The EC Recommendation on journalists’ safety: A view from…

The EC Recommendation on journalists’ safety:

A view from the field one year on

21 September, 14:00 CEST.

On 16 September 2021, the European Commission published their Recommendation on the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists. The Recommendation illustrated the European Commission’s commitment to the safety of journalists and set out a range of measures that – if implemented – would see a marked improvement to journalist safety in EU member states.


One year on, journalists in Europe still face major threats to their safety and security. In this webinar, we will hear from a range of journalists about their experiences with the aim of creating a view from the media field, one year after the publication of the Recommendation.


Guusje Somer

Policy & Advocacy Officer, Free Press Unlimited


Emilia Sercan

Romanian investigative journalist, author and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Science within the University of Bucharest

Maja Sever

Journalist and President of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Turkish journalist blacklist Library

Turkey: Solidarity with twenty journalists including TGS leadership blacklisted…

Turkey: Solidarity with twenty journalists including TGS leadership blacklisted by police

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) expressed solidarity with the twenty journalists blacklisted by the Turkish General Directorate of Security (EGM) for their writing and joined Turkey’s Journalists Union (TGS) in denouncing an apparent attempt to intimidate independent journalists and trade unionists.

On 5 September, the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) revealed that the General Directorate of Security (EGM) had blacklisted 20 journalists in relation to their writings for the online magazine Journalist Post, a periodical run by journalists living in exile. No legal proceedings have yet been initiated against them.


The confidential document, containing the blacklist, was disclosed during the trial of MA editor-in-chief Dicle Müftüoğlu, on trial under terrorism charges. According to media reports, the list was prepared based on intelligence information collected against the Fethullah Gülen movement for anti-terrorism police departments. Based on this intelligence information, the EGM Foreign Relations Department of the Turkish Police classified Journalist Post as being run by a Fethullah Gülen-linked network.


Since 2020, four magazine issues have been published as part of a solidarity campaign for freedom of expression and press freedom worldwide. It featured 74 articles, interviews, news and analysis written by journalists and academics from 32 different countries, available in Turkish, English and German.


The list includes the name of the journalists who have been involved in running the magazine or contributing to it, their ID numbers, their positions, and whether they have an entry with their ID numbers on the National Judiciary Network (UYAP).


The listed journalists are: Engin Sağ, Şemsi Açıkgöz, Mustafa Kılıç, Yüksek Durgut, Ramiz Kılıçarslan, Necdet Çelik, Hasan Cücük,  İsmail Muhammet Sağıroğlu, Enes Cansever,  Basri Doğan, Türkmen Terzi, Vedat Demir, Rabia Yavuz Türe, Yunus Erdoğdu, Naciye Nur Kılıç, Erkan Pehlivan, Erkin Emet, Dicle Müftüoğlu, Dicle Fırat (Journalists Association DFG Co-chairperson), Mustafa Kuleli (General Secretary of Journalists Union of Turkey and EFJ Vice-President) and Gökhan Durmuş (President of Journalists Union of Turkey).


Listed among the 20 journalists, EFJ Vice-President Mustafa Kuleli reacted: “Erdogan’s regime is trying to criminalise journalism and advocacy by juxtaposing them with terrorism. They are trying to intimidate us. We will continue to defend journalists, journalism and democracy.  As I wrote in my article that got me blacklisted: Turkey is bigger than Erdogan. The people of Turkey will eventually defeat tyranny and despotism.”


Our organisations urge the Turkish authorities to end the repression of media freedom advocates and to not start legal proceedings against the listed journalists. Thirty-eight journalists and media workers are still behind bars in Turkish prisons for doing their job in the public interest.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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OK Radio Library

Serbia: Support for OK Radio as it faces intimidation…

Serbia: Support for OK Radio as it faces intimidation by powerful businessperson

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today express support and solidarity with embattled broadcaster OK Radio and urge Serbian law enforcement authorities to put an end to the dangerous campaign of harassment and pressure exerted on the media outlet by a powerful local businessperson.

