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European Commission must urgently address media market distortion in…

The European Commission must urgently address media market distortion in Hungary

MFRR partners, alongside other media freedom groups and associations have again urged the EU’s Competition Commissioner to swiftly address concerns over media market distortions in Hungary.

The group of 16 organisations note the continuing deterioration of media pluralism in Central Europe and renew their call to the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager to open a prompt investigation into pending state aid complaints.

The Commission’s lack of enforcement of market rules in Hungary, the groups said, is not only allowing the situation there to worsen but now also empowering the deliberate distortion of the media market in Poland, with worrying implications for both media freedom and democracy.

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Austria: Plans to restrict media reporting on leaked judicial…

Austria: Plans to restrict media reporting on leaked judicial information threatens press freedom

IPI, as part of the MFRR, calls for plans in Austria to impose tough criminal penalties on journalists for quoting from leaked documents to be scrapped immediately

Controversial plans floated by the governing Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) that would impose tough criminal penalties on journalists for quoting from leaked documents should be scrapped immediately.

IPI state that if passed, the new rules would seriously undermine press freedom in Austria and hamper investigative journalism.

On February 24, 2021, the ÖVP party headed by Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, suggested as part of a planned judicial reform that it was considering stricter criminal penalties for media which quoted or published leaked information from judicial investigations.

The ÖVP’s suggestion for tougher criminal penalties comes amidst media coverage of judicial investigations involving politicians, including Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Blümel, who is under investigation by the specialized public prosecutor’s office responsible for corruption-related crimes (WKStA).

Under current legislation, Austrian journalists are permitted to publish and cite information attained from leaks as long as it complies with provisions in the country’s media law regarding issues such as privacy protection.

After the plans were revealed, several leading journalists, the association of Austrian newspapers, journalist unions, academics and the Austrian Bar Association came out to vocally condemn the proposal.

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Malta: Conviction of first assassin is an important step…

Conviction of first assassin is an important step on road to full justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia

IPI, as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response, welcomes sentencing and new indictments but warns of long fight for justice ahead

The International Press Institute (IPI), as part of the MFRR welcomed the first conviction for the 2017 murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia as an important step forward in the path to full justice for her assassination.

IPI also welcomed the indictment of two individuals accused of supplying the bomb that killed her and expressed hope the developments would help bring the mastermind to justice.

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Serbia Prison sentence for arson attack on journalist Milan…

Serbia: Prison sentence for arson attack on journalist Milan Jovanovic

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) welcomes the verdict in the criminal case concerning the arson attack against Serbian journalist Milan Jovanovic, rendered on 23 February by the Second Basic Court in Belgrade.

In 2018, Serbian journalist Milan Jovanovic was the victim of an arson attack on his house in Belgrade after investigating cases of corruption of local public officials.

Judicial proceedings against the suspected arsonists started in 2019 and have since then been delayed numerous times after frequent requests of postponement advanced by the defense lawyers. These procedural tactics, which also include attempts to disqualify judges appointed to this case, have seriously delayed justice for Jovanovic.

On 23 February 2021, the court sentenced former Grocka mayor Dragoljub Simonovic to four years and three months of prison for having ordered the arson attack on Jovanovic’s house in December 2018. The court also sentenced Vladimir Mihailovic and Aleksandar Marinkovic in absentia to four years in jail. Mr Marinkovic was sentenced for perpetrating the arson attack; however, his whereabouts have been unknown since the start of proceedings. This sentence sets an important precedent for ensuring that those who commit crimes against journalists in Serbia – so often met with impunity – are brought to justice.

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Podcast: The up- and downside of new Austrian law…

The up- and downside of new Austrian law to regulate platforms and combat online abuse

This episode of the ‘The Press Freedom Files’ produced by IPI, as part of the MFRR, brings in expert analysis on Austria’s new law and it’s potential to address online harassment as well as risks for freedom of expression

The Austrian Communication Platforms Act took effect on January 1, 2021. It’s Austria’s attempt to protect public discourse by regulating the big social media platforms. The law is also part of a larger package of legal reforms in the country that aim at addressing online abuse.

IPI Head of Digital Communications Javier Luque talks to experts Daniela Kraus, Secretary General of the Presseclub Concordia, and journalist Ingrid Brodnig, who has authored several books on online harassment and disinformation, about the law’s potential benefits as well as potential pitfalls that could negatively impact the free dissemination of news and freedom of expression.

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Podcast: Online attacks and smear campaigns are pushing Slovenian…

Online attacks and smear campaigns are pushing Slovenian journalists to the limit

The fourth episode of ‘The Press Freedom Files’ podcast series produced by IPI as part of the MFRR looks into the motives behind the online threats in Slovenia and the consequences on journalists’ careers

In this episode of IPI’s ‘The Press Freedom Files’ podcast, IPI Head of Digital Communications Javier Luque looks into the increasingly difficult situation journalists face in Slovenia. A rise in online abuse and campaigns to discredit the media fuelled by a populist government leave journalists with a difficult decision to make: Either accept all this or quit your career.

