MFRR joins call for EU to prioritise rule of…

MFRR joins call for EU to prioritize rule of law

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) consortium joined other media freedom and civil society organisations on Wednesday in calling on the European Commission to strengthen its fifth annual rule of law report, which assesses media freedom in European Union member states.

With Europe due to vote from June 6 to 9, the 39 groups also called on the new European Commission to prioritize implementation of their recommendations.


“The multiple attacks on press freedom in the European Union highlighted in the latest MFRR report and in the annual report of the Council of Europe Platform must encourage European political decision-makers to put more pressure on national governments,” insists EFJ President Maja Sever. “The alarm signals are multiplying: the refusal of the French government majority to consolidate the independence of editorial offices from media owners, threats to public broadcasting in Italy and Slovakia, the multiplication of slapps without any reaction from governments, and so on. What are governments waiting for to react to these threats to democracy?”


Our main recommendations to the European Commission are:

  1. Strengthen the rule of law as a key priority in the next Commission programme
  2. A strong mandate for the new Commissioner for Justice
  3. Better self-assessment of the rule of law effectiveness
  4. Continue the annual rule of law reports and make them more contextual and detailed
  5. Address continuing concerns about civic space
  6. Take firm and systematic action against the non-implementation of court decisions
  7. Protect freedom of expression and information and media freedom
  8. Improve the visibility and awareness of the rule of law report

Signed by:

  1. ACAT Belgium
  2. ACAT France
  3. ALDA – European Association for Local Democracy
  4. ARTICLE 19
  5. Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
  6. Citizens Network Watchdog Poland
  7. Civil Liberties Union for Europe
  8. Committee to Protect Journalists
  9. Community Media Forum Europe
  10. Democracy Reporting International (DRI)
  11. DEMAS – Association for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights
  12. Demo Finland
  13. Europäischer Austausch / European Exchange
  14. European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  15. European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  16. European Network Against Racism (ENAR)
  17. European Partnership for Democracy (EPD)
  18. Fédération internationale des ACAT / International Federation of ACAT
  19. Fédération internationale pour les droits humains (FIDH)
  20. Free Press Unlimited
  21. Human Rights and Democracy Network Internal Working Group
  22. Human Rights House Foundation
  23. Human Rights House Zagreb
  24. Human Rights Watch
  25. Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  26. IFEX
  27. ILGA Europe – European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and
    Intersex Association
  28. Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey (IFOX)
  29. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  30. International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN)
  31. International Press Institute (IPI)
  32. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
  33. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  34. Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa
  35. Protection International
  36. Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  37. Society of Journalists
  38. South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  39. WACC Europe

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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Media freedom in Romania ahead of Super Election year

Media freedom in Romania ahead of Super Election Year

4 April, 14:00 CET

On April 4, the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Media Freedom Rapid Response will host a webinar to mark the publication of a major report assessing press freedom and independent journalism in Romania.


In Romania, the main instrument of political capture of the media are the ‘media and propaganda’ funds. Political parties pay around 20 million euros annually to the media from their allocation from the state budget. The size and lack of transparency over their expenditure has created a pliant media culture that panders to politicians and fails to hold the government to account. There is a profound crisis in local journalism created by a near complete dependency on local government funds for survival. 


A growing use of abusive lawsuits, or SLAPPs, used against Romanian media and journalists is draining resources and increasing costs for media. Journalists are facing a growing chilling effect on newsrooms and pressure to desist from pursuing investigative content. 


Lastly, while most journalists conduct their work without fear for their safety, a significant number are regularly trolled, threatened or worse. Too often, the police fail to take appropriate action, leaving  women journalists  to either accept the threats or leave the profession.


Oliver Money-Kyrle

Head of Europe Advocacy and Programmes, International Press Institute (IPI)


Septimius Parvu

Electoral Expert, Expert Forum

Cristina Lupu

Executive Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ana Poenariu

Investigative journalist

Marius Daea

Producer and country coordinator in the Science+ project at Free Press Unlimited


Sielke Kelner

Researcher and Advocacy Officer, Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

The report has been jointly produced by the organizations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR): ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the International Press Institute (IPI) and the Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). 


