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France tramples on press freedom

France tramples on press freedom

MFRR partners join International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ), and their French affiliates, the SNJ, SNJ-CGT, CFDT-Journalists calling on the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, to withdraw three articles from the “Global Security” law 

As the vote on the first reading of the “Global Security” law achieved a majority in the French National Assembly on Tuesday 24 November, the International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ), as well as other representatives from the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) called on the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, to withdraw three articles from the text, and on journalists and democracy activists to demonstrate on Saturday 28 November.

The draft law on Global Security was tabled by two deputies from the government majority and  secured a majority vote (388 votes for, 104 against) in the National Assembly on Tuesday 24 November. It seeks to amend the law of 29 July 1881 on freedom of the press as follows: “The act of disseminating by any means whatsoever and whatever the medium, with the aim of harming his physical or mental integrity, the image of the face or any other element of identification of an official of the national police or a military member of the national gendarmerie when he acts as part of a police operation is punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros.”

The IFJ, EFJ, their affiliates in France and the MFRR consider that this law is contrary to international legal standards on freedom of expression and disproportionately restricts the rights of journalists and press freedom.

Polish Protest - Photo Credit: Konrad Lembcke Library

Polish authorities must end police brutality and persecution of…

Polish authorities must end police brutality and persecution of protesters and journalists

ARTICLE 19 condemns the ongoing crackdown on protests against the abortion ban in Poland, and police brutality against protesters and journalists. The protests concern a matter of crucial public interest for women’s reproductive rights, and participation in public life, and the right to protest on this issue must be protected.

For more than a month, hundreds of thousands of people have gathered and protested across the country against the decision of the Constitutional Court to ban abortions in cases of foetal abnormality. The Constitutional Court has been criticised for its lack of independence in recent years. The protests, led by women and organised by the Women’s Strike initiative, have reached an unprecedented scale including in small towns and communities.

Since the beginning of the protests, ARTICLE 19 as part of the MFRR has been concerned about a number of violations of the right to protest in Poland

Polish Protest - Photo Credit: Konrad Lembcke Library

Charges against Polish photojournalist Agata Grzybowska must be dropped

Charges against Polish photojournalist Agata Grzybowska must be dropped

As part of the MFRR, IPI calls on authorities in Poland to immediately withdraw charges against award-winning photographer

The International Press Institute (IPI) condemned the arrest of photojournalist Agata Grzybowska in Warsaw and called on Polish authorities to drop the charges against her immediately. Grzybowska, an award-winning photographer who works for the RATS agency and co-operates with the Associated Press and Gazeta Wyborcza, was arrested as she documented a protest outside the Ministry of National Education in Warsaw on November 23.

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MFRR calls for an investigation into the targeting of…

MFRR calls for an investigation into the targeting of journalists by the UK Government

As part of the MFRR, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom calls for an urgent, robust and transparent investigation into the potentially unlawful manipulation of Freedom of Information requests by the UK Government, through the secretive ‘Clearing House’ unit

On 23 November 2020, openDemocracy released a report regarding a UK government unit called the ‘Clearing House’, based out of the Cabinet Office. According to the report,  Freedom of Information (FOI) requests sent to Whitehall departments that are deemed sensitive, or too expensive to answer are forwarded to the unit for further vetting. As noted in the report, Act of Darkness authored by Lucas Amin, ‘the FOI act does not stipulate the need for a Clearing House and the unit has no public policy mandate.’

This centralisation of the responsibility to respond to FOI requests gives ample cover for political decisions to inform the government’s response. Something that goes against the spirit, and likely also the letter, of the 2000 Freedom of Information act.

Journalists from openDemocracy, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and many more, as well as researchers from Privacy International and Big Brother Watch have been included on lists compiled by the Clearing House.

It is vital that an independent and robust investigation is carried out to ensure that all FOI requests are treated equally and without political interference or the appearance thereof.

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Greece: MFRR denounces detention and intimidation of Documento journalist…

Greece: MFRR denounces detention and intimidation of Documento journalist in Athens

The International Press Institute, as part of the MFRR, condemns the detention and intimidation of journalist Antonis Rigopoulos as he was covering a protest in Athens and called on the Interior Ministry and the Hellenic Police to ensure all officers are trained not to hinder the work of the media.

Antonis Rigopoulos who works for the media outlets Documento and Koutipandoras.gr was detained at approximately 3pm on 17 November when he was covering a rally in commemoration of the 1973 Polytechnic University student uprising against the military dictatorship.

IPI raised concern that, according to reports, officers repeatedly refused to acknowledge the reporter’s “press” ID when it was presented. The MFRR calls for an internal investigation into the alleged abuse and intimidation suffered by Rigopoulos while he was held in a police station.

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MFRR condemns arson attack on publisher of The Digger…

MFRR condemns arson attack on publisher of The Digger and the intimidation of those selling the crime weekly

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, European Federation of Journalists and International Press Institute as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), condemns the arson attack against James Cruickshank, the publisher of the Glasgow crime weekly, The Digger and the attempts to intimidate stockists across Glasgow. We call on Police Scotland to bring those behind the attack to justice.

