Working with partners, the MFRR will lead a range of fact-finding, fast response and advocacy missions across EU member states and candidate countries. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these missions will be replaced with virtual missions to ensure we can still hold states and other entities to account during this unprecedented period. The missions will enable the MFRR to capture first hand information about a range of threats to press and media freedom, establish partners and contacts across the continent and engage directly with policy makers. Missions will be documented in meetings and reports that will be shared publicly and form the basis of future advocacy, as well as legal and practical support.
Serbia: Virtual Fast Response Mission
January / February 2021
An online international mission to assess the state of media freedom and the safety of journalists in Serbia will take place from 28 January to 1 February 2021. The mission is led by ARTICLE 19 as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR). The mission is organised in partnership with the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS).
The MFRR partners and NUNS will meet virtually with key stakeholders in the framework of media freedom in Serbia. The mission partners expect to build a comprehensive picture of the situation of media freedom and safety of journalists in the country; preliminary findings from the MFRR monitoring identified verbal and physical harassment, threats against journalists during protests, attacks from police, and tax investigations as the most recurrent obstacles to journalists’ safety and media freedom in Serbia, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poland: Virtual Fact-Finding Mission
November / December 2020
An online international mission took place between November and December 2020 to explore the health of the media freedom environment as the government continues to wage a multi-pronged attack on independent media to muzzle critical reporting and undermine watchdog journalism.
The MFRR partners met with key stakeholders including a wide range of editors-in-chief and journalists from across the political spectrum, as well as academics, journalist associations, civil society organizations, the Polish Ombudsman, diplomatic missions and MEPs.
Of central concern is the Law and Justice (PiS) led Government’s plans for media reform. These include efforts to “repolonise” and “deconcentrate” the media market. Ostensibly aimed at creating greater pluralism, in reality these dual legal mechanisms are intended to concentrate more media under the control of the ruling party and its allies. This further been underpinned by a unique model of state capture, where private media companies have been effectively nationalised via state-owned and controlled companies. This model achieved its first results in December when a state energy firm headed by PiS appointees acquired control of Polska Press, in a deal that hands PiS indirect control over 20 of Poland’s 24 regional newspapers.
On 11th February, IPI published the mission report, Democracy Declining: Erosion of Media Freedom in Poland, which can be read below.
Montenegro: Virtual Fast Response Mission
As Montenegro’s new coalition government under the leadership of Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić was formally approved by the Montenegrin Parliament on 4 December, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and key partners, urge it to put press and media freedom high on its agenda. The detailed report from their virtual fact-finding mission raises a number of concerns. To advance media freedom and, ultimately, the country’s accession bid to the European Union (EU), the new administration must commit to the necessary reforms for building and maintaining a free and pluralist media landscape.
This is a unique chance to make a break from the past after 31 unbroken years of Democratic Socialist (DPS) rule under Milo Đukanović’s leadership. The results from our virtual fact-finding mission by seven international civil society organisations that took place in September 2020, show decisive action is needed to establish a free and pluralist media landscape. Our findings are outlined and analysed in the mission report: Uncertain Optimism, or Optimistic Uncertainty: Virtual MFRR Mission Report published in December 2020.