Feinbild Journalist – photo - Alexander Pohl Library

ECPMF Feindbild Study 2022

English version below

Zentrale Ergebnisse der Studie

83 gewaltsame Angriffe registrierte das Europäische Zentrum für Presse- und Medienfreiheit (ECPMF) für das Jahr 2021. Damit wurde der Negativrekord des Jahres 2020 nochmals um 14 verifizierte Fälle übertroffen. Die Sicherheitslage für Journalist:innen blieb damit auch im zweiten Pandemiejahr stark angespannt. Die Zunahme an Tätlichkeiten gegen Medienschaffende lässt sich – wie bereits im Vorjahr – zum größten Teil auf die Demonstrationen der Corona-Maßnahmen-Gegner zurückführen: 75 Prozent aller Angriffe ereigneten sich im Umfeld dieser Proteste.

Durch die heterogene Zusammensetzung der Teilnehmenden an diesen Demonstrationen kann nur ein Teil der Angriffe klar bestimmten politischen Lagern zugeordnet werden: 39 Prozent lassen sich dem rechten politischen Spektrum zuordnen, ein Prozent dem linken, bei 60 Prozent war keine eindeutige Zuschreibung zum politischen Hintergrund des Übergriffs möglich.

„Querdenken & Co wirken wie Brandbeschleuniger. Sie entzünden den unter der Oberfläche lodernden Hass ihrer Anhänger aufs System. Ihre Wutreden, Videos und Posts festigen ihre Ablehnung der Presse, die sich bei einigen in Form von Gewalt gegen Medienschaffende entlädt“,

sagt Co-Autor Martin Hoffmann.

Besorgniserregend ist neben dem erneuten Anstieg der registrierten Fälle auch die zunehmende Ausbreitung der Gewalt in die westdeutschen Bundesländer: 2020 wurden 52 Prozent der Angriffe dort registriert, 2021 schon 61 Prozent (jeweils ohne Berlin). Diese geografische Ausdehnung geht einher mit der Zunahme von politischen Protesten gegen die Maßnahmen zur Pandemieeindämmung. Sachsen ist mit 23 Fällen das meistbetroffene Bundesland, wie in nahezu allen Jahren seit Beginn der Erfassung im Jahr 2015.

Ab dem letzten Quartal 2021 ist zudem ein wachsender Anteil von Lokaljournalist:innen betroffen. Dies könnte mit einer Zunahme von nicht-registrierten Protesten im ländlichen Raum zusammenhängen.

„Ab dem Winter 21/22 verlagerte sich die Proteste zunehmend ins Regionale – und damit auch die pressefeindlichen Übergriffe. Für betroffene Medienschaffende, die vor Ort verwurzelt sind, ist das nicht nur eine berufliche Belastung, sondern eine ihres Alltags.“

sagt die Co-Autorin der Studie, Roberta Knoll. Das hat sichtbare Folgen für die Berichterstattung vor Ort: Medienschaffende ziehen sich von der Berichterstattung von den Protesten zurück.

Die Entwicklung in den ersten beiden Monaten des Jahres 2022 zeigte zunächst keine Anzeichen für eine Besserung der Arbeitssituation von Medienschaffenden. Bis zum 1. März wurden bereits 22 Fälle pressefeindlicher Gewalt registriert, sechsmal waren Lokaljournalist:innen betroffen.

„Die Feinbild-Studie hat gezeigt, dass die Pressefeindlichkeit in Deutschland weiter eskaliert – und dass insbesondere Lokaljournalistinnen und -journalisten unter Druck sind. Sie können nicht ausweichen, sie können nicht abtauchen, sie müssen mit den Menschen leben, von denen sie bepöbelt und bedroht werden. Was wir brauchen ist: mehr Schutz für Medienschaffende, eine konsequentere Ahndung von Straftaten und mehr Medienkompetenzkunde”,

sagt Lutz Kinkel, Geschäftsführer des ECPMF.

Vom 1.01.2015 bis zum 1. März 2022 hat das ECPMF bereits 287 Tätlichkeiten gegen Medienschaffende erfasst. Als Tätlichkeiten gewertet werden etwa Schläge, Tritte, Stoßen und Spucken sowie der Angriff mit Waffen. Das ECPMF ist eine Non-Profit-Organisation mit Sitz in Leipzig, die sich europaweit für die Pressefreiheit einsetzt.

»Feindbild Journalist« 6 – Hass vor der Haustür

Zentrale Ergebnisse der Studie

  • Erneuter Negativrekord: Mit 83 tätlichen Angriffen gegen Medienschaffende übersteigt das Jahr 2021 nochmals den Höchststand von 2020 (69 Angriffe).
  • Tatort Demonstrationen: 75 Prozent aller Fälle ereigneten sich auf Protesten gegen die Corona- Maßnahmen.
  • Der Hass zieht westwärts: Zwar bleibt Sachsen mit 23 Fällen Negativ-Spitzenreiter, die Angriffe in Westdeutschland nehmen jedoch deutlich zu.
  • Diffuse politische Zuordnung: 39 Prozent der Tätlichkeiten erfolgten 2021 aus dem rechten Spektrum, ein Prozent aus dem linken, 60 Prozent waren nicht eindeutig zuzuordnen.
  • Besorgniserregende Entwicklung: Journalist:innen ziehen sich immer häufiger von der Protestberichterstattung zurück.
  • Winter der Gewalt: 19 Fälle im Dezember 2021, 18 Fälle im Januar 2022 – noch nie wurden so viele Fälle in zwei Monaten erfasst.
  • Gesamtschau 2015-2021: Das ECPMF dokumentierte 265 Fälle.

