Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic Library

Serbia: Fresh attacks and smears on media raise threat…

Serbia: Fresh attacks and smears on media raise threat level

Break in at broadcaster N1 and latest high-level political smears underscore deep concerns over journalists’ safety.

The International Press Institute (IPI) today renews their serious concerns about the safety of journalists in Serbia, where independent media houses and their reporters face an intensifying and toxic climate of smear campaigns and political pressure directed by the government and public officials.


On 30 May, the private premises of the broadcaster N1 in the capital Belgrade was breached by around 30 protesters, who obstructed its work and demanded its editorial staff leave the building to face the “wrath of the people”. N1 and its journalists were accused of manipulating coverage of recent anti-government protests and the pandemic, and of working on behalf of foreign intelligence services.


While police were called and plainclothes officers were sent to take up positions outside the N1 building, they were not given orders to react and failed to remove the trespassers from the broadcaster’s private property. None of the protesters had their identification checked, according to media reports, and no arrests were made.

IPI and our global network are shocked by the lack of an adequate response by the police to this incident. While peaceful protest must be respected, trespassing of the premises of a media house clearly warranted appropriate action from law enforcement authorities. This raises serious questions about the ability of the police to protect journalists and must be immediately addressed by the Standing Working Group on the Safety of Journalists.

The security incident came days after the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and Serbian Progressive Party MP Nebojša Bakarec spoke in the parliament and separately accused N1 and Nova S of spreading hatred and violence and creating a “sick atmosphere in society” which leads to the tragedies such as two recent mass shootings. The Prime Minister accused so-called “tycoon media” of poisoning the nation and “sowing hatred minute by minute, hour by hour.”


These comments were the latest in an escalating smear campaign against broadcasters and news outlets owned by United Media, a media house staunchly critical of the Serbian government and President Aleksandar Vučić. It is often viewed as the last major bastion of journalism operating independently from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and its network of business allies.


In recent weeks, United Media titles including N1, Nova S and Danas have been accused by multiple public officials of acting against the interest of the state, spreading disinformation, organizing anti-government rallies and being “fascist media”. These verbal attacks have been amplified by tabloid media and broadcasters supportive of the government.


IPI is alarmed by the dangerous escalation in rhetoric against critical media and journalists, which poses real life threats to the safety of journalists. Moving forward, IPI urges all government and public officials in Serbia to refrain from using hostile rhetoric and to lead by example in reducing tensions.


IPI notes that this situation again underscores the findings of both a coalition of international press freedom groups and the European Parliament, that no tangible progress has been made by Serbian authorities as part of their EU accession obligations to improve the landscape for media freedom. Independent journalism in Serbia continues to face a moment of crisis.


IPI renews support for the work of all professional and independent media in Serbia and calls for increased international attention to the plight of media freedom and pluralism in the country.

This statement was coordinated by IPI as 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 State and candidate countries.

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Sara Manisera: The challenges of investigative journalism

Sara Manisera: the challenges of investigative journalism

Investigative journalists, in addition to the risks of the trade, often incur libel lawsuits, SLAPPs, etc. Especially if, like Sara Manisera, they deal with sensitive issues such as organised crime.


By Sielke Kelner

Originally published by OBCT, also available in ITA

Sara Manisera is a freelance journalist who is part of the Fada collective of journalists, photographers, and authors. She writes about gender issues, minorities, agriculture, the environment, and civil society. Her contributions have been published by various international newspapers including Al Jazeera, Liberation, and The Nation. She has written “Tales of slavery and struggle in the countryside”, a book that originated from her degree thesis in the sociology of organised crime in Rosarno, in the province of Reggio Calabria. Since 2023 she has been affiliated with Bertha Challenge Investigative Journalist Fellow, a grant that is allowing her to devote herself to a year-long project on the wheat supply chain. On September 1, 2022, the Municipality of Abbiategrasso adopted a resolution to initiate an aggravated criminal defamation lawsuit against her. A sentence pronounced in Cutro in June 2022, during the acceptance speech of the Diego Tajani award, about the pervasiveness of mafia infiltration even in municipalities such as that of Abbiategrasso, did not go down well with the council of the municipality in Lombardia.

Is this the first defamation lawsuit you have faced?

Yes, it was notified to me in January 2023. I was not reported for a published article, but for a sentence I uttered in a speech in which I quoted the Municipality of Abbiategrasso during an awards ceremony in front of students. That day I had in front of me some classes from Cutro who have probably only heard of ‘Ndrangheta and Calabria in their life, of the south in a certain way. I wanted to show them that the mafias are not only in the south, but also in the north. And they have been infiltrating the northern economy for decades. The municipal administration of Abbiategrasso has not asked for any rectification of the sentence I have pronounced; it did not invite a public discussion on the subject. This would have been the most appropriate response from a local politician attentive to the infiltration of mafia-type organisations and which could have been offended by the sentences pronounced in Cutro.


Why do you think the council of Abbiategrasso felt resentful of your comment?