The report will be published first in English, with a translated Romanian version to follow in the coming weeks.

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Urgent action needed to protect journalists Ana Lalić Hegediš…

Urgent action needed to protect journalists Ana Lalić Hegediš and Dinko Gruhonjić



Mr Vucic, President of Serbia


Mr Stamenkovic, Public Prosecutor in General Public Prosecution and member of the Standing working group


Ms Brnabic, Prime Minister and President of National Parliament 


Mr Gasic, Minister of Interior


Mr Jovanovic, Minister of Information and Telecommunication


We would like to bring to your attention the urgent situation concerning the safety of journalists Ana Lalić Hegediš and Dinko Gruhonjić, leaders of the Vojvodina Association of Independent Journalists (NDNV). Over the past fifteen days, both journalists have been subjected to an onslaught of online death threats following their participation in the Rebedu Festival in Dubrovnik. The situation escalated on 21 March when graffiti was discovered at Gruhonjić’s residence. The journalists are facing imminent threats to their lives, prompting urgent action from law enforcement.


Since 8 March, Lalić Hegediš has endured terrifying online death threats, some of a sexual nature, alongside grave insults targeting both her and the NDNV she leads. Similarly, since 14 March, Gruhonjić, program director of NDNV who is also a journalist and lecturer at Novi Sad University, has been subjected to a public campaign of intimidation, including threats of physical violence. This campaign stemmed from a manipulated video montage from Gruhonjić’s participation to the Rebedu Festival last year, giving the impression that Dinko was expressing his satisfaction at sharing a name with the Ustasha criminal Dinko Šakić, who was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Second World war. 


On 21 March, an unknown individual went to Gruhonjić’ private residence to paint a threatening graffiti on the wall of the entrance of his building saying that Dinko will soon have “forever home”. The individual signed “Serbian Vojvodina”. The graffiti demonstrates the ease with which perpetrators can locate him and his family, underscoring the seriousness of the threats both journalists are facing. 


Despite the NDNV reporting the alarming threats to the high-tech crime prosecutor’s office and providing details of some of identified perpetrators, including those who signed threats with their names, no decisive action has been taken to conduct thorough investigation, arrest the perpetrators nor to provide the journalists with adequate protection. 


We urge authorities to launch immediate investigations and implement measures to ensure the safety and protection of Lalić Hegediš and Gruhonjić.


Politicians and officials must also be held accountable for their role in perpetuating hatred against journalists. Public statements from individuals such as Aleksandar Vulin, former director of the Security Information Agency and founder of the Socialist Movement party and Milenko Jovanov, MP at the Parliament last 18 March, only serve to escalate hatred and endanger lives. There are also serious concerns that members of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party are behind the lynching campaign against Lalić Hegediš and Gruhonjić. The person who filed a criminal complaint against them for allegedly inciting racial, religious and national hatred and intolerance during their participation in the forum is closely associated with party figures such as Aleksa Grubešić, member of the Serbian Progressive Party.


It is the responsibility of the State to protect journalists and provide them with the necessary protection to enable them to carry out their work. The policy of impunity in the face of threats to the independence of the press in Serbia must end. 


Thank you for your attention to these matters. We remain available for any further information.


Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)  

Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) 

Luisa Chiodi, Director of the Balkans and Caucasus Transeuropa Observatory (OBCT)  

Quinn McKew, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19

Oliver Money-Kyrle, Head of Europe Advocacy and Programmes at International Press Institute (IPI)

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

SafeJournalists Network 

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: Regulator Fine against TVN appears to punish independent…

Poland: Regulator Fine against TVN appears to punish independent journalism

Poland’s politically controlled media regulator punishes private TV channel for a documentary on child abuse in the church

The undersigned partner organizations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today condemn the 550.000 PLN (approximately 127.000 EUR) fine issued by Poland’s National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) to TVN, one of Poland’s largest broadcasters. The fine is yet another reminder of the urgent need to reform Poland’s politicized regulator.