Key findings of the study

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) registered 83 violent attacks against journalists in 2021, surpassing the negative record set in 2020 by 14 verified cases. The security situation for journalists thus remained very tense in the second year of the pandemic. As in the previous year, the increase in assaults against media representatives can be largely attributed to the demonstrations by opponents of COVID-19 containment measures: 75% of all attacks occurred in the context of these protests.

Due to the heterogeneous composition of the participants in these demonstrations, only a portion of the attacks can be clearly assigned to specific political camps: 39% can be assigned to the right-wing political spectrum, 1% to the left, and for 60% no clear attribution to any political background of the attack was possible.

“Querdenken & Co act like fire accelerators. They ignite the hatred of their followers for the system that is blazing beneath the surface. Their angry speeches, videos, and posts consolidate their rejection of the press, which some of them discharge in the form of violence against media professionals,” says co-author Martin Hoffmann.

In addition to the renewed increase in the number of registered cases, the increasing spread of violence into the western German states is also worrying. In 2020, 52% of the attacks were registered there, and in 2021 this reached 61% (in each case excluding Berlin). This geographical expansion goes hand in hand with the increase in political protests against pandemic containment measures. Saxony is the most affected state, with 23 cases, as has been the case in almost all years since recording began in 2015.

As of the last quarter of 2021, a growing proportion of local journalists are also affected. This could be related to an increase in unregistered protests in rural areas.

“Starting in the winter of 21/22, the protests increasingly shifted to the regional level – and with them the anti-press attacks. For media professionals on the ground, this is not just a professional burden, but one affecting their everyday lives,” says the study’s co-author, Roberta Knoll.

This has visible consequences for reporting on the ground, as seen by media professionals withdrawing from reporting on the protests.

Developments in the first two months of 2022 initially showed no signs of improvement in the working situation of media professionals. By 01 March, 22 cases of anti-press violence had already been registered, with local journalists being affected six times.

“The Feinbild study has shown that press hostility in Germany continues to escalate – and that local journalists in particular are under pressure. They can’t avoid it, they can’t go underground, they have to live with the people who harass and threaten them. What we need is more protection for media professionals, more consistent punishment of crimes, and more media literacy education,” says Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director of ECPMF.

From 01 January 2015 to 01 March 2022, ECPMF has recorded 287 assaults against media professionals. Assaults include punching, kicking, pushing, and spitting, as well as assault with weapons. ECPMF is a non-profit organisation based in Leipzig that campaigns for press freedom throughout Europe.

Feindbild Journalist 6 – Hate on the doorstep

Key findings

  • Another negative record: With 83 physical assaults against media professionals, the year
  • 2021 exceeds the record previously set in 2020 (69 attacks).
  • Crime scene demonstrations: 75% of all cases occurred at protests against COVID-19 containment measures.
  • Hate is moving westward: Although Saxony remains the negative leader with 23 cases, attacks in Western Germany are increasing significantly.
  • Wide-ranging political classification: 39% of the assaults in 2021 were from the right-wing, 1% from the left-wing, and 60% could not be clearly attributed.
  • A worrying development: Journalists are increasingly withdrawing from from reporting on protests.
  • Winter of violence: 19 cases in December 2021, 18 cases in January 2022 – never before have so many cases been recorded within two months.
  • Overall view 2015-2021: ECPMF documented 265 cases.

Eine Studie des Europäischen Zentrums für Presse- und Medienfreiheit in Kooperation mit dem Bundesverband Digitalpublisher und Zeitungsverleger im Rahmen des Media Freedom Rapid Response

Library

MFRR Summit 2022 | Boosting Press Freedom

MFRR Summit 2022 | Boosting Press Freedom

Under the title of “Boosting Press Freedom”, this year’s summit will take place from 22 – 24 March. The Summit panels will all be streamed online on the MFRR YouTube channelTwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn. Be sure to subscribe to the channels to stay up to date!

Specialised workshops for journalists, media professionals, journalist association representatives, and journalism students will take place on Zoom. Registration for the workshops and the full conference programme will be available closer to the conference date so keep an eye on the MFRR website and subscribe to the MFRR in Focus newsletter for the latest updates.

Reflecting the title of “Boosting Press Freedom”, this year’s event will embrace the holistic approach MFRR takes to supporting media freedom, with sessions focusing on reporting from protests, online harassment, SLAPPs and other legal challenges, freedom of information, state capture, media pluralism, and much more! As well as the panels and workshops, each day will feature a keynote from leading stakeholders within the EU media freedom landscape.