I do not know. I tell you the facts. We are talking about a territory that is in the south-west of Milan, next to Gaggiano, Corsico, Trezzano, Buccinasco. Territories that, for over 30 years, have seen not infiltration, but colonisation by the ‘Ndrangheta and, in the Abbiategrasso area, by bosses linked to Cosa Nostra. Various members of gangs linked to Cosa Nostra have been sent to this area on compulsory stays. In this area, there are parts of the economy that also feed on the laundering of capital from illicit activities by mafia-type organisations. This is not my own theory, the sentences say it, the operations directed by the District Anti-Mafia Directorates such as Crimine-Infinito, which acknowledged the presence of the mafias in the North. Now, if you refuse to see or to tell about it, quoting Professor Nando dalla Chiesa, “Either you are an idiot, and therefore you are an accomplice in some way, or you are actually an accomplice”. Anyway, I think that there is very little talk about public ethics and the role that politicians should have, that is, politicians with a straight back who should not go and have coffee with what is considered a member of a gang or a clan. As for the Municipality of Abbiategrasso, I do not know why they felt their image was damaged in 2023. There are other ways to protect the reputation and image of one’s territory, starting with serious environmental policies aimed at effectively protecting the territory and the landscape.


Let’s talk about gag complaints. How has this lawsuit affected your work and personal life?

Thanks to the solidarity of civil society and the mobilisation that took place for my case, several people from FNSI, Articolo21, Ossigeno, Libera, and Un Ponte Per took action. There have been many public and non-public voices that have come to my defense. Ossigeno per l’Informazione granted me pro bono defence. Many other colleagues do not receive this type of media coverage or, as it is very often referred to, media escort. When you are alone and do not have a media escort, these lawsuits have a huge impact, both on your work – because they intimidate, stop, and discourage you – but also on mental health because they are a constant concern. All the papers, the documents you have to collect to defend yourself; trials that go on for months, years. This has a greater impact on freelancers, because it is one thing to have a publisher behind you with an editor, a lawyer, a team that supports you; another thing to be alone.


What would we need to counter this phenomenon?

Definitely free legal coverage for all journalists who suffer this type of lawsuit. An ad hoc fund for compensation for damages.


What is the relationship between the press and politics, including local?

I think the state of the relationship between the local and national press and local and national institutions is not the best. I see, at the local level, an absence of journalism-journalism, quoting Giancarlo Siani, journalism that should question power. Local journalism, with rare exceptions, is a megaphone of power. This happens because there is no money; because local newspapers very often have publishers who work hand in hand with local business and therefore with local politics; because there is a lack of real independence of the journalist, also due to business models.


It goes without saying that political power that is not used to being questioned by the press resorts to lawsuits when subjected to criticism, because it is the easiest weapon. The lawsuit is the weapon used to silence and intimidate. It’s not just a warning to that particular journalist who writes, talks, and says certain things. It is also a warning to other journalists.


These gag complaints filed by people in power reveal a lot about the state of journalism in Italy and about the relationship between the press and institutions. But also on the freedom of speech and the right to inform, or Article 21 of our Constitution. The mafias are not just a judicial phenomenon, they are a social, cultural, economic, and political phenomenon and therefore we need to talk about them and I believe that journalists today have the role of informing and explaining to citizens also the forms and the metamorphosis of criminal organisations. As Paolo Borsellino said, talk about it. Talk about it on television, talk about it on the radio. But talk about it. If journalists do not tell the public that mafias today launder their money in costructions, that the mafias have also entered the municipalities of the north, who is going to do it?


What does it mean for you to be a journalist and in particular an independent investigative journalist?

I believe that what I carry on together with the Fada collective is committed journalism. It is militant journalism with a political gaze. It is non-neutral journalism, because it takes the time to look at the ecological and social fractures of certain societies and certain issues. I always give this example, quoting French colleague Salomé Saqué, who explains that deciding to give the floor to the CEO of Total, who is responsible for environmental crimes in Uganda that will force millions of people to leave the country, or to the environmentalists who are fighting against that project means making a precise choice. So, choosing to tell the story of the struggles of environmentalists in Uganda or Iraq means bringing their voices to the centre of public debate.

This interview 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 and candidate countries.

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Slovenia: Media freedom groups welcome court ruling on RTV…

Slovenia: Media freedom groups welcome court ruling on RTV SLO reform

The undersigned members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today welcome the decision of the Slovenian Constitutional Court to approve the passing of amendments to the law on Radiotelevizija Slovenija (RTV SLO) and give our support to current efforts to depoliticise the public broadcaster.

Our organisations believe this ruling offers the necessary conditions for RTV SLO to finally unwind the capture of the broadcaster under the previous government, rebuild its editorial independence and carry out its public service mission free from political interference and institutional destabilisation.


On 29 May 2023, the Constitutional Court lifted a temporary suspension which had blocked implementation of amendments to the Act on RTV Slovenia, which had previously been passed by the new coalition government in July 2022 and then approved via a referendum in November.


The reform restructures the management of RTV SLO from the two current governing councils into a single, 17-member decision-making body. Appointments to this new Council of RTV will now be made by representatives of civil society and RTV SLO employees, rather than the National Assembly. This body will then appoint a four-member board to run the broadcaster.


As our organisations outlined in November 2022, these changes represent a principled revision of outdated legislation, which if properly implemented should enable the depoliticisation of the broadcaster and limit the ability of any government to use its parliamentary majority to interfere in RTV SLO’s management.