Guest Mojca Šetinc Pašek, a senior journalist at Slovenia’s RTV public broadcaster, talks about the experience of being in the crosshairs of current Primer Minister Janez Janša. We also talk with Špela Stare, secretary general of the Slovene Journalists Association, to dive deep into the driving force behind the attacks.

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Letter to Charles Michel: time for EU Member States…

MFRR letter to Charles Michel: time for EU Member States to act to protect journalists

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) sent a letter to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel in expressing serious concern about the sharp decline in freedom of the press in the European Union.

2020 was an unfortunate record year: MFRR recorded 245 alerts (with 873 attacked persons or entities related to media) in 22 EU Member States, and the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism recorded 115 media freedom violations in 27 EU Member States (the highest level since 2015).

According to MFRR data, nearly one in four incidents (23.7%) resulted in journalists and media workers being physically attacked. In more than every tenth incident (11.4%) media workers were injured.

The EU is not immune and has been profoundly shaken by a series of dramatic events, including the murders of journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia (2017) and Jan Kuciak (2018). European leaders should not wait for another murder before acting decisively. This is also crucial to set a much needed worldwide example.

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Podcast: Radio silence as independent Hungarian broadcaster kicked off…

Radio silence as independent Hungarian broadcaster kicked off airwaves

The third episode of ‘The Press Freedom Files’ examines media pluralism after muzzling of Klubrádió in Hungary

At midnight on February 14, one of Hungary’s last major independent radio stations, Klubrádió, fell silent on the frequency on which it had broadcast for 20 years.

The silencing of the critical broadcaster comes after a court in Budapest sided with the government-controlled Hungarian Media Council and approved its decision to refuse to renew Klubrádió’s seven-year license.

The ruling resigned Klubrádió to broadcasting solely from the internet from today, February 15, and caps the end of a decade-long campaign by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to muzzle one of the country’s last critical stations.

The third episode of IPI’s podcast ‘The Press Freedom Files’ examines the impact of this court verdict on what remains of media pluralism in Hungary and contextualizes it within the government’s broader efforts to silence independent journalism.

IPI Advocacy Officer Jamie Wiseman talks with guests Arató András, chairman of the board of Klubrádió, and Dr Gábor Polyák, an associate professor at the Institute for Communication and Media Studies of the University of Pécs and head of research at Mérték Media Monitor.

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Podcast: Anti-press sentiment in The Netherlands fosters online attacks…

Anti-press sentiment in The Netherlands fosters online attacks against journalists

Second episode of ‘The Press Freedom Files’ produced by IPI as part of the MFRR looks into the case of Dutch journalist Clarice Gagard and motives behind the growing attacks against the media

The tightening of the COVID-19 restrictions in The Netherlands triggered riots and violence that swept the streets of the country’s main cities on the weekend of January 24th. Far-right rhetoric and conspiracy theories proliferating across Europe have planted a seed of distrust in the media, increased polarization and, observers say, awakened a dormant racism in the Netherlands. All of this has resulted in a sudden growth of both online and physical attacks against reporters, with female and minority journalists especially targeted.

The second episode of IPI’s podcast ‘The Press Freedom Files’ sheds some light over the causes and consequences of this worrying trend in a country widely known for its progressive and liberal spirit. Guests Clarice Gagard, a prominent Dutch journalist targeted with online abuse; and seasoned journalist Peter ter Velde, manager of the initiative Press Safety, talk with IPI Head of Digital Communications Javier Luque.

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MFRR calls for acquittal of Swedish documentary makers

MFRR calls for acquittal of Swedish documentary makers

On Monday 8 February, a Gothenburg court delivered its verdict in the trial of journalist Henrik Evertsson and camera operator Linus Andersson for their documentary about the sinking of the ‘MS Estonia’. Charged with violating the burial site of the wreck, they faced up to two years in prison.

Update: On 8th Februrary, Evertsson and Andersson were acquitted by the first-tier court in the city of Gothenburg

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joins the partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) to stress the journalistic nature of the investigation carried out in the public interest and call for the acquittal of the two documentary makers.

The “MS Estonia”, a 157-metre long cruise ferry, was en route from Tallinn to Stockholm in September 1994 when it sank in international waters in less than half an hour with 989 people on board. It is known as one of Europe’s greatest maritime disasters, killing 852 people. Yet the causes of the shipwreck remain murky. The official version based on the 1997 investigation – that there had been a failure of the vessel’s retractable ramp – had been disputed for years by the survivors and relatives of the victims.

Broadcast on 28 September 2020 on Discovery Channel, the documentary entitled “Estonia: the discovery that changes everything” revealed the existence of a previously unknown four-metre hole in the hull of the ship. It was filmed with a remotely-operated camera attached to an underwater vehicle. Evertsson and Andersson are accused of illegally entering a protected site considered as a grave following the 1995 agreement between Sweden, Estonia and Finland, which bans any exploration of the area.