This summer brought a new tradition at ZdG. Every few weeks, a uniformed policeman visits us at the newsroom with a letter obliging us to disclose sources in our investigations.
Yes, it’s a pandemic, there are recommendations to limit the direct interaction as much as possible, it’s also a fiery summer, but the policeman is on duty. He comes frequently and brings us a notice. No, the Ministry of Internal Affairs does not trust the internet or at least the post of Moldova or telephone, or technologies.
The Ministry believes in the policeman who visits the newsroom. Yes, the policeman dressed in black, with a mask, comes at a temperature over 30 degrees Celsius, bringing a letter, asking ZdG to divulge the sources. Every time I tell them that we will not disclose anything under threats, even if the source is their minister. Because we know our job, rights, and the power of the respected word, but they keep coming back.
In this week’s letter, the Central Police Inspectorate of Chișinău asked us for the following information: “What were the evidence and the information source of the ZdG publication about the director of the Russian National Theater A.P. Chekhov, from Chișinău. Please, release the copies of the documents confirming the information and the persons involved in this case.”
Reading the letter, I thought that ZdG published a text in which someone states that the theater’s director prepares atomic bombs at home, skins living people, or hides the theft billion. Yes, we would share the police more information in such cases, but not the source.
I opened the ZdG website to search for this director to understand why the policeman had to ask for a source. But which text was the letter talking about exactly? There have been several in recent months. On June 6, 2020, ZdG published an article with open sources, and a document of the National Integrity Agency (ANI) confirms that the director had admitted to a conflict of interest. Should we disclose to the Ministry of Internal Affairs that ANI and the theater are public institutions and can inform each other? On July 16, 2020, the ZdG wrote that the Parliament noticed the conflict at this theater. Should we disclose to the police that Parliament is a public institution and he can address them directly? On August 4, 2020, ZdG wrote that the director was suspended, with evidence from the Ministry of Education and Culture. Should we reveal to the police that the Ministry of Education is a public institution and can find out from them about this order as we did? There were many articles, all with open sources and data. Together with our reporters who solve puzzles- it was not clear to us what the Central Police Inspectorate director, Dorin Bîțu, wanted from us.
The police repeatedly visited us in the past, ordering us to disclose the sources in the case of an open-source article about a problem at the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM). We explained to them that we have nothing to disclose. However, the police insisted on getting an “official answer on paper, with letterhead, stamp and signature, and bringing it to the police station.”
I promised the policeman that I would make time and visit them with a film crew to see how they came up with these ideas. I have been waiting for a long time for professional communication with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM), with the Government and the Presidency.
However, the reality is different. Last Wednesday, as I was writing these lines, State Guard and Protection Service forces restricted reporters’ access to the Central Electoral Commission. President Dodon had applied for the presidential elections and didn’t want to answer the reporters’ questions. The Court hearing follows the next days, as Igor Dodon sued us for an article about his vacations. He said he no longer remembers who paid for it, strangely how the policemen in black with masks do not visit him to ask for his vacations’ funding sources.