Such institutional safeguards could not come soon enough. The broadcaster has been driven into a period of crisis and is now beset by a staffing crisis, serious financial challenges, internal divisions and plummeting public trust. Historical issues were exacerbated during the previous government, which sought to exert greater control over news programming and appointed political allies to management, with damaging consequences for media freedom.


While rebuilding the trust and viewership lost in recent years and increasing professionalism will be no easy tasks, the enforcement of the new law offers a turning point in the modern history of RTV SLO and creates the legal framework in which to do so. The new management, when appointed, will take on a heavy responsibility to oversee positive change and rebuild credibility.


Priority must be given to finding a sustainable financial model for funding the broadcaster’s work, rehiring the next generation of journalists, and establishing the smooth functioning of the editorial teams and newsrooms. The demands of those RTV SLO union staff who continue their strike demanding editorial autonomy and better working conditions must be settled.


A period of stability is required to allow such a transition and rebuilding program to take place. We urge the acting Director General to work in a constructive manner with the new council as it begins the process to appoint new management. We further urge all parties to respect the court’s decision and create an enabling political climate for the stabilisation of RTV SLO.


Following protests outside the broadcaster’s headquarters in Ljubljana earlier this week during which RTV SLO staff were verbally abused and obstructed, we also call on the current management to review security protocols to guarantee the safety of all journalists and media workers.


Our organisations renew our support for free, independent and professional public service broadcasting in Slovenia and stand beside all those who continue to work towards this democratic value.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • 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 and candidate countries. 

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Türkiye: İstihbarat bir gazetecinin yaşamını nasıl mahvedebilir?

Türkiye: İstihbarat bir gazetecinin yaşamını nasıl mahvedebilir?

Medyada çalışmanın zorlukları, mülteci statüsünün kırılganlığı: Türkiye’nin kendisi için çalışmasını istediği bir gazetecinin hikayesi.

Yazan: Dimitri Bettoni 

İlk olarak OBCT tarafından yayınlanmıştır, Italyanca da mevcuttur

Shadi Türk, Suriyeli bir gazeteci. Türkiye’ye 2009 yılında çalışma izniyle geldi. Suriye’deki çatışmaların patlak vermesiyle birlikte, savaşın vahşetini, mültecilerin koşullarını ve tarihin gelişimini anlatmak için yerel ve yabancı medyayla işbirliği yapmaya başladı. Memleketindeki bağlantıları ve çalışma sırasında tanıştığı kişiler sayesinde, Shadi kısa sürede kendini hem gazetecilik bağlamına hem de Türkiye’de yaşayan Suriyeli topluluğa entegre olmuş halde buldu. Gazetecilik koordinasyon ve destek gruplarına katılıyor ve muhabir olarak çalışmadığı zamanlarda, meslektaşlarının gerçekten de kolay olmayan bir bağlamda yollarını bulmalarına yardımcı oluyor: Gazetecileri destekleyen ve bağlantılar, lojistik ve tavsiyelerle ilgilenen bir iş bitirici olarak çalışıyor. Ailesi şu anda Türkiye’nin güneydoğusunda, Suriye sınırına yakın bir yerde yaşıyor.


Nisan 2021’de ilk telefon gelir: Shadi’ye, kendisiyle görüşmek isteyen Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT) mensupları ulaşır. Bir Suriyeli için, istihbarat mensuplarıyla temas kurmak korkunç hisler ve anılar uyandırır. Onun durumunda bu derinlikli sıkıntı, Türkiye’de kolayca iptal edilebilecek bir oturma izninin kırılganlığına eklenir. Devamında İstanbul’da gerçekleşen görüşmelerde MİT konuya açıklık getirir: Shadi, Türkiye’de misafirdir, onlarla işbirliği yapmak bir minnet borcudur, kendisine “Türkiye’de gazeteci olarak çalıştığın sürece, çalışmalarımın ayrıntılarını hükümetle paylaşmakla yükümlüsün” sözleriyle hitap edildiğini bildirir. Talepler başlangıçta sadece kendi işiyle ilgiliyken, daha sonra giderek diğer meslektaşlarının ve Shadi’nin bir gazeteci olarak katılabileceği toplantılarda bulunan önde gelen siyasi şahsiyetlerin faaliyetlerini ve hareketlerini de içerir. Bu talepler arasında, Nisan 2022’de Yabancı Medya Derneği (FMA) ile AB Türkiye Delegasyonu Başkanı Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut arasında kapalı kapılar ardında yapılan bir toplantıya katılması da var.


Shadi korkmuştur. Başlangıçta, ilgisiz bilgileri aktararak ve anlatacağı hikayelerin seçimi, kiminle çalışacağı ya da meslektaşları hakkında bilgi vermesi gibi bir gazeteci için kabul edilemez taleplerden kaçınarak durumu idare etmeye çalışır. Ancak kısa süre sonra, kendisini sıkıştırdıkları sarmaldan çıkış yolu olmadığını fark eder: “Bir yıl boyunca MİT ajanlarıyla yaptığım dokuz görüşmede hem elimdeki bilgileri paylaşmam hem de yeni bilgiler toplayıp bunları MİT’le paylaşmam için baskı gördüm. Bunu reddetmem üzerine açıkça hapisle, Suriye’ye sınırdışı edilmekle, ‘kaybedilmekle’ tehdit edildim.”