We look forward to seeing you all at the Summit! More details about registration and participation will be shared across our channels, including this newsletter, in the coming weeks so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, we encourage you to save the date!

Summit programme

Safety of journalists

Legal threats

Pluralist media for a democratic society

MFRR-Summit-22

MFRR Summit 2022 | Day 3 | Pluralist Media…

MFRR Summit 2022 | Day 3

Pluralist media for a democratic society

24.03.2022

Keynote address

13:00 – 13:45 CET

The final day of the summit will open with a keynote from Veronika Munk, Editor-in-Chief of Telex, who will talk about leading a successful independent media outlet in the most captured environment in Europe and how that is impacting the election campaign and prospects of free and fair elections

Speaker:

  • Veronika Munk, Editor In Chief and Head of Content Development at Telex

Competing Models of Media Capture in Europe

Media capture in Czech Republic and Bulgaria and prospects for reform following changes in government

14:00 – 14:45 CET

During this session, we will hear from contributors to two reports from the International Press Institute (IPI) on media capture in Czech Republic, and Bulgaria and prospects for reform following changes in government.

Speakers:

  • Oliver Money-Kyrle, Head of Europe Advocacy and Programmes at International Press Institute (Chair)
  • Michal Klima, advisor to the Government on media freedom (Czech Republic)
  • Boryana Dzhambazova, freelance journalist (Bulgaria)
  • Marius Dragomir, Director of the Center for Media, Data and Society at the Central European University (Hungary)

Homegrown

Supporting local media

15:30 – 16:15 CET

Local news media play a critical role in informing citizens and enabling democratic participation, especially concerning particular topics of local interest. Local and regional outlets however are facing tremendous challenges, including declining audiences and increasing financial pressure, while not being immune from the problems facing the media more generally, such as increasing hostility against their journalists. What is at stake when local reporting is lost and how can we turn the tide on this trend?

Speakers:

  • Lucie Sykorova, Executive Board, ECPMF (Chair)
  • Francesca Rita, Researcher at Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
  • Anja Pasquay, Spokeswoman of German Association of Newspaper and Digital Publishers (BDZV)
  • Julia Hildebrand, Project lead of beabee at CORRECTIV

Case study

  • Hannah Suppa, Chief editor of Leipziger Volkszeitung

Spotlight interview

With Olga Tokariuk

16:30 – 16:45 CET

For the final spotlight interview of the 2022 MFRR Summit, Olga Tokariuk, independent Ukrainian journalist and disinformation researcher, spoke to Camille Petit, Communications and Project Officer at the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) about her experience as a journalist during Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Host:

  • Camille Petit, Communications and Project Officer, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Speaker:

  • Olga Tokariuk, independent Ukrainian journalist and researcher

#ReportIt

Discover the new #MapMF Alert Explorer 

17:00 – 18:00 CET

Online abuse, physical attacks, and defamation lawsuits are just some of the threats faced every day by journalists and media professionals across Europe. The workshop will teach you how to search and report press freedom violations so they can be tracked, and support can be offered. Mapping Media Freedom is an innovative platform which uses Artificial Intelligence to monitor attacks and threats to media professionals in Europe as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR). The programme is led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom with several partners and funded by the European Commission. This workshop will offer an introduction to the public platform and the monitoring system and will also include a practical section for participants to learn how to upload alerts and search for information. It will be led by Antje Schlaf and Neus Vidal, in charge of the monitoring system at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

Speakers:

  • Antje Schlaf, Mapping Media Freedom Consultant, ECPMF
  • Neus Vidal, Monitoring Officer, ECPMF
MFRR-Summit-22

MFRR Summit 2022 | Day 2 | Legal Threats

MFRR Summit 2022 | Day 2

Legal threats

23.03.2022

Keynote address

13:00 – 13:45 CET

Day 2 of the Summit will open with an introductory video message from Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency. This will be followed by a keynote from Matthew Caruana Galizia, investigative journalist and director of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation. 

Speaker:

  • Marie Frenay, Member of Cabinet of Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency
  • Matthew Caruana Galizia, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and software engineer and Director of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

Push back against SLAPPs

Advancing protection against legal abuse

14:00 – 14:45 CET

Across Europe, powerful and thin-skinned elites use Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) to threaten journalists and outlets into silence and stifle public debate and democratic participation by abusing the law. Recognition of the need to tackle this threat at the domestic level and as a regional phenomenon is growing, however. In addition to hearing from journalists who face SLAPPs, this panel will discuss the latest legislative and policy developments at the European Union and Council of Europe levels.

For the introductory case study, we will hear from a spokesperson for Luhze, a Leipzig students’ newspaper. They faced vexatious legal action from a real estate company, who accused the student outlet of spreading false claims in relation to their reporting about the company’s business model.