Over the last few months, OK Radio, a leading independent radio station which covers local news in the southern city of Vranje, has faced an increasingly violent wave of attacks and intimidation from Dejan Nikolic Kantar, a powerful gambling businessperson. Pressure on the media outlet and its staff began in March 2022 after they filed a complaint to an inspector about plans by a company connected to Kantar to illegally build a new gambling business on the site next to the radio station.


Around this time, the radio station’s owner Olivera Vladković told police that she received threats over the phone from Kantar, who demanded she give consent for the construction or face “problems”. After OK Radio refused to back down, in April masked individuals smashed windows at the “No Comment” cafe, a business attached to the station which is also owned by Vladković and provides OK Radio with a large part of its income.


In early June, construction of the betting shop continued without permits and walled up one of the windows of the radio station overnight. OK Radio reported the news and shared pictures. Soon after, the café was vandalised again when a man was filmed spray painting the building. An individual then entered the café holding a mobile phone with the speaker turned on, through which Kantar screamed threats at OK Radio staff and journalists.


As the plight of the radio station gained national attention, representatives of Serbia’s Permanent Working Group for Safety of Journalists visited Vranje in mid-June to support OK Radio. Posters were put up overnight in the streets of Vranje which depicted a fake arrest warrant for Veran Matić, a leading member of the Working Group. Four men were recently tried but found not guilty of threatening the safety of Matić.


On June 16, Kantar was arrested for violent behaviour after he went to the café to allegedly threaten OK Radio journalists. Two other individuals who are alleged to have carried out attacks on his behalf have also been detained. All three are facing criminal charges brought by prosecutors and have denied the allegations. Kantar, a leading figure in the local gambling and construction industry, is currently serving separate sentences for violent behaviour and illegal betting, according to reports. Although a planning inspector has ordered the illegal building to be demolished, local companies have refused to carry out the demolition for fear of reprisals.


Most recently, during the trial of the businessperson on August 16, Kantar explicitly threatened the radio station’s owners in the courthouse telling them: “The fact that you said in court that you are afraid, you are right, you have reasons to be afraid, and I will not stop…”. According to reports, he also made a veiled death threat in a reference to murders at the Jasenovac concentration camp in 1941, at which point he made the sound of gunfire. In recent months, two employees have left their jobs at OK Radio over fears for their safety.


Our organisations view these actions as a brazen attempt by a local strongman to threaten the media outlet into silence, put its staff in danger, and intimidate other journalists from critical reporting on Kantar and his business interests. These tactics are used all too often by powerful business interests in Serbia who feel that they can threaten the media with impunity.


We urge Serbian authorities to ensure the safety of the journalists and staff at OK Radio and demonstrate that such attacks on journalists will not go unpunished. We also welcome the vocal support given to OK Radio by media representatives of the Permanent Working Group for Safety of Journalists and the wider journalistic community in Serbia. Our organisations will continue to monitor the situation closely and will be watching for the next hearing in the trial on the violent attacks against OK Radio scheduled for September 30.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • OBC Transeuropa

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Analysis: Strengthening Moldova’s independent press in the shadow of…

Analysis: Strengthening Moldova’s independent press in the shadow of polarisation and propaganda

By IPI Contributor Daniel Salaru

Following the election of a pro-EU president in 2020, Moldova’s independent press has grown in strength and significance. However, challenges remain as a result of the country’s political and social instability, its vast levels of corruption, and the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine. Among growing regional tensions, Moldova’s independent press is preparing for an uncertain future.

Moldova, historically a frontier between empires, continues to suffer as a result of its past. Despite gaining independence from the USSR in 1991, its society has been continuously divided between aligning with the west or the former Soviet sphere.


The conflict between these opposing viewpoints led to the tumultuous early years of independence, with the tiny nation being divided between one central government, an autonomous territorial unit, Gagauzia, and a separatist region occupied by Russian forces, Transnistria.


The coming to power of President Maia Sandu’s pro-western government in 2020 brought new hopes for an independent press. However, against the backdrop of the nearby war in Ukraine, growing political and economic uncertainty continues to impede press freedom and pluralism to this day.