Büyük bir psikolojik sıkıntı yaşayan Shadi, gazetecilik mesleğini bırakır, Akdeniz kıyısında güneye taşınır ve istihbaratın kendisine olan ilgisini kaybetmesi umuduyla dalgıçlık eğitimine başlar. Beklediği gibi olmaz, öyle ki yeni görüşme talepleri alır: “Daha iyi olduğunu görüyoruz. Seni İstanbul’da görmek için sabırsızlanıyoruz”. Türkiye’de geçirdiği zamanın sona erdiğini anlar, misilleme yapılmasından korktuğu ailesi için de durumun aynı olduğunu görür.


Shadi, çeşitli uluslararası kuruluşlara ve onlar aracılığıyla da Avrupa’daki diplomatik temsilciliklere başvurarak tek bir talepte bulunur: kendisinin ve ailesinin güvenli bir şekilde ülkeden çıkarılması. Ancak bu çağrı dikkate alınmaz. Avrupa hükümetleriyle arabuluculuk yaparak Shadi’yi destekleyenler, durumun başta Shadi ve ailesi olmak üzere ülkede çalışan tüm meslektaşları için ne kadar büyük bir tehlike arz ettiğini anlatmaya çalışsalar da Avrupa bakanlıkları harekete geçmez, oyalamaya devam eder. Bu arada durum Shadi için giderek dayanılmaz bir hal alır. Köşeye sıkışan Shadi, Doğu Asya vizesi almayı başarır ve Aralık 2022’de Türkiye’den ayrılarak Filipinler’e gider. Kısa bir süre sonra Türk makamları onu ulusal güvenliğe tehdit olarak ilan eder ve ikamet belgelerini iptal eder.


Shadi işleri sarsmak, kamuoyunu dahil etmek ve böylece Avrupa’nın dikkatini ve yardımını çekmek için yeni ve umutsuz bir hamle dener. Alman Taz dergisine uzun bir röportaj verir ve tüm hikayesini anlatır. Birkaç gün sonra, Türkiye’deki iktidar destekçisi medya çok farklı bir tablo çizen bir dizi makale yayınlar: Onların anlattığına göre Shadi, Suriyeli mülteciler ile Türkiye arasındaki huzuru ortadan kaldırma misyonuyla Batı için çalışan bir casustur. Kendisini ve ailesini tehditlere ve intikama maruz bırakma riski taşıyan kişisel detaylar ve fotoğraflar yayınlanır.


Shadi bugün hala, yalnızca zulüm gören bir gazeteci olarak statüsünün tanınmasından gelebilecek yardımı bekliyor. O ve ailesi sadece bir gazetecinin hak ettiği korumayı değil, aynı zamanda yeni bir başlangıç ve güvenli bir varoluş imkanını da hak ediyor. Aksi takdirde, istihbarat bir gazetecinin hayatını nasıl mahvedebileceğini görüyoruz.

This article was published as 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 and candidate countries.

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Kosovo protests Library

Kosovo: Concern over attacks on journalists and media workers

Kosovo: Concern over attacks on journalists and media workers

The current political developments in Kosovo have once again stirred up an atmosphere that hinders the ability of journalists to carry out their responsibilities with credibility and without obstacles.

Together with our partners in the SafeJournalists Network, we express our deep concern over a series of attacks on journalists and media personnel in the northern municipalities of Kosovo from May 26th to May 31st, 2023.


During the period from May 26th to May 31st, 2023, Association of Journalists of Kosovo(AJK) AJK and SafeJournalists Network recorded a total of 20 incidents of assaults and attacks against journalists and media personnel in various municipalities of Kosovo. These incidents highlight the alarming rise in violence and intimidation targeting journalists, hindering their ability to carry out their vital work in a safe and unbiased manner. The list of all 20 recorded cases is available here.


Xhemajl Rexha, Chairperson of AJK, highlights the constant appeals to local and international security bodies, urging them to provide a secure perimeter where journalists can carry out their work without hindrance or fear of attack. Unfortunately, these appeals have not been heeded so far. 


The SafeJournalists Network and  Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR)  find  this situation extremely worrying, as journalists tend to be the primary targets during protests and riots in northern Kosovo. Testimonies from our colleagues, along with the documented attacks, provide further evidence of the dangerous working conditions in Zvecan, particularly the lack of adequate protective equipment.


The situation raises concerns and apprehension regarding the possibility of future, potentially more severe occurrences. The SafeJournalists Network, representing over 8,200 media professionals and the undersigned organisations, calls upon the international presence in Kosovo, responsible for ensuring stability, to prioritise the protection and welfare of journalists. We urge them to promote a secure environment that enables journalists to fulfil their professional duties without fear of violence or intimidation. Furthermore, we call upon all state and local officials to ensure equal treatment of all journalists in Kosovo.


The SafeJournalists Network will inform relevant national and international stakeholders about these cases of attacks on journalists from May 26th to May 31st, 2023. We emphasise that each attack on journalists is an attack on public interest, democracy, and the rights of all citizens.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • Association of Journalists of Kosovo
  • Association of Journalists of Macedonia
  • BH Journalists Association
  • Croatian Journalists’ Association
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • Independent Journalists Association of Serbia
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Trade Union of Media of Montenegro

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 and candidate countries. 