KRRiT issued the fine on March 6 following its investigation into a documentary film aired by TVN in March 2023. The documentary, which was part of a series on child abuse in the Catholic Church, delved into allegations surrounding Pope John Paul II’s potential involvement in covering up the scandal.


KRRiT is headed by Maciej Świrski, appointed by the parliament in 2022, who is known to be a close ally of the former governing Law and Justice (PiS) party. KRRiT remains an institution under PiS influence with a history of harassing independent and opposition media under the previous government. This included issuing arbitrary fines and delaying decisions on license renewals for TVN, TVN24 and TOK FM, which breached the body’s own rules and created economic uncertainty for targeted independent outlets.


Under Świrski, KRRiT fined TOK FM 80.000 PLN (roughly 19.000 EUR) in April 2023 for ‘inciting hatred’ when a commentator claimed that new school history books reminded him of language used in Nazi youth textbooks. It also fined Eurozet/Radio Zet 476.000 PLN for ‘promoting false information’ for a broadcast claiming US secret services had transported Ukraine’s President Zelensky through Poland without seeking assistance or properly informing Polish authorities.


KRRiT has yet to rule on two more cases against TVN, for a documentary on the Smoleńsk air tragedy and a report on police actions against a woman admitted to hospital after taking an abortion pill.   


The latest fine against TVN demonstrates the dangers that a politically captured media regulator poses to media freedom as it misuses its powers to punish independent journalism and curtail media freedom. KRRiT, left unchecked, is reaching beyond its constitutional role of media regulator and acting like a public censor by punishing outlets for legitimate, if uncomfortable, public interest journalism.


The independence of regulatory bodies is vital for the transparent and impartial oversight of broadcast media and to guarantee media pluralism and media freedoms. It is also a requirement of both the European Union’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive and the new Media Freedom Act.  


As part of the ongoing reforms of the media sector, we call on the new government led by the Civic Coalition (KO) to ensure that media regulators, as with the public service media, are entirely independent of political and governmental control, and have no power to interfere in the editorial decisions of newsrooms.

Signed by:

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

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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Serbia: escalating threats and attacks against journalists in Novi…

Serbia: escalating threats and attacks against journalists in Novi Sad

The escalation of threats and violence suffered by journalists in Novi Sad, northern Serbia, has reached an unprecedented level in the past fortnight. The undersigned organisations urge the Serbian authorities to conduct immediate and thorough investigation into the persistent attacks on journalists and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted accordingly. 

In just ten days, no fewer than seven journalists have faced threats and assaults in the city of Novi Sad alone. Whether it is physical assaults, verbal abuse, online harassment or death threats, the ability of Serbian journalists to do their job is severely compromised and their safety is at risk. 


On 8 March 2024, journalists from Tanjug and Kurir Television, along with radio, were verbally assaulted while covering a demonstration supporting Ana Mihaljica, whose three children were temporarily taken away from her by the Novi Sad Centre for Social Work. During a live broadcast on Tanjug, reporter Saška Drobnjak was interrupted by a woman claiming to be Mihaljica’s lawyer threatening the journalists, whom she accused of lying. A Tanjug photographer, a Kurir correspondent, and Žarko Bogosavljević of Reporter 021 were also verbally abused. According to the Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS), the police present did not intervene to prevent interference in the journalists’ work. N1 correspondent Ksenija Pavkov also received numerous online insults and threats of physical violence for her coverage of the demonstration. 


That same week, two other journalists and leaders of the Vojvodina Association of Independent Journalists (NDNV), Ana Lalić Hegediš and Dinko Gruhonjić, received thousands of online death threats sent via social media and email. Ana Lalić Hegediš has been the target of terrifying death threats including some of sexual nature and insults, also directed at the NDNV she leads, for comments she made on nationalism at the “Rebedu” festival in Dubrovnik where she was invited as a panellist. Lalić mainly mentioned the Serbian authorities, who do not consider Vojvodina’s citizens as Serbs enough because of their multi-confessionalism and multi-ethnicity.