Between jingoists, oligarchs, and politicians 

Moldova’s press environment, though diverse, remains highly polarized. While the news conglomerates of oligarch and former Democratic Party of Moldova leader Vlad Plahotniuc collapsed after he fled the country in 2019, a new threat soon emerged. Another media empire rose to prominence under the control of the pro-Russian Socialist party (PSRM). Seven notable TV channels, several dozen news portals and Telegram channels, alongside dozens of political commentators, came under the direct or indirect control of the PSRM and its leader, Igor Dodon. Their rhetoric was continuously bolstered by Russian propaganda, exploiting the popularity of the Russian language in Moldova.


Despite an often-hostile environment, independent outlets continued to reveal the corruption of leading officials and fight disinformation. RISE, a leading independent Moldovan investigative outlet, released a notable series of reports discussing the ties between Kremlin and Dodon. Other investigative outlets often used their platforms to expose the opulence and schemes of oligarchs, public officials, and members of the judiciary. The free press has had successes in exposing the root causes of disinformation.


However, the combined efforts of the pro-Kremlin and pro-PSRM media networks continued to undermine popular confidence in state institutions and the very concept of Moldovan independence, making it difficult for independent outlets to gain the trust of the public. Despite domestic and international efforts, low levels of media literacy often rendered many in Moldova susceptible to disinformation campaigns.


“Propaganda is like radiation, it is very hard to contain,” said Vladimir Thorik, the Russian-language editor of RISE, in an interview with IPI. “No matter what you do, you can’t succeed. Propaganda appeals to the ideas of the good old Soviet times and that the West is foreign to Moldovan society. It uses corrupted methods and ideas.”


After 2020, the increasingly hostile rhetoric of the pro-Russian media, both external and internal, continued to sow instability. A 2021 poll by the Institute of Public Politics, a Moldovan civil society organization, found that 90 percent of the inhabitants of Gagauzia got their news from Russian-language media outlets. A total of 62 percent of the respondents expressed their extreme confidence in Russian-language news. These channels were controlled either by the Kremlin or the PSRM.


Russia’s influence remained strong in all territories of the Republic, as Moldova’s governmental institutions were simply not strong enough to counter the barrage of disinformation.


However, the war in Ukraine brought the battle against disinformation into the spotlight.


A new fight 

After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in an effort to counter the increasingly damaging effects of Kremlin propaganda, the Moldovan parliament effectively banned the broadcast of news, military, political and analytical Russian programmes on June 22. However, even this radical ban was not able to counter the effects of years of disinformation.

“In Gagauzia and Transnistria they air Russian news channels and the Chisinau authorities cannot do anything about it,” said Thorik.

Disinformation continued to spread through the internet. The Socialist-controlled TV channels, while supposedly airing Moldovan news, ignored the war in Ukraine at best and disseminated Kremlin talking points at worst.

“Some media chose to not talk about the war, but talked a lot about refugees, failing to discuss who started the war and how the war was going. It was bizarre,” said Nadine Gogu, the executive director of the leading Moldovan press freedom NGO Center for Independent Journalism (CJI), in an interview with IPI. “A lot of Russian content replaced this, like shows and movies. Once Russian talk shows were banned, even the shows not discussing politics still discussed politics, as the Russians adapted and tried to reach outside Russia.”

Facing a weakened, yet persistent network of disinformation, Moldovan outlets continue to look for new ways to counter disinformation and strengthen their presence. However, the ever-present military threat from Russia via Transnistria and Gagauzia has created a permanent level of uncertainty for all outlets in Moldova.


Adapting to the new reality 

The full-scale conflict in Ukraine, at its start, presented an unprecedented challenge to Moldovan outlets. Amidst a drastic increase in work intensity, advertising revenues collapsed, while staffing shortages became more acute.


“The first months were very difficult,” said Gogu. “Advertising revenues fell drastically… a lot of mass media institutions were left without the few revenues that were coming from advertising. Some said that this withdrawal was even selective, advertising was taken from the outlets that were actually reporting about the war, while others who chose to ignore the war or be silent on it continued to receive revenues.”