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Belgrade, Serbia protests Library

Protests in Belgrade and violence in reality shows

Protests in Belgrade and violence in reality shows

After the massacres of recent weeks, street demonstrations continue against the government and above all the media, which according to critics have created a climate of intolerance and violence over the years.

By Massimo Moratti

Originally published by OBCT, also available in ITA

Protests continue in Belgrade. The demonstrations of May 8, 12, and 19 were followed by others on May 26 and 27, organised by the government and the opposition respectively.


The demonstrations managed to bring tens of thousands of people to the streets and block the main arteries of the Serbian capital. If initially composure and pain for the victims of the massacres that have marked the country in recent weeks prevailed, the protests have gradually articulated specific requests to the government, which so far has refused to respond.


Some concern the situation of the media in Serbia and the passivity of the institutions in countering the violence present in the media space. Protesters ask for a ban on media and tabloids that promote violence and hatred, and for an end to programmes – such as some reality shows – that promote aggressive, violent, and immoral behaviour, and finally for the resignation of the entire media regulator institution (REM).


The connection between the massacres and the demands of the protests in Belgrade

While at the moment it seems difficult to find a direct causal link between the mass massacres and the demands of protesters, the accusations leveled against the government are those of having created a media system that not only tolerates, but actually promotes violence.


This connection emerges clearly in the case of the second massacre. The perpetrator of the Mladenovac massacre had as his idol a certain Aleksandar “Kristijan” Golubović, a well-known protagonist of some reality shows, including “Zadruga”, broadcast on Pink television.


Golubović’s “curriculum” speaks volumes: multiple offender for drugs and armed robberies, MMA fighter, he boasted, rightly or wrongly, of friendships with characters such as Arkan, a notorious paramilitary leader during the conflicts of the 90s, and Ulemek “Legija”, the person responsible for the killing of Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić.


In recent years, Golubović has become a star of reality shows that competed for him and the protagonist of numerous episodes of violence, insults, fights, including strangling his partner until she was knocked unconscious. Golubović’s is not an isolated case, similar episodes abound in reality shows and on Serbian television. In addition to common criminals on reality TV, war criminals are also regularly hosted in talk shows as experts on geopolitics or military matters in what is a real glorification of violence.


The role of private TVs

Private television stations RTV Pink and Happy TV are most likely to broadcast reality shows and violence. Nonetheless, last July these two television station were assigned a national frequency for the second consecutive time.


This was criticised by civil society and trade associations: the numerous complaints for incitement to hatred and violence had not been taken into account by the REM which reassigned the frequencies to RTV Pink and Happy TV as well as B92 and Prva TV, two other private TVs, still close to the government but whose contents have not attracted the same criticisms as RTV Happy and Pink.


This decision was also criticised in the progress report on Serbia’s EU accession and by the ODIHR report on the 2022 elections, which had underlined how the REM had tolerated violations of the electoral campaign rules by the four nationwide televisions.


In recent years, Happy and Pink have often been at the centre of controversy and scandals, but have never been subject to significant sanctions. The reason for this, most likely, is that these broadcasters have a very close link with politics and are essentially considered personal instruments of political power in Serbia and in particular of President Vučić, who is a regular guest: one of Vučić’s first TV appearances after the massacres was on Happy TV.


In this perspective, as highlighted by the lecturers of the Faculty of Political Sciences Jelena Đorđević and Rade Veljanovski in an interview for Radio Slobodna Evropa, the violence in media tones and contents is nothing but the reflection of the political discourse and, at the same time, these stations are the pillars on which the Vučić regime relies, in a similar way to what happened in the 1990s with state television.


The comments of the REM and of the TV stations

In front of the demands of the protests, the REM has taken defensive positions. In a statement released on May 11, President Olivera Zekić said that while their resignations should be discussed in Parliament, we should also discuss how a part of society and the media wants to blame the REM for these terrible tragedies in Serbia.


Zekić then reiterated that the repeated attacks against the REM are not only shameful, but could even lead to further violence. The president’s statements were followed by similar statements by REM vice-president Milorad Vukašinović a few days later: “I fear that the instigators of the attacks against the integrity of the REM […] are in the headquarters of some media”. Pressed later on the role of Kristijan Golubović on television, Vukašinović replied that media regulators cannot limit the rights of citizens who have already served sentences, unless this is provided for by these sentences.


However, another member of the REM, Judita Popović, admitted that for years the media have favoured incitement to hatred, violence, and discrimination and that no one has reacted, but in fact certain media have been rewarded with national frequencies. Resignations are not enough, said Popović, REM members should be held responsible for certain situations.


The words of the members of the REM were echoed by the Minister of Information, Mihailo Jovanović, who rejected as unacceptable the demands to close both RTV Pink and Happy TV, as such requests would be contrary to freedom of expression, a fundamental pillar of any democratic society.


A hint of self-criticism comes from Željko Mitrović, the owner of Pink, who entered the house where the “Zadruga” reality show is held and announced that this is the last season of the reality show, which will change from next year. Subsequently, Mitrović himself announced that “Zadruga” will cease to be broadcast within ten days at the latest and that this was a request made by Vučić himself. We will see if the words will be followed by deeds.



The protests are creating a lot of nervousness within the Serbian government and seem to focus on the passivity of the REM and the sensationalist approach of private national televisions, which are often the favorite stage of the SNS, the president’s party.