Speakers:

  • Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19 (Chair)
  • Flutura Kusari, Senior Legal Adviser at ECPMF
  • Miquel Roig and Angel Villarino, Deputy Editor and Deputy Director at El Confidencial
  • Giulia Lucchese, Secretary of the Expert Committee on SLAPPs, Council of Europe

Case study

Access requested

Challenges to freedom of information

15:30 – 16:15 CET

How can journalists force governments to disclose information? Freedom of Information Acts are usually described as the main legal tool to request data held by public authorities. However, public bodies do not always answer these requests and many petitions are challenged before the Courts. The panel will offer an overview of the most common difficulties faced by journalists when using these pieces of legislation, and will also focus on the main steps that could be taken to ensure that information is published when requested.

Alexander Fanta, journalist at Netzpolitik.org, will speak about his demand for transparency surrounding text messages between EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla regarding the deal to buy 1.8 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine. The panel will also include other recent cases in which journalists have resorted to Freedom of Information Acts to demand information about public interest topics such as minutes of judicial meetings and algorithms used in decision-making processes.

Speakers:

  • Neus Vidal, Monitoring Officer at the European Centre for Press Freedom (Chair)
  • Helen Darbishire, Executive Director at AccessInfo Europe (UK)
  • Miguel Ángel Gavilanes, Journalist at Civio (Spain)
  • Besar Likmeta, Editor-in-chief at Reporter.al (BIRN, Albania)

Case study

  • Alexander Fanta, Netzpolitik (Belgium)

Spotlight interview

With Vladimir Motorin

16:30 – 16:50 CET

In the second spotlight interview of the 2022 MFRR Summit, Vladimir Motorin, Editor-in-Chief of the TV Rain website, will discuss the ongoing oppression of independent journalism in Russia and his experience with Dozhd, also known as TV Rain, an independent Russian television channel.

Host:

  • Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Speaker

  • Vladimir Motorin, Editor-in-Chief of the TV Rain website

Navigating practical support

Workshop: Discover PRESSProtect and the MFRR support package

17:00 – 18:00 CET

Join our workshop to discover PRESSProtect, our new website that gathers different support offers from organisations all over the world for journalists and media workers in distress! Learn how to navigate the platform, dedicated to connecting journalists in Europe with supporting organisations.


PRESSProtect also gives an insight into the direct support the MFRR can provide. Get the opportunity to talk with the people behind our legal, practical and relocation support, to give us your feedback and to ask your questions.

Speakers:

  • Guusje Somer, FPU (Chair)
  • Tabea Caspary, Legal Assistant, ECPMF
  • Tomas A. Chang Pico, Senior Programme Officer, FPU
  • Alina Toropova, Journalists-in-Residence Programme Manager, ECPMF
  • Katrin Schatz, Project Manager Practical Support, ECPMF
MFRR-Summit-22

MFRR Summit 2022 | Day 1 | Safety of…

MFRR Summit 2022 | Day 1

Safety of journalists

22.03.2022

Opening message and keynote address

13:00 – 13:45 CET

The MFRR Summit 2022 will open with an intro message from Laurens Hueting, Senior Advocacy Officer at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF). This will be followed by a keynote address by Roberto Saviano.

Saviano is an Italian journalist, writer and screenwriter who uses literature and investigative reporting to tell the story of organised crime. He has been living under police protection since 2006.

Speakers:

  • Roberto Saviano, writer, author of Gomorrah and ZeroZeroZero (Italy)

#HereToReport

Journalists’ safety at protests

14:00 – 14:45 CET

Demonstrations remain flashpoints for media freedom violations across the region, as reporters continue to be faced with physical violence and verbal harassment from protesters and the police alike. The central question in this session is: how do we move towards a Europe where the realisation of the right to protest and the safety of journalists go hand-in-hand?

After an introductory case study on Emma Audrey’s experience we will hear from the panel, chaired by Renate Schroeder with Monique Hofmann, Tony Rigopoulos and Peter Smets who will discuss their perspectives.

Speakers:

  • Renate Schroeder, Director of the European Federation of Journalists (Chair)
  • Monique Hofmann, Managing Director of the German Journalists Union (dju) in ver.di (Germany)
  • Tony Rigopoulos, Editor-in-Chief of Kouti Pandoras and journalist with Documento (Greece)
  • Peter Smets, President of the European Federation of Police Unions EU.pol (Belgium)

Case study:

  • Emma Audrey, Radio Bip

A web of abuse

Threats to journalists’ safety online

15:30 – 16:15 CET

The digital space is one of the most common places where journalists are subjected to attacks and harassment in connection to their work. And while the threats and attacks take place in a digital setting, the implications of such actions affect the physical lives and mental health of the targeted journalists.

Following an introductory case study from an affected journalist, the session will continue with a panel discussion chaired by MFRR Coordinator Gürkan Özturan, with Guilherme Canela De Souza Godoi, who will present the ICFJ-UNESCO Global Study on Online Violence Against Women Journalists and Flora Schulte Nordholt, who will talk about the work of the Coalition Against Online Violence.