“The volume of work has grown massively, editors are few and continue to remain in small numbers,” Gogu added. “People continue to be exhausted, working seven days a week as things are changing hour to hour, minute to minute. They do not have the resources to hire people, due to the fall in advertising revenues.”


Despite these hardships, the free press has attempted to adapt to the new reality. Through new international partnerships and methods of financing, as well as long-term education campaigns, many hope to break the media bubble that some Moldovans have found themselves in.


“We started talking more intensively with Ukrainians and Russians,” said Thorik. “We have the Transnistrian problem and many other threats that we did not talk about much before.” Indeed, in cooperation with the independent Ukrainian outlet Slidstvo, RISE published an investigation into the use of Ukrainian passports by leading Transnistrian leaders in order to travel freely through Europe. “On the one hand, they organized a mini North Korea and on the other hand they used the passports to go abroad,” said Thorik.


Many in the independent press have also increasingly looked to outside grants to compensate the loss of advertising revenues. As advertising contracts are often politically motivated, grants act as a guarantor of editorial independence for many outlets. “Today many Moldovan outlets have accessed international grants,” said Gogu. “They wish to continue their work.”


However, problems with grants persist.


“There was some international aid,” stated Thorik. “There were some grants for improving safety. However, they were not structural or institutional grants, they were one-time, purchasing equipment piece-by-piece for the time being. As we see from the example of Ukrainian journalists, once war starts, we have to be prepared. We are in a period of uncertainty, we do not know the threats that are facing us.” Like Ukrainian journalists themselves, members of the Moldovan free press have expressed their concern over the short-term nature of many of the grants.


Leading outlets and press freedom NGOs have also made efforts to increase levels of media literacy and critical analysis skills to improve the population’s ability to detect disinformation. Thanks to CJI support and leadership, in the 2021-2022 school year, the optional school subject of media education was taught by 128 teachers to 4,208 schoolkids across the entire country. The center supported numerous other projects promoting critical analysis skill and media literacy. “We work on media education and hope to integrate this concept in other institutions,” said Gogu.


Uncertainty on the horizon 

“It is calm now, but we do not know what will happen in the fall,” says Gogu. Independent journalism in Moldova, while currently showing remarkable progress, is ultimately under grave threat.


With the continuously evolving situation in Ukraine, as well as growing domestic hardships, it is likely that the challenges that the Moldovan press will face in its near future will be immense. With the growing potential for Moldova’s domestic situation to be exploited by external forces, it is imperative that the work of a free and independent press is continuously supported, both domestically and internationally.

This article is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries, and Ukraine. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

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Ukraine 6 month anniversary Library

Ukraine: MFRR partners reiterate call for safety and support…

Ukraine: MFRR partners reiterate call for safety and support of media 6 months after invasion 

Today, 24 August, marks both the Ukrainian day of Independence and six months since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression. On this occasion, the partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) reiterate our continued solidarity with the journalists and media workers who risk their lives and safety to bring the world independent, balanced, and accurate information from the frontlines.

The killing, kidnapping, and other attacks on journalists must stop and those responsible must face justice for their crimes under national and international law. The safety of media workers is essential to inform the world about the realities of the war, including the humanitarian consequences, and to hold the powerful accountable. 

In the six months since the invasion, at least 100 media freedom violations linked to the conflict in Ukraine have been recorded on Mapping Media Freedom. Journalists, both Ukrainian reporters and international correspondents, have been actively targeted and killed by the Russian troops. To date the MFRR consortium identified and verified eight journalists who have been killed in the line of duty. They are Yevheniy Sakun, Brent Renaud, Pierre Zakrzewski, Oleksandra Kuvshynova, Oksana Baulina, Maks Levin, Mantas Kvedaravičius, and Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff. According to the definition and the status of research other platforms and organisations publish higher numbers. Five were killed by gunfire, while the other three were killed by shelling. 

There is evidence that at least five more Ukrainian media workers and citizen journalists may have been killed or executed by Russian troops in occupied territory in apparent connection to their profession, though these have not yet been verified and the motive remains unclear. From the beginning of the war, reports emerged of the Russian army intentionally targeting media infrastructure, with many journalists being placed on so-called “wanted lists”. The immediate safety of journalists and media workers on the ground is of paramount importance and must be respected.