The REM and the Minister of Information have hidden behind a formal approach of defense of the institutions and freedom of the right of expression, without however emphasising how the same right of expression must be regulated within Serbian society. In this sense, an article by the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Serbia (CINS) is illuminating, which explains that the problems do not arise from the fact that the regulations are not adequate but from the fact that they are not applied.


For example, in January of this year alone, within the famous reality show “Zadruga”, there were more than ten controversial episodes as documented in a complaint filed by the Institute for Media and Diversity (MDI). This complaint has not been acted upon: in the last 5 years the REM has not ordered any measures against RTV Pink for its problematic contents and this happens because the law is not applied adequately and broadcasts with high audience ratings such as reality shows they are considered untouchable. As demonstrated by the CINS, the REM has remained silent in these cases. And it is precisely against this silence that citizens are now protesting.

This article was published as 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 and candidate countries.

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Turkey: How the secret services can destroy a journalist’s…

Turkey: how the secret services can destroy a journalist’s life

The difficulties of working in the media, the fragility of refugee status: the story of a journalist that the Turkish state wanted for itself.

By Dimitri Bettoni


Originally published by OBCT, also available in ITA

Shadi Türk is a Syrian journalist. He arrived in Turkey in 2009 with a study permit. Then, with the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, he began to collaborate with local and foreign media to tell the atrocities of the war, the conditions of the refugees, the evolution of history. Thanks to the contacts at home and those gained during the work, Shadi soon found himself well integrated into the journalistic context as well as in the Syrian community living in Turkey. He participates in journalistic coordination and support groups and, when he is not working as a reporter, he often helps colleagues to navigate in a context that is indeed not simple: he works as a fixer, who supports journalists and deals with contacts, logistics, advice. His family now lives in the southeast of Turkey, near the border with Syria.


In April 2021 the first call arrives: Shadi is approached by members of MIT, the Turkish secret services, who want to meet him. For a Syrian, contacts with men of the secret services evokes brutal feelings and memories. In his case, this extreme distress adds up to the fragility of a residence permit in Turkey that can be easily revoked. In subsequent meetings, which took place in Istanbul, the MIT clarified the terms of the matter. Shadi is a guest in Turkey, collaborating with them is an act of due gratitude: “As long as I work as a journalist in Turkey, I am obliged to share the details of my work with the government” are the words that Shadi reports he is addressed with. The requests initially concern solely his work, but then they increasingly include the activities and movements of other colleagues, and of prominent political personalities present at meetings that Shadi, as a journalist, can attend. Among these requests, to join in April 2022 a closed-door meeting between the Association for Foreign Media (FMA) and the head of the EU delegation to Turkey, Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut.


Shadi is frightened. Initially, he tries to handle the situation by passing irrelevant information and by evading requests on the choice of stories to tell, who to work with, or to reveal information about colleagues, inadmissible requests for a journalist. Soon, however, he realizes that there is no way out from the spiral in which they have tightened him: “During nine meetings with MIT agents over a one-year period, I have been pressured to both share information in my possession as well as gather new information and share it with MIT. Upon my refusal, I was explicitly threatened with imprisonment, deportation to Syria, disappearance.”


Shadi, under enormous psychological distress, abandons his journalistic work, moves to the south along the Mediterranean coast, where he begins his training as a diver in the hope that the services lose interest in him. It does not happen, so much so that he receives new requests for meetings: “We see that you are better. We look forward to seeing you in Istanbul”. He understands that his time in Turkey is over, and so is that of his family, for whom he fears retaliation.


Shadi turns to several international organizations and through them to European diplomatic corps, with nothing but a single request: to get him and his family out of the country safely. An appeal that, however, remains unheeded. The European chancelleries do not take action, they stall, despite that those who support him in the mediation with European governments try to explain how the situation represents a great danger first for Shadi and his family, and also for all the colleagues who work in the country. Meanwhile, the situation becomes increasingly unbearable for Shadi. Cornered, he manages to get a visa for East Asia, leaving Turkey in December 2022, destination Philippines. Shortly thereafter, the Turkish authorities declared him a threat to national security and revoked his residence documents.


Shadi tries a new, desperate move to shake things up, involve the public opinion and thus attract European attention and help. He gives a long interview to the German magazine Taz, and he tells his whole story. A few days later, Turkish state media published a series of articles that portrayed a very different picture: according to their version, Shadi is a spy for the West with the mission of subverting the peace between Syrian refugees and the Turkish state. Personal details and photographs that further risk to expose him and his family to threats and revenge are published.


Today, Shadi is still waiting for help that can only come from the recognition of his status as a persecuted journalist. He and his family deserve not only the protection due to a journalist, but also the possibility of a new beginning and safe existence. Otherwise, we now see how the secret services can destroy a journalist’s life.

This article was published as 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 and candidate countries.

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The team of journalists at KRIK. Credit: Oliver Bunic (NIN) Library

Serbia: Legal harassment of investigative media outlet KRIK must…

Serbia: Legal harassment of investigative media outlet KRIK must stop

The legal harassment against Serbian investigative media outlet KRIK continues as the portal was convicted for reporting on a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) case it was facing, at the same time as a new abusive lawsuit has been filed against it.