Since 14 March 2024, her colleague Dinko Gruhonjić, journalist lecturer at Novi Sad University and program director of NDNV, has feared for his life and those of members of his family.  Gruhonjić has been the target of a public lynching campaign including threats of physical violence since the publication of a video montage with excerpts from his performance at the Rebid festival in Dubrovnik last year. The montage was manipulated to give the impression that Dinko was expressing his satisfaction at sharing a name with the Ustasha criminal Dinko Šakić. NDNV reported these threats to the high-tech crime prosecutor’s office and, for some of them, provided the details of the perpetrators who signed with their names. 


“We have been under attack with the Association for decades. But this time, it’s the greatest pressure ever. Who knows what will happen to us” worries Lalić, while Gruhonjić deplores the “policy of impunity when it comes to threats against the independence of the press in Serbia, even when the perpetrators are not anonymous”.


“The number of threats and insults against journalists is on the rise in Serbia. Knowing that Serbia is a country where the three murders of journalists in the last three decades have not been punished, we are very worried about every threat against journalists that goes unresolved,” said Tamara Filipović, project manager of the Association of Independent Journalists of Serbia (NUNS).


On 15 March 2024, a resident of Novi Sad filed criminal complaints against Gruhonjić and Lalić for allegedly inciting racial, religious, and national hatred and intolerance during their participation at the forum in Dubrovnik. “We have serious reasons thinking the plaintiff is connected to members of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party” declared Gruhonjić. Some politicians have revived the insults in public debates.  


We join the Safe Journalists Network in calling on officials to refrain from targeting the media in Serbia. Their hostile rhetoric legitimises and normalises verbal and physical violence against journalists and media workers. We urge authorities to guarantee a safe environment for journalists, allowing them to work without fearing for their lives, and to put an end to the unacceptable culture of impunity by systematically investigating attacks and complaints.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE19 Europe
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • Safejournalists network

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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North Macedonia, media and public funds

North Macedonia, media and public funds

In view of the upcoming political and presidential elections, the Macedonian government has reintroduced forms of public funding for the media. However, the country’s media organisations argue that the move may aggravate the influence of political interests on news outlets

Article by By Aleksandar Samardjiev, originally published by OBCT

With the latest legal changes in North Macedonia, money from the state budget will be made available to private media on various grounds. This was legally made possible by the current coalition government: the same which, seven years ago, when taking over power, prohibited state funding for the media by law.

The legal changes were made ahead of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in May 2024: with an amendment to the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, the Macedonian Assembly made again possible for state institutions and municipalities to pay private television and radio stations to publish content for campaigns that would be of public interest.

The decision was made despite the repeated warnings by media organisations.

The legislators determined that the state will be allowed to spend 0.1% of the national budget from the tax revenues determined in the last adopted final budget account. According to the final budget for 2022, last year 2.3 million Euros could have been spent on the media.

National televisions will get the lion’s share with 40% of the allocated funds, followed by 40% for cable and satellite televisions, 15% for regional and local televisions, and 5% for radios. In the pre-2017 law, the five national television stations were supposed to receive 65%.

At the local level, according to the changes in the law, the money for campaigns should come from the municipal budget, in this case the available budget is 0.5% of the last final account.

The law also provides that the financed campaigns should be selected by a commission of the Ministry of Information Society and Administration, which will consult representatives of the represented political parties. Both state institutions and municipalities will be allowed to broadcast a maximum of four campaigns per year.


The reaction of journalists

The Association of Journalists, the Union of Journalists and other media organisations have published a joint statement in which they strongly oppose the lifting of the ban on state advertisements, as it will mean renewed party influence over the media and disruption of the Macedonian media market.

“It is high time to establish a fund for pluralism in the media, which would support quality journalism and diverse broadcasting as opposed to state advertising, which serves as a tool for political influence and control, as well as to take into account other proposals, such as is tax exemption for journalists and media workers”, reads the statement.

Media organisations also pointed out the problematic practice of using state money for advertising the pre-election information campaign on private media. This opportunity has been available since 2018, this year with a record number of involved media outlets, especially web portals.

