President Igor Dodon sued Ziarul de Gardă. The head of state calls for the refutation of phrases that appeared in the investigation The President’s Luxurious Vacations, published in January 2020. The head of state claims that the publication of images from his luxury holidays in the Maldives and Seychelles, while he was a Member of Parliament Moldova, would have violated his right to privacy. The first court hearing was set by the court for May 19, 2020.
In the lawsuit, the president mentioned the same complaints previously expressed in the prior request. From the whole article, the president was mostly concerned about ZdG’s statements regarding the 2018 vacation, of the presidential family in Greece, the Pomegranate Wellness Spa Hotel, belonging to the family of former Russian General Prosecutor Chayka.
“In 2018, the presidential family spent their vacation in one of the most luxurious hotels in the Greek peninsula Halkidiki, Pomegranate Wellness Spa Hotel. The president would’ve been accommodated in a luxurious villa on the hotel’s territory, where the price for one-night accommodation can reach 20,000 euros.”
The president’s discontent and his requests
According to the prior request, the head of the state writes that the images used are from the period before he became president, are private and were published without the undersigned’s consent. Dodon claims that the photos do not fall into the field of acceptable criticism exceeding the limits and purpose of the right to information.
The same petition claims that according to ECtHR the public has no legitimate interest in knowing where is a public figure and how he behaves even if he appears in public places, and this despite his notoriety. Everyone has the right to benefit from protection and respect for private life, the letter says.
The President asks the court to find “defamatory and infringes the applicant’s right to respect for the private and family life,” to obliged the newsroom to publicly apologize for breach of the right to private and family life of the undersigned Dodon Igor.
The head of state asks the court to consider the following statements as false and defamatory damaging the honor, dignity and professional reputation: “In 2018, the presidential family spent their vacation in one of the most luxurious hotels in the Greek peninsula Halkidiki, Pomegranate Wellness Spa Hotel. The president would’ve been accommodated in a luxurious villa on the hotel’s territory, where the price for one-night accommodation can reach 20,000 euros.”
At the same time, in the request, the president asks the court that ZdG “publish an article that outlines the statements from the (Photo Gallery) The President’s Luxurious Vacations article regarding them as false allegations, and spreading the article on ZdG’s webpage www.zdg.md under the same heading, page, and for the same period of time.”
What didn’t the president mention in his appeal
Aside from the published images, President Igor Dodon was concerned by a single sentence from the article, the one about the luxurious villa located on the territory of the hotel owned by former Russian Prosecutor General, Chayka.
However, President Dodon failed to explain which information from this phrase is the false one: the year, the hotel name or the cost of one-night accommodation?
At the same time, before the article was published ZdG asked the president for information about the 2018 vacation, of the presidential family in Greece.
Henceforth, before the article was published ZdG addressed the following question to the president:
Mr. President, ZdG knows that in 2018, before and after the pilgrimage to the Athos mountain, you have spent your vacation with your family and a few other people close to you on the territory of the Pomegranate Wellness Spa Hotel, from Halkidiki, which belongs to the family of Russia’s Prosecutor General, Yuri Chayka. We know and we have evidence that you were accommodated in an exclusive villa on the territory of the Royal Suite hotel. The price for one-night accommodation in this villa starts from 10,300 euros (200,000 lei), the accommodation price in August the accommodation being even higher[…]
The President saw the question and even answered us. Back then the president did NOT deny that he was accommodated in that villa on the hotel’s territory. Moreover, the Presidency specified that then the vacation, including accommodation, was paid for by one of the president’s close relatives. The price for one-night accomodation is from the hotel’s official website.
Regarding the photos with the politician Igor Dodon on vacations in the Maldives, Seychelles, Dubai, and Bulgaria, which ZdG published, we mention that the newsroom was acting according to the public interest, but also due to countless public accusations, in the last years against dignitaries who can’t explain their assets and the resources used for their luxurious vacations.
At the same time, we mention that in the article were published several pictures with the presidential family, taken directly from Dodon’s Facebook page, photos which he himself made public.
ZdG also mentions that the newsroom published photos which confirm the luxurious vacations in exotic and expensive places. The newsroom didn’t publish the photos with the children or the wives of politicians or with other persons irrelevant to the public interest, even if the newsroom had in its possession the photos.
The photos where the politician Igor Dodon appears in scanty attire were published as in the last years the politician himself published such photos on his social media accounts.
ZdG published photos with the politician Igor Dodon only from the period when he was a state official, deputy or president.
May 19, the first court hearing
The first court hearing on this case was scheduled for May 19, 2020 at the Chișinău Court. The appeal reached the ZdG in early May, although the request for appeal was filed by the president as early as March 3, 2020. On March 6, 2020, the court accepted the president’s request for examination.
President Igor Dodon is represented in this process by the lawyer Oleg Tănase. The ZdG newsroom is represented in the process by the lawyer Veronica Mihailov-Moraru. The case will be examined by magistrate Sergiu Suvac, from the Chișinău Court. President Igor Dodon is the first and only head of state to sue the ZdG newsroom in the 16 years of activity.