Speakers:

  • Gürkan Özturan, MFRR Coordinator at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (Chair)
  • Guilherme Canela De Souza Godoi, Chief of Section – Freedom of Expression and Journalists Safety at UNESCO 
  • Flora Schulte Nordholt, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Free Press Unlimited
  • Sitara Thalia Ambrosio, photojournalist and visual storyteller

Case study:

  • Burcu Karakaş, Journalist at Deutsche Welle

Spotlight interview

With Sevgil Musaieva

16:30 – 16:50 CET

In the first spotlight interview of the MFRR Summit 2022, MFRR Coordinator Gürkan Özturan spoke to Sevgil Musaieva, a Ukrainian journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Ukrayinska Pravda, about the specific challenges of practicing journalism during times of war.

Host:

  • Gürkan Özturan, MFRR Coordinator at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

Speaker:

  • Sevgil Musaieva, Ukrainian journalist and Editor-in-Chief of Ukrayinska Pravda.

Online Harassment: Building Resilience

Workshop: Threat modelling and tools for digital defence

17:00 – 18:00 CET

Many journalists experience online abuse because of their work, from harassing comments on social media to direct threats and coordinated smear campaigns designed to silence freedom of speech. It takes its toll: Many who are affected by this feel insecurity, stress and depression, and it may in the long run lead to self-censorship. This introductory session will provide journalists with a global view of how online harassment plays out globally as well as providing journalists with practical tips to better protect themselves. Participants are encouraged to ask questions throughout the session.

Ela Stapley is a former journalist turned digital security adviser and founder of Siskin Labs. She works with journalists around the world to help them be better protected against digital threats.

Host:

  • Ela Palmer Stapley, Digital Safety Consultant
Peter R de Vries (composition + photo: DWDD) Library

“When journalists can no longer report without fear, it…

“When journalists can no longer report without fear, it affects us all”

An interview with investigative reporter Benedikt Strunz about the attack on Peter de Vries

When leaving the TV studio in Amsterdam, crime reporter Peter de Vries was shot in the head. ECPMF spoke with Benedikt Strunz, expert for organised crime at German public broadcaster NDR. Strunz says: “We need more reporters like him, not less.”

Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries is fighting for his life in hospital after being shot down in Lange Leidsedwars street in Amsterdam on 6 July at around 7.30 pm. De Vries had just left the RTL Boulevard studio on foot, where he had been a guest. After leaving the building, he was shot five times at close range, including in the head, in a side street of the studio. The police have arrested three suspects.

Peter R. de Vries (64) is a well-known Dutch investigative journalist who covered high-profile criminal investigations. He worked for De Telegraaf, Panorama magazine, Algemeen Dagblad and had his own crime programme on television. He won an international Emmy Award in 2008 for his work investigating the 2006 disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba.

According to a media report, De Vries has been threatened in the past and had received police protection. He said on Twitter in 2019 that he would be on a death list. He has been acting as a counselor to a state witness testifying in the case against Ridouan T., suspected of murder and drug trafficking. Before the attack on De Vries the brother and the former lawyer of the state witness had been murdered.

The General Secretary of the Dutch Journalists’ Union Thomas Bruning declared: “This is what you always hoped would not happen. Of course, it remains to be seen what De Vries’ activities are related to, but the attack took place outside RTL Boulevard. It goes straight to the heart of journalism. Let’s hope and pray for his health.”

 

ECPMF spoke to investigative journalist Benedikt Strunz, an expert on organised crime working for German public broadcaster NDR.

 

Photo: Benedikt Strunz

ECPMF: Mr Strunz, the attempted murder of Peter de Vries shocked the European public sphere. How do you assess this gruesome act?

Benedikt Strunz: I am honestly deeply shocked. I have been following Peter’s work for many years, he is an absolute authority on organised crime. And even though I have no illusions about the current development in the field of organised crime in the Netherlands, I would not have thought such an act possible. I very much hope that he will recover. We need more reporters like him, not less.

 

ECPMF: De Vries is a prominent person in the Netherlands. What kind of message is linked with attacking him?

Strunz: The message that goes out from this assassination attempt is: we can get any of you. And neither your social status nor the police can protect you. And this message is not only addressed to us investigative journalists. This attack is directed against a whole society.

 

ECPMF: It is still to be proved if the attempted murder is related to his work as an investigative journalist. The probability is high, to say the least. How dangerous is the work for investigative reporters in the Netherlands and/or in Germany?

Strunz: I know from very close colleagues that the situation in the Netherlands has worsened considerably. Some colleagues working in the field of reporting on organised crime are nowadays under police protection. This is actually impossible for an investigative journalist, because it makes it almost impossible to guarantee source protection and confidentiality. I think the situation is better in Germany, but I also know colleagues here who are regularly attacked and threatened because they report on criminal clan families. Of course, you take risks in this working-field and there are threats every now and then. But what happens in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or North Brabant is definitely something different.

 

ECPMF: If it was organised crime having commissioned this assault, de Vries stands in one row with Jan Kuciak,Daphne Caruana Galizia and most likely Giorgos Karaivaz. What effect do these murders have on the European community of investigative journalists?