We, international press freedom and journalists’ organisations, stand in solidarity with KRIK’s newsroom, which is currently fighting 12 legal proceedings, and raise the alarm about the use of SLAPPs in Serbia, considered as a growing threat to independent journalism.


In recent months, KRIK has been facing multiple lawsuits as a result of public interest investigations exposing crime, corruption and other abuses of power committed by powerful people in Serbia, often affiliated with the ruling party.


The latest alarming development came from the Belgrade High Court on 3 May. In a first instance decision, the court condemned KRIK for naming in an article the individuals who sued them – police commander Goran Zivkovic and two of his colleagues from the Witness Protection Unit. In the article published in December 2021, the media outlet detailed the avalanche of lawsuits it is currently fighting: namely who brought the cases, on what grounds and their impact on the whole editorial team. As a result, KRIK must pay 374,200 dinars (almost 3,200 €) in compensation for “emotional pain” and for trial expenses. The court also ruled that part of KRIK’s web article must be deleted. KRIK has appealed.


In a reaction to the verdict, KRIK’s editor Stevan Dojčinović said SLAPPs are the outlet’s biggest challenge: “this latest ruling makes it clear that SLAPPs have become the regime’s main tool for shutting down the few remaining independent media outlets. Things have gone so far that we are no longer even allowed to complain in public about the fact that our newsroom is flooded with lawsuits – we are found guilty even for that.”


On 11 May 2023, KRIK reported that the media outlet is facing a new lawsuit in response to an article published on 11 April 2023. The lawsuit was filed by Nikola Petrović against KRIK’s editor and investigative reporters Bojana Jovanović and Dragana Pećo. He demanded the removal of the article and is seeking 200,000 dinars (1,700€) in compensation for “mental suffering”. Nikola Petrović has filed two other lawsuits against KRIK: one ended in favour of KRIK and the other is still pending.


This case is the last in a series of 12 lawsuits initiated in most cases by people from the government or businessmen close to them. The amount of damages claimed is completely disproportionate and exceeds by three times the organisation’s annual budget. While the financial burden is huge, the negative impact on the day-to-day operations is equally significant. The time spent on preparing the defence, presenting the evidence, analysing hundreds of pages of legal documents is effectively taking journalists away from their core work: investigating and informing citizens. 


SLAPPs threaten the future of independent journalism – aiming to intimidate, drain resources and isolate reporters so they abandon their hard-hitting investigations. We, the undersigned organisations, renew our support to the KRIK journalists and call on the Serbian judicial authorities to finally acknowledge SLAPPs as a means to silence voices and suppress information of public interest. Serbia continues to provide one of the most fertile grounds in Europe for suing journalists in retaliation for their work. By failing to recognise the threats posed by SLAPPs, the latest court decision sends a worrying signal to all Serbian journalists who investigate sensitive political and economic issues. We hope that the appeal process will consider the serious impact of SLAPPs against journalists, and will finally uphold the public interest and international standards on freedom of expression.

Signed by:

  • Blueprint for Free Speech
  • Civic Initiatives
  • Civil Rights Defenders
  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • Index on Censorship
  • Institute for Mass Media Cyprus
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Justice for Journalists Foundation
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)
  • PEN International 
  • Reporters Sans Frontières / Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • SafeJournalists Network
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Solomon

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 and candidate countries.

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Slovakia: Profound disappointment as suspected mastermind in Ján Kuciak…

Slovakia: Profound disappointment as suspected mastermind in Ján Kuciak murder acquitted again

Following today’s acquittal of the suspected mastermind in the killing of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak, we, the undersigned international media freedom and journalist organisations, express our profound disappointment, renew our calls for justice and convey our steadfast solidarity with the families of Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová.

This acquittal of businessman Marian Kočner, which was announced earlier today following a retrial at the Specialized Criminal Court, represents another devastating blow to the fight for full justice for Ján and Martina’s killing. The judges voted 2:1 to find Kočner not guilty of ordering the 2018 assassination.

The judges did convict Alena Zsuzsová, a close associate of Kočner, of ordering the hit and sentenced her to 25 years in prison. She was also convicted of ordering the murder of two Slovak prosecutors. Both her and Kočner’s verdicts, which come after the Supreme Court revoked the initial acquittals in June 2021, can be appealed.

Kuciak and Kušnírová were shot dead in their home outside Bratislava on 21 February 2018. Judges again ruled that prosecutors had not presented the concrete evidence necessary to rule beyond reasonable doubt that Kočner – a businessman with links to Slovakia’s political, judicial and security elite – had ordered the journalist’s death. Both he and Zsuzsová are currently serving lengthy sentences for other crimes.

Our first thoughts go to Ján and Martina’s families, who have endured years of painful court hearings and who have yet again been denied full justice and accountability. We share their intense frustration regarding Kočner’s verdict and stand in full solidarity with the couple’s family, loved ones and colleagues at this difficult time.

This repeated failure to secure the conviction of the suspected mastermind is another damaging setback in the fight against impunity for the murder of journalists in Slovakia, and in Europe. This case follows an all-too-common pattern in which the hitmen and facilitators involved in such crimes are put behind bars while the suspected masterminds who ordered the murder evade justice.