The invasion has also seen a complete collapse of the advertising market for news outlets. Without this key source of revenue for media, the long-term financial sustainability of news organisations has been severely threatened. Outlets have been forced to shut down and journalists have been placed on involuntary, unpaid leave. The lack of long-term, sustainable funding mechanisms, combined with an inability to make concrete future plans amid the uncertainty of war, leaves the media landscape severely weakened. In this context, citizens are much more susceptible to manipulative disinformation operations that distort available information, leading public opinion farther from facts and reality. 

With the start of the invasion, the MFRR partners joined international efforts to offer support and expand its mandate to cover journalists and media workers in Ukraine. Practical support was offered to cover the immediate needs of journalists in Ukraine to support the flow of information. In addition, the partners initiated new Journalists-in-Residence programmes in Germany and Kosovo with the support of local authorities in both countries. 

Despite ongoing efforts and an influx of foreign funding for media, increased support is still needed for journalists on the frontline, for media outlets struggling financially, and for media workers who are forced to work in exile as a consequence of the aggression. We reiterate our support for these independent voices from the region as they remain committed to providing invaluable independent journalism and keep the world informed of what is happening in Ukraine.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Patricia Schlesinger, Intendantin des rbb und ARD-Vorsitzende, spricht auf dem Eröffnungspanel der Medientage Mitteldeutschland in Leipzig. Bei den Medientagen Mitteldeutschland diskutieren bis Donnerstag (02.06.2022) Medienexperten über aktuelle Entwicklungen in der Branche. Library

Germany: Misuse of funds at RBB highlights need for…

Germany: Misuse of funds at RBB highlights need for greater accountability in publicly funded media

The partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) denounce the obvious misuse of public funds by Patricia Schlesinger, former director of Berlin’s public broadcaster Radio Berlin Brandenburg (RBB). We welcome her instant dismissal while demanding a thorough investigation and calling for improved accountability in publicly funded media.

On 15 August, the Rundfunkrat, which supervises the broadcaster, decided to instantly dismiss Ms. Schlesinger following her decision to step back from her position as director on 7 August. The dismissal was made in response to a wave of allegations related to mismanagement of public funds. Among the allegations are the allocation of a €100,000 consultancy contract to Schlesinger’s husband, Gerhard Spörl, and an alleged €1,400,000 renovation of the director’s office floor. It was also revealed that Schlesigner recently received a 16% pay rise, which left her with an annual salary totalling €303,000. These revelations have come forth at a time when the financially-strapped RBB has been cutting positions and programming costs.


While the MFRR reiterates EFJ’s call for the German authorities to conduct a proper investigation into suspicions of corruption, the partners also express concern at the wider reputational damage it has already caused to RBB. This particular concern has been backed up by reports of abuse directed at RBB journalists and media workers in the wake of the scandal. According to t-online.de, “Criticism, insults and abuse have become the order of the day” following the accusations against Schlesinger scandal have put a great strain on the journalists’ work. “The vast majority of them are freelance reporters, who encounter viewers on the streets who do not hold back their criticism and are also carried away by insults and abuse.”


In addition, the reputational damage will have a wider impact on public service media both in Germany and across Europe. In recent years, governments throughout Europe have been cutting funding to public service media and questioning its funding system. The compulsory broadcasting licence fee has been a source of debate, with the German Government set to discuss renegotiating the fee with the Pubweb network of broadcasters in the coming months. In addition, distrust of and negativity towards public service media in Germany has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with opposition groups accusing public service media of bias and pushing a particular agenda. At a time when support for public interest media is at a major crossroads, Ms. Schlesinger’s actions will inevitably have a negative impact on its reputation in Germany. 


We fully support RBB’s journalists who continue working to offer a vital public service despite the ongoing controversy and condemn any attacks and abuse levelled at them as a result of the scandal. We also ask the German Public Service Media to substantially strengthen the auditing bodies and compliance departments within the broadcasters. The controlling bodies must be adequately staffed and resourced to balance the power of the directorate. Ms. Schlesinger’s case shows that without addressing these systemic issues, there remains a clear risk of misuse.