Strunz: In Europe, we have come to know and live a very beautiful principle in recent years. It comes from the organization Forbidden Stories and it says: if you kill one of us, many of us will come and continue his or her or their work. Organised crime needs silence and darkness to grow. I can’t speak for all of my colleagues, of course, but those I’ve spoken to about the assassination attempt are very united in saying that we will continue our work undaunted. But of course, an attack like this is something that makes you think. The only weapons we have to defend ourselves are the pen and the microphone. We now need very strong civil society and political support to outlaw such crimes.

 

ECPMF: The Netherlands are a role model regarding the protection of journalists. Nevertheless they remain a vulnerable group. What do you think has to be done to improve the protection of journalists?

Strunz: The Marengo case has become a test for the Dutch rule of law. And I think the police and the judiciary would do very well to fully clarify this case, with all its entanglements. So that in the end no one can have the feeling that murder or intimidation paid off. And of course it is our task as journalists, whether we work investigatively or in the newsroom, to report on this case. As I said, organised crime hates nothing as much as the light of publicity.

But I also think that we urgently need a European response. I remember very well the horrible murder of Daphne. At that time I thought to myself: I hope I will not experience something so terrible a second time in my professional life. Today, a few years later, murders of journalists are a recurring phenomenon in Europe as well. We therefore need programmes for journalists under threat in Europe as well, and the European community must ensure that attacks on us in partner countries are ruthlessly investigated. In some of the cases mentioned here, I do not have the impression that this is happening. I can therefore only issue a warning. When journalists can no longer report without fear, it affects us all. Because democracy needs the free word in order to live.

About Benedikt Strunz:

Benedikt Strunz works as an investigative journalist for the public broadcaster NDR in Hamburg. His research focuses on organised crime and white-collar crime. Benedikt has been involved in several international investigations, including Luxemburg Leaks, Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, FinCen Files and Cartel Project. He is author of the podcast “Organisiertes Verbrechen- Recherchen im Verborgenen” (https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/info/podcast4992.html). His work has been awarded with the German Radio Award twice.

Erk Acarer - photo: Twitter upload (https://twitter.com/eacarer) Library

Germany: Exiled Turkish journalist attacked outside his apartment in…

Germany: Exiled Turkish journalist attacked outside his apartment in Berlin

On 7 July, exiled Turkish journalist Erk Acarer was attacked with “fists and knives” outside his apartment in Berlin. Acarer has lived in German exile since 2017 because of his critical reporting of the Turkish government. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its German affiliates, the German Journalists Association (DJV) and the German Journalists Union (dju in ver.di), as well as its Turkish affiliates in strongly condemning this aggression.

The attack took place on Wednesday night in the Berlin district of Neukölln, where three assailants beat him with their fists and knives in his yard. The journalists reported the attack on Twitter, where he shared photos of his injuries and described what had happened. In a video, Acarer said that one of the attackers shouted “You will not write!” . “I know the perpetrators. I will never surrender to fascism,” the journalist reacted. Acarer said that security told him not to disclose names.

The journalist was treated in a hospital for his head injury, which was reportedly not severe. He and his family have been placed under police protection. On Thursday, Berlin police confirmed the attack but did not share details of the suspects.

Facing threats in Turkey because of his critical reporting on the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Acarer and his family came to Germany in 2017. He was also charged for publishing classified information on state security and intelligence activities.

Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, also living in exile in Germany, called it a “direct message” from the Turkish head of state that Turkey could attack a journalist critical of the regime – even in Berlin.

The DJV called the attack “shocking” and drew comparisons with the Skripal case, saying that “the Turkish president is apparently learning from his colleague in Moscow”.

Monique Hofmann, dju in ver.di General Secretary, said: “Only by systematically investigating the motives behind the crime and prosecuting the perpetrators can we prevent the threats to media workers, which they have fled to their home countries, from continuing here.”

“We are appalled by this attack and call on the German authorities to thoroughly and swiftly investigate this cruel aggression. We need governments to do everything to protect all journalists, be they journalists in exile, freelancers or staff journalists,” stated Renate Schroeder, Director of the EFJ.
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UK whistleblower Jonathan Taylor released from extradition hell

UK whistleblower Jonathan Taylor released from extradition hell

We are delighted to announce that on Wednesday 7 July 2021, Croatian Justice Minister Ivan Malenica formally rejected the request by Monaco to extradite UK whistleblower Jonathan Taylor. Jonathan Taylor’s Support Group extends its gratitude to the Minister for taking the right decision.

The move comes following sustained calls for the past 11 months from human rights and civil liberties campaigners across Europe – and UK MPs –  for his immediate release and safe return home. Legal experts backing the release of Jonathan Taylor said there was no proper legal basis for Monaco to seek Mr. Taylor’s extradition and the process was retaliatory in nature. Lawyers acting on behalf of Jonathan Taylor argued that it constituted an abuse of process.

Jonathan Taylor was arrested whilst on a family holiday in Croatia last July, and has been restrained there since. He has been isolated, away from his family, and unable to support himself or his family, all of which have taken an extreme toll on his mental wellbeing.

A former in-house lawyer for oil firm SBM Offshore based in Monaco, Jonathan Taylor blew the whistle in 2013 on a massive bribery scheme. Jonathan’s whistleblowing disclosures led to SBM Offshore paying over $800 million in fines in the US, Netherlands and Brazil and investigations which led to successful prosecutions of two former CEOs for fraud-related offences.