“It is suspicious that some of them are sites with an unknown owner or without an imprint, newly established portals that are suspected of being purpose-built only to get money for the campaign, as well as portals that do not publish information of wider public interest”, was pointed out together by the media organisations, which maintained that the media law should be changed.

“In order to prevent the abuse of public funds by phantom media and to avoid misinforming the citizens about the election process, it is necessary to make urgent changes in the Law on Media to create a registry of online media in North Macedonia”, the organisations say.

The media organisations point out that they have discussed this with government representatives in the past, but they assess that there is a lack of political will for constructive legal solutions.


A model encouraging dependency

The first law on audio and audiovisual media services was adopted in 2013 and has been amended 12 times since then. In March 2024, the last amendments to the Law on Media were voted. This will mean financial support for printing and distribution of the printed media amounting to 0.03% of the amount of tax revenues of the previous year, which will cover 50% of the printing costs and 50% of distribution costs. For newspapers in other languages, the percentage is 70%.

For the website Prisma by BIRN North Macedonia, executive director of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM) Dragan Sekulovski commented that, as opposed to the direct injection of budget capital into the media, the idea of a media fund to support exclusively journalistic projects of public interest did not come to life.

“The current model does not encourage quality content and new production of domestic content of public interest, but only promotes spots for politicians, with a huge risk that public interest will be replaced by party interest, and with citizens’ money”, commented Sekulovski.

In several instances, Prisma has reported on how much money different parties managed to allocate to media that are politically close to them. Furthermore, national televisions, quietly boycotting the government and its representatives on several occasions, also pressured the ruling coalition into granting them state money.

This article was coordinated by OBCT as part of tthe 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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1,117 media freedom alerts in the past year –…

1,117 media freedom alerts in the past year – MFRR Monitoring Report 2023


The partners from the MFRR consortium today publish the latest edition of its Monitoring Report which documents press freedom violations from January to December 2023.

The latest Monitoring Report – produced by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the International Press Institute (IPI), and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) as part of the MFRR – gathers and analyses all media freedom violations recorded on Mapping Media Freedom throughout the year 2023. 


War in Ukraine

The 2023 report opens with a thematic chapter on the ongoing war in Ukraine and its repercussions for press freedom. The MFRR recorded a total of 149 alerts throughout 2023 affecting 220 different media entities.


DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks became prominent in Hungary and other countries in Europe. Unfortunately, the number of such cases doubled compared to the previous year, with 61 alerts targeting 112 persons or entities related to the media.


Incidents by public authorities/politicians

A third thematic chapter was dedicated to populist attacks on media freedom in Europe, ranging from verbal harassment and censorship, to legal attacks and ‘foreign agent’ laws. 


Abusive lawsuits and SLAPPs

A final thematic chapter focuses on civil and criminal lawsuits against journalists and media outlets. In 2023, 20 legal cases containing hallmarks of SLAPPs were recorded by MFRR partners.


The report also includes country reports offering a summary of the most relevant threats in the following EU countries: France, the Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Spain, Finland, and Slovakia; and in the following candidate countries: Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Turkey.


Key Figures

  • 1,117 media freedom violations were recorded in EU Member States and candidate countries, involving 1,620 individuals or media outlets.
  • 602 alerts were recorded in the EU, while 515 were registered in candidate countries.
  • In the EU, the main source of attacks remained private individuals (almost 33% of cases), worryingly followed by public officials (17.9%) and police and state security (12.6%).
  • 3 media workers were murdered – two in Ukraine and one in Albania.
  • 149 media freedom violations were recorded in Ukraine, a slight increase on last year’s 147 alerts. The MFRR started monitoring Ukraine immediately after the full-scale invasion in 2022.
  • 20.6% of all incidents in the EU involved some kind of physical attack. A considerable number of incidents included cases involving attacks to property (17.4%) and censorship (15.9%).
  • Within Member States of the EU, verbal attacks (35.9%) represented the largest amount of alerts, followed by legal incidents (24.9%) and physical attacks, accounting for 20.6% of the total incidents. In EU candidate countries, legal incidents were at the forefront of alerts (29.7%), followed by verbal attacks such as harassment second with 27.2%.