Signed by:

  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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The Shift News Malta Library

Malta: IPI supports Shift News in unprecedented freedom of…

Malta: IPI supports Shift News in unprecedented freedom of information battle

The International Press Institute (IPI) and its global network stand behind our member The Shift News as it faces an unprecedented legal battle with the Maltese government over freedom of information requests it submitted linked to expenditure of public contracts.

IPI sees the case as emblematic of the problematic climate for transparency, journalists’ access to information and media freedom in Malta. We support The Shift in its public interest mission to scrutinize power and provide citizens with information about the use of taxpayer money.


The Shift, a small independent news outlet, today launched a fresh crowdfunding campaign to help pay the legal costs of fighting the FOI cases in court. The estimated expense of challenging all the cases is €40,000 – half of its operational budget for one year.


To safeguard its independence, the online newspaper is the only media outlet in Malta which refuses to accept funding or advertising contacts from the government or any political party and is instead run on a community-funded model.


The Shift is facing identical, taxpayer-funded appeals from 40 different government entities against the decision of the Maltese Information and Data Protection Commissioner to side with the media outlet and grant it access to contracts and payments made by public entities to Malta Today co-owner Saviour Balzan and his commercial entities.


The Appeals Tribunal has so far ruled on 12 of those cases, siding with The Shift and the Commissioner in all of them. Five state entities have so far filed secondary appeal lawsuits. Dozens more government bodies could eventually end up making additional appeals, initiating yet more time consuming and costly legal battles.


IPI and our global network stand firmly behind our member The Shift News, its Managing Editor Caroline Muscat, and the news outlet’s vital watchdog journalism mission in Malta”, said IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen. “The clear public interest in releasing the requested information has already been recognized not once, but twice.


The continued efforts by the government to needlessly challenge these decisions drag out the process is inexplicable and seriously undermines transparency and the freedom of the press. We are concerned these coordinated appeals are also aimed at draining The Shift of time and resources that could otherwise be spent carrying out public service reporting.


We call on the government entities to immediately drop outstanding appeals, put an end to this absurd waste of taxpayer money, and provide the requested contacts in a timely manner. IPI also calls on its members around the world to join us in expressing support for The Shift and to consider donating to its crowdfunding campaign.


IPI is currently working with partner organizations to secure funding to help support The Shift’s legal defence and hopes to make further announcements in the coming days.


This statement by IPI is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries, and Ukraine. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

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Panagiotis Kontoleon Greece Surveillance Library

Greece: EFJ demands full disclosure on illegal surveillance of…

Greece: EFJ demands full disclosure on illegal surveillance of journalists

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) condemns the legal actions aimed at muzzling and intimidating the press in the context of the scandal of illegal government practices in Greece, in particular the tapping of journalists and politicians.

The EFJ condemns the abusive legal proceedings launched on Friday 5 August by Grigoris Dimitriadis, resigning adviser and nephew of Greek Prime Minister Kyriákos Mitsotákis, against journalists Thanasis KoukakisNikolas Leontopoulos and Thodoris Chondrogiannos, as well as against the website Reporters United and the newspaper EfSyn.


“We demand the immediate withdrawal of these complaints, which are only intended to intimidate the press and prevent the exposure of the illegal and undemocratic practices of those in power in Greece”, said EFJ President Maja Sever.


On 29 July, the Director of the Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP), Panagiotis Kontoleon, who also resigned after the scandal was revealed, admitted to a parliamentary committee that his services had been monitoring journalist Thanasis Koukakis from 15 May to 12 August 2020. It was learned that the journalist had also been monitored by Predator spyware from 12 July to 24 September 2021.


“We call on the Greek judicial authorities to activate judicial investigations into private and public actors, including those close to the Prime Minister, who use Predator software to spy on journalists,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “We call on them to shed light on the illegal tapping of journalists by the intelligence services and to identify and convict those responsible. Journalism is not a crime, but obstructing the work of journalists is a crime against democracy.”