Yet nine years later, he was arrested on a questionable Interpol Red Notice  whilst on holiday, and wanted for questioning in Monaco over allegations made by his former employer over his settlement. The Red Notice was withdrawn by Monaco last December on the eve of Interpol making a determination on its validity. Jonathan denies wrongdoing and his lawyers have long argued there is no legal basis for extraditing him for questioning as he is neither charged nor convicted of any offences.

“I am of course elated that justice has finally prevailed and I am appreciative that Minister of Justice Ivan Malenica was able to pay regard to the salient legal arguments of my lawyers that were seemingly overlooked by the Courts in making his decision to reject Monaco’s flawed attempt at extraditing me,” states Jonathan Taylor.

“Special thanks go to all my supporters in Europe, overseas and in Croatia who somehow kept me sane in my year of need! Be assured that I remain resolute and proud of exposing serious wrongdoing at SBM Offshore and I will never be intimidated by the corrupt and those that shamefully seek retaliation against me for exposing them. I continue to stand ready to assist the Monaco Prosecutor in the event that a decision is made to pursue those responsible for SBM Offshore’s illicit business practices instead of me.”

We agree with Jonathan. The Minister of Justice of Croatia, Ivan Malenica, carefully considered the position of Jonathan Taylor as a whistleblower and a protected witness. His decision in this case has wider implications for the rule of law in Europe: it is a victory for the public’s right to know about wrongdoing by protecting the messengers of that information. Whistleblowers play a vital role in Europe’s fight against global corruption. Croatia has demonstrated its commitment to the rule of law and to the protection of whistleblowers.

We now call on Monaco to drop any further proceedings against Jonathan Taylor and to focus on the actions of SBM Offshore as a proper target for their investigations.

We wish Jonathan a safe return to the UK where he can begin to rebuild his life.

Signed by:

  • Access Info Europe
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Baroness Kramer, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing (UK)
  • Blueprint for Free Speech (Germany and Australia)
  • Centre for Free Expression (Canada)
  • Eurocadres – Council of European Professional & Managerial Staff
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • European Organisation of Military Associations and Trade Unions (EUROMIL)
  • Free Press Unlimited
  • GlobaLeaks
  • Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers (United Kingdom)
  • Martin Bright, Editor, Index on Censorship (United Kingdom)
  • Mary Robinson MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing (UK)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Pištaljka (Serbia)
  • Professor David Lewis, Middlesex University (UK)
  • Protect (United Kingdom)
  • Sherpa (France)
  • SpeakOut SpeakUp Ltd
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation (Malta)
  • The Government Accountability Project (USA)
  • The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF)
  • The Signals Network (USA/France)
  • Transparency International – Bulgaria
  • Transparency International EU
  • Transparency International Italy
  • Transparency International Secretariat
  • WhistleblowersUK (UK)
  • Whistleblowing International Network (WIN)
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Slovenian government eroding media freedom as it takes over…

Slovenian government eroding media freedom as it takes over EU Presidency

The Slovenian government of Prime Minister Janez Janša is overseeing an increasingly systematic effort to undermine critical media, a coalition of press freedom organisations and journalism groups warn today in a new report.

The report concludes that Slovenia, which assumes the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1, has seen press freedom deteriorate ever since Janša returned to power in March 2020. Since then, the ruling SDS party has embarked on a multipronged campaign to reshape the media landscape in favour of a pro-government narrative, renewing tactics successful during previous administrations and forging ahead with new forms of pressure.

The front line of this campaign is an aggressive attempt to seize greater control of the country’s public service broadcaster and national news agency using a mix of legal and administrative pressure, as well as vicious, often highly personal smears aimed at undermining the integrity and independence of these institutions.

The Slovenian Press Agency (STA), the lifeblood of the media market, has been drained of state funding since the beginning of the year in a calculated effort by the Government Communication Office (UKOM) to subdue the organisation and cement greater control over its financial and managerial operations.

Though the recent announcement that the government will finally pay an advance of €845.000 for 2021 costs is welcome, serious concerns remain over the conditionality of this agreement and its detrimental effects on the independence of the agency. We believe the government is only making this move because of the sustained criticism it has received for its actions and the need to remedy the situation before assuming the EU Presidency.

More broadly, leading government officials, including Janša himself, are stoking the toxicity of public debate by insulting and denigrating journalists – including via official government channels. This inflammatory rhetoric has led to rising self-censorship and an upsurge in threats against the press, both online and offline. Women journalists are particularly targeted with misogynistic and sexist insults.

Behind the scenes, an effort by SDS is underway to limit critical journalism at mainstream media and strengthen a network of partisan outlets linked to the government. Propaganda media are being rewarded with lucrative state advertising contracts, while government officials have sought to pressure editorial offices and reduce challenging coverage at some of the country‘s biggest commercial outlets.