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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Call for withdrawal of Slovakia’s repressive broadcast law

Call for withdrawal of Slovakia’s repressive broadcast law

Journalists and media freedom groups call for the urgent withdrawal of a proposed legislation allowing political control over public-service media in Slovakia. The bill threatens independent information, especially before the June European Parliament elections, contradicting the recently voted EU’s Media Freedom Act.

On March 11, the Slovak government announced a plan to dissolve Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) and replace it with the new Slovak Television and Radio (STaR). The Ministry of Culture’s draft law includes drastic changes to the appointment and competence of oversight bodies, which would set up a government control and effectively end the public broadcaster’s independence.


Upon the passing of the law, the ruling majority of Prime Minister Robert Fico will replace the Director General of the public media and the members of its oversight body ahead of the previous legal end of their mandates.


The new Director-General will be appointed by the new Board of STaR, which will consist of seven members, four appointed by the Parliament, three by the Ministry of Culture, effectively handing the governing parties full control over the Board and the appointment of the Director General. The Board also receives the new power of being able to dismiss the Director without having to provide any grounds, although the ruling coalition has since said they will remove this element following criticism.


Moreover, an entirely new institution, the Programme Council, is to be formed in order to coordinate STaR’s programming and ensure its “compliance with the public nature of broadcasting.” Nine out of eleven members of this body will be appointed by Parliament and enable direct political control over editorial policy.


The Act on Slovak Television and Radio (STaR) is being rushed through parliament via an abbreviated inter-ministerial and public consultation procedure until March 19. On March 17 Prime Minister Robert Fico called on the Parliament to approve the law in an accelerated legislative procedure starting in April. The bill could hence be approved before the elections to the European Parliament taking place on 8 June.


Opposition to the government’s power grab over the public broadcaster is mounting. By March 18, over 1,200 RTVS employees and external collaborators had signed a petition urging the withdrawal of the draft law. The following day, almost three hundred Slovak editors and journalists signed a joint statement denouncing the law, and expressing solidarity with RTVS.


Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová joined the critics, saying that the law is likely to violate the principles of free political contest and the prohibition against censorship, as well as being “in direct contradiction with the new European Media Freedom Act” which lays down strict safeguards on the independence of public service media.


The bill also goes against the European Commission’s 2023 Rule of Law Report which called on Slovakia to “enhance the independent governance and editorial independence of public service media.”


We welcome the statements of European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová expressing her concerns during the European Parliament debate before the adoption of the European Media Freedom Act on March 12, and later stating that it may lead to the end of independent reporting by public media in Slovakia.


The undersigned media freedom organisations condemn the Slovak Television and Radio bill. We are deeply concerned that this bill is designed to enable the political take-over of RTVS and its conversion into a state propaganda outlet in the service of the government.  We call on the Minister of Culture to immediately withdraw the bill.


In a joint open letter, we further call on the institutions of the European Union to urgently address this threat to press freedom at the heart of Europe. The political control of public media threatens the integrity of the upcoming European elections by politicising political coverage of the campaigns and denying the public to independent and pluralistic sources of information.

Signed by:

International Press Institute (IPI)

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

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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Georgia: MFRR partners denounce smear campaign against journalist by…

Georgia: MFRR partners denounce smear campaign against journalist by speaker of the Parliament

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today express concern at the discrediting of a prominent Georgian journalist by Shalva Papuashvili, Speaker of the Georgian Parliament. The comments come amid a broader wave of smear campaigns against independent media in Georgia by Papuashvili and others.

On 20 February 2024, Georgian media reported that Papuashvili had publicly discredited Gela Mtivlishvili, the editor of online news site Mtis Ambebi, by questioning his credentials as a journalist in the course of an interview. In remarks to journalists, Papuashvili mentioned an investigation by Mtivlishvili into a natural disaster in the mountain locality of Shovi in August 2023, in which 33 people were killed.