Photo credit: James Cruickshank

In the night between Saturday 31 October and Sunday 1 November, unknown individuals set fire to a car owned by James Cruickshank, the publisher of The Digger as it was parked outside the house he shares with his partner. While the fire spread to his neighbour’s car, no houses were affected and the blaze was soon put out by the fire service. However, as reported by the Press Gazette, this was not an isolated incident. During the same night, individuals visited approximately ‘30 of the 750 shops that stock The Digger in the Glasgow area to try to intimidate them to stop selling it’. According to the article, of those visited, two stopped selling the publication as a result. 

It is strongly believed that the two incidents are connected to each other and to The Digger’s reporting on organised crime in Glasgow. We call on Police Scotland to ensure the investigation is swift, thorough and robust and ensures those behind these attacks are brought to justice.

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Czech Republic: MFRR concerned over sidelining of critical media…

Czech Republic: MFRR concerned over sidelining of critical media outlets during government press conferences

MFRR partners sent a letter to the government of the Czech Republic expressing our disappointment over the lack of communication with the media and the repeated denial of access for certain outlets to COVID-19 press conferences.

On 14 October, the Board of Trustees of the Czech National Committee of the International Press Institute (IPI) wrote to Tünde Bartha, Director of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic seeking urgent clarification about the government’s communications strategy and the restrictions placed on journalists from certain outlets. Highlighting the case of Forum 24, one of the country’s biggest independent news media, it called on the government to immediately rethink its system for access to online press conferences, while also allowing more time for journalists from different publications to pose questions.

Since then, however, IPI’s Czech National Committee has received no response from your administration. Forum 24 likewise remains in the dark as to why they have been denied accreditation since March. Moreover, we have heard from other media outlets that efforts to send questions to the Ministry of Health press office and the government spokesperson Jana Adamcová have repeatedly gone unanswered. This seriously undermines the ability of journalists to carry out their professional responsibilities at a time where impartial and factual information is vital to support public health.

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The MFRR and partners call on UK authorities to…

The MFRR and partners call on UK authorities to intervene on behalf of whistleblower Jonathan Taylor

The MFRR and whistleblowing, human rights and transparency organisations have sent a letter to the UK Government calling on them to intervene to ensure whistleblower, Jonathan Taylor can return home

The letter to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and First Secretary of State, Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP was signed by 17 organisations. It outlines a number of concerns that without intervention by the government of the United Kingdom, whistleblower and British citizen Jonathan Taylor may be stuck in Croatia fighting extradition to Monaco for many more months.

On 31 July 2020, Taylor, a whistleblower who disclosed bribery and corrupt practices in the oil and gas industry, was arrested upon his arrival in Croatia for a holiday pursuant to an Interpol Red Notice issued on request of Monaco. On 1 September, a court in Dubrovnik ordered his extradition. However, on 12 October the Supreme Court partially sustained an appeal by Taylor, ruling that, as the extradition concerned a UK national, that country should be afforded the right to request Taylor’s surrender under the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) scheme. If the UK does not seek his surrender, the Supreme Court said, the lower court should rule on the request for extradition by Monaco. On 20 October, the court in Dubrovnik wrote to the UK authorities requesting a statement as to whether it seeks Taylor’s surrender under the EAW, which would be absurd given he is not under investigation in the UK.

Photo of Warsaw protest credit: Jedrzej Nowicki Library

Poland: MFRR condemns police violence against journalists amidst Warsaw…

Poland: MFRR condemns police violence against journalists amidst Warsaw clashes

IPI, as part of the MFRR, condemns the violence against journalists and media workers by police officers during protests in Warsaw

The International Press Institute (IPI) strongly condemned police violence against photojournalists reporting on clashes in the Polish capital Warsaw. The violence led to numerous injuries and the hospitalization of a 74-year-old photographer who was shot in the face with a rubber bullet.

In each of the attacks the journalists in question had either been wearing “PRESS” signs or were otherwise clearly identifiable as members of the media. The incidents happened on November 11, 2020 as media covered violent clashes between police and members of far-right and nationalist groups during the annual Independence Day march through the capital.

Photo credit: Jedrzej Nowicki 

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France: concerns about new draft law that would make…

France: new draft law would make it illegal to publish images of police and gendarmes at work

ECPMF and EFJ, as part of the MFRR, with French unions SNJ, SNJ-CGT, CFDT-Journalistes, are concerned about a legislative proposal pending in the French parliament, which would make it illegal to disseminate images of law enforcement officers of the national police and gendarmerie.

Legislative proposal No. 3452 on global security was introduced by Members of Parliament of the presidential majority on 20 October 2020. The text proposes a host of legislative changes that purport to address the “new challenges for French security” and strengthen law enforcement to this end. In article 24, the legislative proposal advances the amendment of the 1881 law on press freedom, to add a provision (new Art. 35 quinquies) that would make it punishable by one year of imprisonment and a fine of 45 000 euro to disseminate, with the intent of causing psychological or physical harm, an image of the face or any other element that could identify a law enforcement officer in the course of exercising his or her duty.

ECPMF, EFJ and the unions who joined this statement call  on the members of Parliament to delete the proposed text.