Another acquittal for the most serious crime against journalism in Slovakia’s modern history also has worrying implications for the fragile media freedom progress made within the country in recent years. As we process this disappointing setback, we remain as committed as ever to securing full justice for Ján and Martina and will support the families during the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Those who order the killing of a journalist cannot be allowed to act with impunity. The fight for justice will continue.

Signed by:

ARTICLE 19 Europe

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

International Press Institute (IPI)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

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 and candidate countries.

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Poland: TOK FM fine sparks renewed concerns about regulatory…

Poland: TOK FM fine sparks renewed concerns about regulatory capture

The International Press Institute (IPI) raises alarm over the controversial fine imposed on the independent radio TOK FM by the chair of Poland’s broadcast media regulator and warns of increasing regulatory pressure on the station ahead of a looming licencing decision.

On 28 April 2023, it was announced that the chairperson of Poland’s National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), Maciej Świrski, had levied a fine of PLN 80,000 (€17,680) on TOK FM for allegedly violating broadcast law and “inciting hatred” during a morning radio interview.

The financial penalty stemmed from an interview broadcasted in June 2022 in which the host Piotr Maślak spoke with a guest about a history textbook introduced into Polish schools. The book had been commissioned by the Ministry of Education and written by a professor who used to be a politician for the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Speaking critically about the textbook, Maślak stated that in his opinion some elements and language could be compared to Nazi propaganda within the Hitler Youth. His statement was followed by the presentation of specific quotes from the book which he described as problematic.

The fine by KRRiT came more than 10 months after the show was broadcasted. In his justification, the chairman claimed the language used on TOK FM had violated Article 18(1) of the Polish Broadcasting Act by “promoting illegal activities, views and attitudes contrary to morality and social good, and containing content inciting hatred and discriminatory content.”

The fine comes as TOK FM, which is owned by Polish media house Agora and is the fourth-most-popular radio station in Poland, awaits a decision on the renewal of its broadcast licence from KRRiT. The current ten-year licence is due to expire in November 2023. The radio station and Agora stood by the journalist and described the fine as “absurd”.


Deepening concern

“This fine against TOK FM is another example in the growing list of problematic regulatory decisions taken by the head of Poland’s National Broadcasting Council in response to legitimate journalistic content on issues sensitive for the government,” IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “The opinion expressed by the journalist during the show clearly does not meet the threshold for the serious violations alleged. On the contrary, IPI is concerned that this decision by the KRRiT chairman represents a disproportionate and discriminatory application of the Broadcast Act which penalizes a media outlet for exerting its right to free opinion on a matter of public interest.

“IPI and our global network call for this fine to be rescinded immediately. A decision regarding TOK FM’s pending licence renewal should be made by KRRiT in a timely and independent manner and based on strict professional criteria. We further call on the KRRiT chairman to immediately cease imposing fines and ordering investigations against media carrying out legitimate journalistic work.”

“Worryingly, this is a pattern IPI has documented before: one in which the current KRRiT chairman, an ally of PiS, imposes meritless fines on media critical of the government. Many of these investigations appear to have been launched in response to calls for probes by PiS politicians or in retaliation for reporting on sensitive issues.”

Griffen added: “Crucially, this regulatory decision also has implications beyond the financial cost to the media outlet. It comes as TOK FM awaits a decision on the renewal of its ten-year broadcast licence. With its future on the airwaves in the balance, we are concerned that this fine represents a black mark against its name which some members of the KRRiT could now potentially use to argue for the non-renewal of the licence.”

This is not the first time such regulatory pressure has been applied to critical media organizations. The unjustified withholding of the licence renewal of TVN24 until the last moment by government-friendly figures within KRRiT in 2021 was a key example. While that licence was ultimately granted after a months-long standoff, this kind of pressure creates an unstable climate for media to operate in or make sound financial planning.


Regulatory capture

Griffen noted that the non-renewal of broadcast licences for independent media by captured regulatory bodies has been one of the key mechanisms used by illiberal governments to stifle press freedom and erode media pluralism in Europe in recent years. Hungary’s Media Council, which is controlled by appointees of the Fidesz party, is the prime example here, he said.

“IPI is concerned that  KRRiT, which has long been dominated by figures appointed by PiS and its allies, has increasingly become an instrument for applying politically-motivated pressure to media critical of the ruling party”, Griffen added. “While KRRiT retains some level of pluralism compared to Hungary’s captured Media Council, we believe the politicization of the body poses a threat to media freedom in Poland.

“Increased scrutiny must be given by EU institutions to KRRiT and the implications of its decisions on free media. Threats to KRRiT’s independence should be clearly highlighted in future EU Rule of Law reports. At the same time, safeguards must be implemented to increase the regulatory authority’s institutional independence moving forward.

“KRRiT, as well as the separate National Media Council, are therefore key examples of the need for a strong European Media Freedom Act (EMFA). The fine imposed by KRRiT on TOK FM is also an example of a case in which scrutiny by the EMFA’s proposed European Board for Media Services would, in our view, be justified.”

In March, IPI warned about signs of increasing pressure on critical and independent media ahead of the general election in Poland in autumn 2023, with regulatory pressure by KRRiT highlighted as a key concern.

While Poland’s media landscape remains vibrant and pluralistic overall, in recent years independent media critical of PiS have faced a multi-pronged campaign of regulatory, financial and legislative pressure aimed at undermining their influence.

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 and candidate countries. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

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