This statement is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Serbian flag Library

Serbia: REM’s awarding of TV licences underscores media pluralism…

Serbia: REM’s awarding of TV licences underscores media pluralism and media diversity failure

Partners of the MFRR have expressed concern about the Serbian Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM)’s decision to award TV licenses to media outlets all supportive of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party.

Serbia’s Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) has recently concluded the process of awarding four national FTA TV licences. The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) consortium and the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS) previously criticised the process around this decision, which lacked transparency and did not comply with international media freedom standards. The decision taken by REM to award the available national TV licences to the same four pro-government outlets has perpetuated a deeply unbalanced commercial broadcast media market and is another example of the authority’s failure to protect media diversity and pluralism in Serbia.


In its decision published on 29 July 2022, the REM awarded TV licences to Pink, Happy, B92 and Prva televisions – media all supportive of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party. On 5 August, the REM published a summary explanation of its decision, affirming that it was made to achieve a greater quality and diversity of content and through a comparative quality analysis of their fulfilment of criteria to award the licences. These However, all four outlets have been repeatedly criticised by civil society for their lack of respect for a variety of national laws and regulations, and for spreading hate speech and smearing political opponents to the current government. According to data from Serbia’s Coalition for Media Freedom, “in 2020 alone, over 12,000 violations of the Advertising Act were committed by these four television stations, and several reports were filed for hate speech and broadcasting of violence”.


Furthermore, the REM’s process of awarding TV licences failed to meet the requirements set under its own guidelines on the minimum conditions for the provision of media services. These include that licences should be awarded to broadcasters that respect the programming parameters for broadcasting licences and should be distributed in a manner that favours the provision of a plurality and diversity of views and ideas. The REM’s decision is yet another worrying indication of its lack of functional independence from political forces and another major failure of its regulatory responsibilities, one which further undermines media pluralism and democracy in Serbia.


International standards on freedom of expression prescribe media diversity and a fair and transparent process for awarding TV licences. As set out by the Principles on Freedom of Expression and Broadcast Regulation, promoting diversity in broadcasting services “implies pluralism of broadcasting organisations, of ownership of those organisations, and of voices, viewpoints and languages within broadcast programming as a whole. In particular, diversity implies the existence of a wide range of independent broadcasters and programming that represents and reflects society as a whole.” (Principle 3). Furthermore, “licence applications should be assessed according to clear criteria set out in advance in legal form (laws or regulations)”, which must be respected during the decision making process (Principle 21).


Two national organisations, the Slavko Curuvija Foundation and CRTA, have announced their intention to file a lawsuit against REM before the Administrative Court in accordance with the Law on Administrative Disputes and on the basis that the awarding process of TV licences violated the relevant laws and regulations. Such legal action is intended to push the REM to issue TV licences on the basis of the parameters set out by its own guidelines and by national law.


The REM also announced that a fifth TV licence might be awarded later in the autumn. There is speculation that this delay could be intended to favour Hungary’s TV2, which is owned by a key ally to the ruling Fidesz party of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, to enter the Serbian market. Research conducted by the International Press Institute has shown how Hungarian business interests allied to the government have increasingly been investing in media across the Balkans which are aligned with Fidesz’s political allies, including in Hungarian language media in Serbia.


The MFRR and NUNS stress the impact that REM’s problematic licensing decision will have over media freedom and independence in the country and over Serbia’s citizens’ right to receive diversity of information from a plurality of media. We call for REM to review its decision and comply with national rules and regulations in the allocation of TV frequencies. We urge the Administrative Court to provide a swift response to any legal action taken as a result of this process, in full compliance with international freedom of expression standards. Finally, we stress the need for a comprehensive reform of the REM’s composition to ensure its independence from political interference and its functionality.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Free Press Unlimited
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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15.03.2022. Polish Commissioner for Human Rights Marcin Wiacek. PAP/Darek Delmanowicz Library

Poland: Ombudsman must appeal acquisition of newspaper by state-controlled…

Poland: Ombudsman must appeal acquisition of newspaper by state-controlled oil company

Partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) have written to Marcin Wiącek, Polish Human Rights Ombudsman, expressing concern at his decision to refrain from appealing the acquisition of regional newspaper publisher Polska Press by PKN Orlen, a state-controlled media company.

