Debates in Chisinau: New challenges to Internet freedom in the context of current security risks

New challenges to Internet freedom in Moldova in the context of current security risks were discussed at the round table held on July 19 in Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova. One of the topics that generated the most lively discussions was the recent legislative initiatives to regulate the information space, including the bill against disinformation and circulation of fake news. In the near future, the Parliament will hold public debates to take into account all the objections and suggestions received from the expert community.

The event was organized by the Association “Comunitatea Internet” in partnership with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) as part of the Europe and Eurasia Internet Advocacy Support Program, with the support of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The national partner was the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova (ASEM), one of the largest state universities in the country.

More than 30 representatives of different groups of stakeholders, including representatives of the Parliament, Government, President’s Office, Prosecutor-General’s Office, a number of other state institutions, international organizations, technical community, private ICT companies, civil society and media, have participated in the event.

According to Alexei Marciuc, Chairman of the Association “Comunitatea Internet”, the event aims to enhance the transparency of decision-making process regarding the regulation of information space in the Republic of Moldova, to promote the development and improvement of the regulatory framework in this field, taking into account international standards and best practices. A special emphasis, according to him, was made on the research and public discussion of the latest draft laws in the context of the current national and regional security challenges, expert recommendations to improve these draft laws, as well as issues of providing free and safe Internet access to all categories of users.

Victoria Cociug, doctor of economics, Pro-rector of the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova, made a welcoming speech, noting an extremely important role of the Internet and information technologies in shaping the modern information society. She stressed that the constant digital development brings new challenges both in the legal agenda and in the educational process, and the need for capacity building of scientific-teaching staff.

Member of Parliament Victor Spînu touched upon a number of issues on the digital agenda recently included in the program of the legislature and government. He noted the importance of creating effective tools to ensure transparency and security of the national virtual environment, as well as the fulfillment by the public institutions of their powers to regulate the information space in strict compliance with international provisions on freedom of expression and human rights on the Internet.

Andrei Cușcă, Head of IT and digital economy policies Directorate, Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Moldova, highlighted the importance of multilateral dialogue in the context of transparency in decision making process regarding the regulation of the information space. He also mentioned the creation of the Coordinating Council for Information Security, which, he said, would play an important role in this matter.

The recommendations on improving the latest bills aimed at regulating the information space, elaborated by the experts of the Association “Comunitatea Internet”, were also discussed. Andrei Rusnac, expert in the field of information security, in particular, noted a number of drawbacks in the new legislative initiatives related to the blocking of information resources and classifying the content as disinformation. He mentioned the expediency of applying the provisions of the Law on freedom of expression not only to journalists, but also to bloggers or digital influencers. According to him, there is a need for further consultations with the expert community, including providers of online content hosting services, to bring the proposed provisions in line with the recommendations voiced.

Member of Parliament Victor Spînu, one of the authors of the discussed amendments to the legislation, said that MPs will soon return to the debate on the draft law on ensuring security in the information space and combating misinformation, which has caused much controversy in the expert community. In the near future, the legislature will announce a public debate to take into account all objections and suggestions received from the experts and civil society.

The participants also discussed approaches to creating a free and accessible virtual space for people with disabilities and special needs, problems in the activities of civil society organizations and the media related to limitations in the virtual space in a state of emergency, as well as other relevant issues.

Exclusively for Internet Freedom Blog, based on the national media materials

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