During a lengthy comment on the article, the Speaker of Georgia’s Parliament claimed that the piece was “full of lies” and part of a “disinformation campaign”. He also questioned the basis on which Mtivlishvili was shortlisted for The EU Prize for Journalism 2023, a prize awarded annually by the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), demanding to know the identities of the jury members who selected the winners. The comments reflect an effort by the Speaker to undermine trust in Mtis Ambebi, Gela Mtivlishvili, and the wider independent media scene in Georgia. 


This is not the first incident of its kind involving Papuashvili. In September 2023, the Speaker wrote a letter of complaint to at least one donor organisation that supports the media outlet OC Media, following their refusal to publish an opinion piece that he had written. A representative of the Speaker of Parliament had earlier refused to send the text to OC Media until the outlet confirmed that they would publish it.


Papuashvili described OC Media’s decision on his letter as “an illustrative case of why and how the self-styled ‘critical media’ in Georgia discredits itself beyond repair, losing trust of the public and ending up mostly speaking to each other or their own closed bubble.” By reacting in such a way to OC Media’s refusal to publish his piece, Papuashvili discredited a legitimate media outlet and contributed to increasing distrust in the media. 


The MFRR partners condemn such efforts, by Papuashvili or any other public officials.The comments against Mtivlishvili are unacceptable, especially given the high-ranking position of Papuashvili within the Georgian parliament.


Sadly, disinformation and discrediting campaigns against journalists have been a notable threat to media freedom in Georgia prior to this, with Georgia’s Media Advocacy Coalition expressing concern that these were becoming “systematic” following Papuashvili’s most recent comments. 


In January, the ruling party Georgian Dream reacted to a request for public information sent to parliament by journalist Tea Giligashvili by posting a copy of her letter on the party’s Facebook page and questioning the legitimacy of her request.


At the time, Georgia’s Media Freedom Coalition denounced these actions, claiming that Georgian Dream “systematically uses [its] Facebook page to discredit political opponents, civil society organizations, critical media and journalists”.


In another incident, Vladimer Mgaloblishvili, a member of the parliament of the region of Ajara, posted a similar letter sent to the local assembly by journalist Tedo Jorbenadze. In his discrediting post, Mgaloblishvili accused the journalist of “lying” and made no efforts to conceal his personal data. Local authorities later claimed that they “could not remember” how the letter came into Mgaloblishvili’s possession, the Media Freedom Coalition wrote.


MFRR partners call on Georgian authorities to ensure that the country’s media are allowed to function freely, without receiving derogatory or insulting comments from politicians. This applies especially to those in powerful positions who have a significant role in society, such as Papuashvili, who have an additional responsibility to restrain from personal attacks on journalists. 


The undersigned organisations call on the leadership of the ruling Georgian Dream party – of which Papuashvili is a member – to immediately condemn the discreditation campaign launched by the Speaker of Parliament. We also urge the Georgian Dream party to present clear guidelines to its members to ensure no such incidents occur in future.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • 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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Safeguarding women journalists in the digital age

Safeguarding women journalists in the digital age

To mark International Women’s Day, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) presents an analysis of the troubling attacks against women journalists, in European Union member states and candidate countries. In 2023, female journalists faced a disproportionate number of verbal attacks, especially online. The MFRR partners call for collaborative efforts to protect their rights and foster a society free from discrimination.

On International Women’s Day, the partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) emphasise the need to improve gender equality and overcome persistent challenges facing women in journalism. In particular, they highlight the alarming attacks against women journalists in the European Union member states and candidate countries in 2023. Data from the Mapping Media Freedom initiative reveals 281 recorded incidents of attacks against women journalists in this region during the past year.


Smear campaigns and online threats

Women journalists more commonly face verbal attacks than their male counterparts, according to MFRR data. Verbal attacks constituted 31.0% of recorded incidents involving male journalists, while for female journalists this figure was 42.7%.


Notably, smear campaigns have become significant tools aimed at silencing and discrediting women journalists, particularly when reporting on polarising topics during electoral periods. These campaigns create fertile ground for disinformation to spread unchecked.