Office of the Ombudsman

Aleja “Solidarności” 77, 

00-090 Warszawa, 



4 August 2022


Dear Polish Ombudsman, Marcin Wiącek


The undersigned organisations write to you regarding your decision to refrain from appealing the acquisition of regional newspaper publisher Polska Press by Poland’s state-controlled oil company PKN Orlen. Challenging this damaging decision is pivotal for upholding media freedom and competition in the media market in Poland. We therefore encourage you to reconsider an appeal before the deadline of 10 August. 


On 7 June 2022, the Warsaw regional court of competition dismissed the appeal of the Polish Human Rights Ombudsman brought by your predecessor Adam Bodnar against the takeover of the biggest and most influential regional publisher in Poland, Polska Press. Our organisations take note of your official statement issued on 3 August 2022. We support your call for a public debate about better and stronger guarantees of media pluralism. We hope that such calls will be listened to by, first among many, the European Commission in its upcoming proposal for a European Media Freedom Act. We remain at your disposal to engage in a dialogue on this issue. Nevertheless, we must again underscore that lodging an appeal to contest the regional court’s decision, and asking for the annulment of the Poland’s competition authority’s approval of the Polska Press acquisition by PKN Orlen, is currently of utmost importance. 


On 1 June 2021, ARTICLE 19 Europe submitted an amicus brief challenging the UOKiK’s decision which has been rejected by the court twice. It explained that the decision by Poland’s competition regulator, UOKiK was taken in violation of EU merger rules, as it completely failed to assess that the buyer, PKN Orlen, is de facto a state-controlled company (as confirmed, among others, by the same PKN Orlen in a recent merger case before the European Commission). In turn, this vitiated the entire assessment of the merger’s impact on competition in the Polish media market. Therefore, even without recurring to a media plurality test, ARTICLE 19 showed the court that the UOKiK’s decision should be annulled, and the competition assessment performed again, taking into due account the impact of the state control of Orlen. 


Furthermore, ARTICLE 19 Europe argued that as media pluralism is guaranteed both by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights, the Polish State, as well as its independent authorities, have the duty to include it in their assessment.  The undersigned organisations support the legal arguments laid out by ARTICLE 19 Europe and underscore that the final ruling should comply with both EU law on mergers and with Poland’s obligations regarding European standards on media pluralism. 


In addition, our organisations have previously warned that such acquisition would hand the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party greater indirect control over the regional media landscape ahead of the 2023 national elections as well as lead to a purge of critical editors and journalists in local newspapers. 


We are concerned that the acquisition of Polska Press by a state-controlled company headed by figures close to PiS leadership is a central element of PiS’s stated plans for “repolonization” of the media landscape. Though couched in language of pluralism and national sovereignty, these efforts have in reality been aimed at engineering the takeover of independent press by entities linked to the ruling party and strengthening the market influence of pro-government media. 


This approach emulates developments in Hungary where regional newspapers were acquired by business interests with strong ties to the government and eventually turned into mouthpieces for supporting Fidesz’s political agenda. These fears were not misplaced: PKN Orlen did not abide by the court’s decision to suspend the purchase for the time of hearing the appeal and either dismissed or pushed out more than a dozen editors-in-chief at newspapers owned by Polska Press since March 2021, with many more leaving in protest, leading to a visible shift in coverage, self-censorship, and a marked drop in editorial standards at some titles.


We respect the vital role the Polish Ombudsman plays in promoting and protecting the enjoyment and full realisation, by all people in Poland, of all human rights, which includes the right to information. In this regard, we strongly believe that your intervention and appealing the court’s verdict is indispensable to ensure that the pillars of media pluralism and media independence in Poland are safeguarded. We thus hope you will reconsider your decision. 


Our organisations will continue to closely monitor how the events unfold and would be glad to offer our expertise on media freedom and pluralism, as well as support in the appeal process. 


We ask you to take our concerns into consideration and look forward to your response. 

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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