These tactics raise alarm as they reflect elements of the media capture strategy employed by Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán. Moreover, an influx of Hungarian capital linked to Orbán’s Fidesz party is being used to prop up Slovenian pro-government media. Recently, Slovenia’s state-owned telecoms company suspended the sale of a media company after a Hungarian pro-government media outlet was outbid, raising questions about market manipulation and efforts to sell state media assets to SDS‘s political allies in Budapest.

The Janša administration has defended its media policy as necessary to “rebalance” a media landscape it claims is dominated by a historic leftist ideology. Aside from the fact that governments have no business interfering with the editorial lines of media outlets, SDS’ actions and rhetoric do not indicate a genuine interest in fostering greater pluralism but rather in delegitimizing independent media in favour of government-friendly coverage. The depiction of the press as beholden to a political ideology is used to divide the journalistic community down political lines and taint watchdog reporting as biased “opposition journalism”.

While legitimate concerns remain regarding post-independence media ownership concentration and transparency in the Slovenian media market, plans by the ruling SDS party would exacerbate those issues or pose new problems. Legislative proposals to tackle alleged bias at the STA would likewise increase political control over its oversight bodies, rather than lessen it.

While a fragile governing coalition and pushback from civil society and the journalistic community have so far limited the worst of the government’s attempts to erode critical journalism, significant damage has already been caused to the STA and media freedom more widely is once again under sustained threat.

The report follows a two-week online mission to Slovenia carried out by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) between 24 May and 2 June 2021. Jointly led by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI), it was joined by MFRR members Article 19, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Free Press Unlimited and Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa. Representatives of Reporters without Borders, European Broadcasting Union, South East Europe Media Organisation and the Public Media Alliance also participated

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Italy: Defamation law must be reformed

Italy: Defamation law must be reformed

A year after the Constitutional Court ruled on the unconstitutionality of prison sentences in cases of defamation through the press, on 22 June 2021 the Court issued a follow-up decision declaring art. 13 of Law 47/1948 (Press Law) not compliant with the Constitution. The Court has however declared art. 595(3) of the Penal Code, which provides for a sentence between one and six years of prison or the payment of a fine, compliant with the Constitution, but applicable only in cases of “exceptional severity”.

In June 2020, the Constitutional Court invited the Italian Parliament to remove specific provisions declared unconstitutional and promote a wider reform of the defamation framework. However, the Parliament did not meet the deadline set by the Court and failed to legislate on this matter, returning the decision to the judiciary. In its decision on 22 June 2021, in light of the lack of such initiative, the Court renewed its call on Parliament urging the promotion of a reform that could adequately balance the “freedom of expressing one’s own thought and (the) protection of individual reputation”. The lack of parliamentary initiative in pushing for comprehensive reform of the defamation framework in Italy is a long-standing issue that contributes to the erosion of a free and independent press and an increase in SLAPPs against journalists.

Data from Istat (Italian National Statistics Institute) shows that, in 2017 alone, a total of 9,479 proceedings for defamation were initiated against journalists, of which 60% were dismissed after preliminary investigation and 6.6% went to trial. Plaintiffs are often public figures – politicians, businessmen, or individuals involved in organized crime – who start legal proceedings against journalists with an aim to silence them and bury articles that often contain information on  corruption, tax evasion, or mafia collusion.

A reform of defamation laws is urgently needed to stop SLAPPs against journalists, which often lead to self-censorship and discourage newspapers and editors from publishing sensitive or controversial information for fear of incurring lengthy and expensive legal proceedings. The European Commission – aware of the need to counter this phenomenon within the EU – committed itself to promoting measures to counter SLAPPs within the EU block, following a request of an Anti-SLAPPs Coalition composed of 60 organizations in Europe, including the members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response. The European Parliament also recently took action against SLAPPs by promoting an “own-initiative report (INI)”, to be discussed on 28 June 2021, with an aim to push the Commission to adopt legislative measures to address SLAPPs.

The undersigned organisations urge the Italian Parliament to begin comprehensive reform of defamation laws in line with international freedom of expression standards as soon as possible. Such reform should center on the decriminalisation of defamation and set limits within civil law on the amount in damages that can be sought to avoid creating undue obstacles to the journalistic profession. Furthermore, this reform should address specific challenges posed by SLAPPs against journalists within the Italian framework. While the Italian Civil Code includes some provisions aimed at countering SLAPPs – art. 96 provides that those plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in “bad faith” must compensate the defendant – judges rarely recur to this provision in practice.

We call on the Italian Parliament to prioritise the reform of both criminal and civil defamation laws, drive discussions that will lead to the identification of measures that address Italian issue areas, and establish a framework that will protect journalists from indiscriminate use of the law to silence or discredit.

Cases of criminal defamation and civil lawsuits, such as SLAPPs, can be reported to mappingmediafreedom.org. The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) also provides financial legal support for journalists, media workers, and media outlets. For further information on legal aid, please visit https://www.mfrr.eu/support/legal-support or contact Flutura Kusari on kusari@ecpmf.eu.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (FNSI)
  • Sindacato Unitario Giornalisti Campania (SUGC)
  • Articolo 21
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)

This statement was first published by Article 19 on 23 June 2021