The digital landscape has amplified patterns of harassment against women journalists during their professional activities. Online attacks, constituting 24.6% of all incidents against women journalists, are particularly alarming, far surpassing those against male journalists (12.5%). This includes mainly online harassment, such as intimidation, discredit, insult, harassment, sexual harassment, and bullying.


These targeted attacks extend beyond verbal assaults and include direct threats to the safety of journalists and their families, doxxing, and attacks taking on sexualized tones, such as rape threats. In 2023, women journalists faced at least 20 rape or death threats, of which 60% happened online. ARTICLE19 Europe has developed a series of briefings analysing the freedom of expression implications of online threats against women journalists and assessing investigations into these cases (including a focus briefing on investigations of online abuse against women journalists Spain).


The surge in online attacks aims to intimidate, silence, and stigmatise women journalists, potentially limiting their participation in public spaces. Understanding online abuse is imperative, as it directly impacts the ability of women journalists to fully exercise their right to free expression.


Physical assaults and legal incidents

Attacks in public spaces and during protests account for 18.9% and 15.3%, respectively, of the incidents documented involving women journalists. Physical assaults, though less frequent than for male journalists, still constitute 23.5% of incidents for women journalists, resulting in injuries in 17 cases. Legal incidents, including arrests, detentions, imprisonments, criminal charges, civil lawsuits, or defamation, are also significant concerns, constituting 25.6% of all incidents against women.


Through its Safety4Journalists platform, the European Federation of Journalists highlights how media workers have traditionally been considered at risk because of the nature of their work, while in reality, there is both a lack of awareness of safety issues and of protective measures in place for them. In 2023, EFJ created a Gender and Diversity Expert Group, for which the safety of female journalists emerged as one of the key work topics.


Through MFRR Article 19 Europe and the International Press Institute will organise a series of roundtables on investigating cases of online harassment against women journalists in the Western Balkans, drawing on ARTICLE 19’S policy briefs on the topic as well as on IPI’s training resources for newsrooms on how to support women colleagues, developed during its Ontheline campaign.


Across the continent: highlighting attacks on female journalists in Europe

The challenges faced by women journalists in 2023 extend beyond borders, with prominent cases illustrating the severity of gender-based threats:

  • In Romania, investigative journalist Emilia Șercan faced a renewed smear campaign after reporting on plagiarism by the Home Affairs Minister.
  • In Finland, right-wing MPs also launched a severe online smear campaign against Iltalehti journalist Ida Erämaa for her critical reporting.
  • Serbian journalist Bojana Pavlovic faced harassment and the forced removal of her phone. The First Basic Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade then refused to bring criminal charges, having considered the journalist had not been in danger.
  • Italian freelance journalist Rossella Puccio faced violent attacks, including her family car being set on fire, underlining the ongoing danger faced by journalists reporting on human rights and social issues, such as migration, poverty, and women’s conditions.
  • Marilena Natale, another journalist reporting on the Italian mafia and for this reason living under armed guard since 2017, received new death threats from the Casalesi clan.
  • Montenegrin journalist Jelena Jovanović of newspaper Vijesti has also lived under police protection for over two years due to her investigations into organised crime.

The cases keep multiplying in 2024. Verica Marinčić, also from Serbia, was forcibly removed from the Indjija municipality building while reporting on a protest. Meanwhile, Ola Xama, an investigative journalist in Albania, continues to be the subject of an intensified smear campaign, including slut-shaming, the exposure of her private address, and attacks on her family members.


Despite these challenges and risks, these and many more resilient women journalists remain committed to their crucial work of informing the public.


Women journalists’ safety: a collective commitment

On this International Women’s Day, the MFRR coalition calls for a collective commitment from governments, media organisations, and civil society to address root causes and ensure a safe environment for women in journalism. While advocating for laws safeguarding women journalists’ rights and specific actions against gender-based online harassment, the coalition also urges media companies to prioritise the safety of female staff, fostering harassment-free environments and providing comprehensive support in the event of an attack. This collective commitment aims to advance gender equality, stand in solidarity with women journalists facing threats, and create a society free from harassment and discrimination.

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 and candidate countries. 

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