the argument of "personal data" to obstruct access to public interest information.
February 8
In December and January, CPR has sent a series of information requests to public authorities for copies of the registries of gifts (which public institutions are obliged to maintain and publicize under the Integrity Law).

In its response, the Parliament of Moldova, only provided the list of gifts received, while refusing to provide other information contained in the gifе register (including gift recipients and the current status/ownership of gifts), which goes against the requirements of the law.

To motivate its answer, the Parliament quoted personal data protection considerations.

CPR publicized the case, to remind authorities of the imperative integrity and transparency rules which should be followed by all authorities and, a fortiori, by those who adopted the rules - the legislature.
February 12
The conclusions of the CPR's study (How the lack of transparency and accessible information affects the business environment in Moldova. Case study: micro, small and medium enterprises) are further analysed in an article on SIC.MD.

The article discusses about the issues and barriers that small and medium businesses have to face in Moldova when accessing informations held by public authorities.
February 16
CPR hosts a workshop to discuss the findings and conclusions of its study
A Wasted Year: Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data in the Justice Sector of Moldova

The event is joined by representatives of media and civil society organizations, academia and justice professionals.
February 20
Based on the findings of the study A Wasted Year: Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data in the Justice Sector of Moldova, CPR published an analysis piece on SIC.MD.

The article points out to the fact that, at that moment, courts were not complying with the Regulation on the Publication of Court Decisions, namely were continuing to conceal the names of the parties, as well as other important information, when publishing decisions even in high-profile cases of significant public concern.
February 22
The Supreme Magistrates' Council warns courts that they are expected to comply with the provisions of the Regulation on the Publication of Court Decisions, especially with regards to the main provisions on publishing decisions without concealing the names of the participants in the proceedings.

Thus, the Council addresses a problem raised by CPR in both its study of February 5th and the analytical article that followed it.
March 13
CPR hosts another public debate, based on the American parliamentary model, about disinformation and manipulation of public opinion through news and information spread through TV and Social Media.