Greece: Swift investigations required after two attacks against journalists

Greece: Swift investigations required after two attacks against journalists

The undersigned journalists’ and media freedom organisations strongly condemn the recent attacks against Greek journalists Giorgos Papachristos and Kostas Vaxevanis and call on the authorities to swiftly investigate the attacks and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

On 29 August, Giorgos Papachristos, an editorialist and adviser at the centrist daily Ta Nea, was attacked at a football match in Athens. According to the case filed by the journalist, businessman and ship owner Yiannis Karagiorgis, backed by two bodyguards, punched him in the face and head in an unprovoked attack. Karagiorgis also reportedly threatened to kill Papachristos and ordered his associates to “kill him on the spot”. Papachristos was taken to the Sismanoglio hospital for medical examinations and was treated for injuries. The motive behind the attack is not yet established, however Papachristos had written critical reports on Karagiorgis’s business activities.


On 26 August, Kostas Vaxevanis, a veteran investigative journalist and publisher of the weekly Documento, was attacked along with his family while dining, on the island of Evia. The attack occurred after an individual entered the restaurant, approached the journalist and began swearing at him aggressively: “You are a spoiled brat, I will sort you out but not now. You bastard for daring to write about me because I have money in Switzerland.” The man continued to insult and threaten Vaxevanis, complaining about a name put “on the Lagarde list”. As the situation escalated, Vaxevanis’s mother-in-law was physically assaulted and required treatment for facial injuries. The man fled the restaurant.


As reported on Mapping Media Freedom, Documento journalists conducted research to identify the man and cross-check his name against the Lagarde list, a spreadsheet published by Vaxevanis in 2012, containing around 2,000 potential tax evaders with undeclared accounts at Swiss HSBC bank’s Geneva branch. According to Documento, the attacker was a relative of Michalis Stasinopoulos, one of the richest businessmen in Greece, whose name was included on the list.


Vaxevanis is known for his numerous investigations into corruption, for which he has received numerous threats and death threats. In 2021, he was given increased police protection after the Athens Prosecutor’s Office ordered a preliminary investigation into information about a murder contract issued against him.


The Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers published statements condemning both attacks. While our organisations welcome the swift statement of condemnation of the attack on Papachristos by the Greek government spokesperson, we note that no similar denunciation was made regarding the attack against Vaxevanis and his family days previously.


Our organisations further call on the Greek authorities to swiftly investigate the complaints filed by the two journalists and to bring criminal charges against those responsible. These two cases of violence again underscore the worrying situation for the safety of journalists in Greece, and media freedom more widely.


In both cases, the identity of the alleged perpetrators are known to police and the incidents occurred in front of multiple witnesses. Arrests should therefore follow quickly. Those behind these brazen attacks must not be permitted to act with impunity. Our organisations have reported these cases to the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Safety of Journalists and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Signed by:

  • European Federation of Journalists
  • International Federation of Journalists
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • 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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Poland flag Library

Poland: MFRR to visit Warsaw for press freedom mission

Poland: MFRR to visit Warsaw for press freedom mission

Partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) will travel to Warsaw on 11-13 September 2023 to conduct an international press freedom mission ahead of the country’s upcoming general election on 15 October.

The MFRR mission will be joined by representatives of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the International Press Institute (IPI), ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and Free Press Unlimited (FPU).

The delegation will assess the current state of play for media freedom and pluralism and identify the biggest challenges facing independent journalism in the context of the election. The visit to Warsaw follows a previous online fact-finding mission conducted by the MFRR in 2020.

During the mission, representatives will meet with leading journalists, editors, media experts, civil society groups, political figures and state representatives. The mission will seek to hear a broad range of views and perspectives from across the political spectrum.

Key themes to be assessed during the visit include independent media regulation, threats to media pluralism, particularly at the regional and local level, public service broadcasting, media capture, and legal threats and Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).

A report with key conclusions and recommendations for the winner of the October 2023 election on how to improve the situation for media freedom will follow shortly after.

The MFRR monitors violations of press and media freedom in the EU Member States and candidate countries and responds with practical and legal support and advocacy. Since the project’s start in March 2020, it has conducted multiple similar media freedom missions.

This mission is 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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Hungary Tilos Rádió Library

Hungary: DDoS cyber attacks pose major new threat to…

Hungary: DDoS cyber attacks pose major new threat to media freedom

The International Press Institute (IPI) today warns that an unprecedented wave of cyber-attacks predominantly targeting independent media outlets in Hungary in recent months represents a serious and growing threat to the free flow of information in what arguably is already the European Union’s worst country for press freedom.

The International Press Institute (IPI) today warns that an unprecedented wave of cyber-attacks predominantly targeting independent media outlets in Hungary in recent months represents a serious and growing threat to the free flow of information in what arguably is already the European Union’s worst country for press freedom.


Since April 2023, at least 40 different media websites in Hungary have faced Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, a form of cyber-attack which temporarily slows or crashes websites by overloading their servers with millions of simultaneous access requests, leaving readers unable to access news and information for hours at a time.


While the specific motive of these attacks remains unconfirmed, the majority of portals targeted in the DDoS attacks include many of the country’s leading independent media, including Telex, HVG,, Magyar Hang, and Népszava, which are critical of the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. International media companies hit by hackers include Forbes Hungary.


To date, no media outlet supportive of the ruling Fidesz party has been targeted in the current wave of attacks, according to IPI assessments, indicating a political or ideological motive., a formerly independent publication considered co-opted by, though not overtly supportive of, the government, was also targeted. In some cases, media were targeted for simply reporting on DDoS attacks against others, as in the case of Media1.


While the attacks initially appeared to be isolated incidents, the frequency and severity of the attacks increased in May and June and have caused serious damage and disruption to news websites. In addition to undermining reader’s access to news and information, DDoS attacks also result in financial losses for media companies due to diminished advertising revenue.


Many of the targeted websites were left inaccessible to readers for hours at a time, either until website administrators were able to minimize the damage or the DDoS attacks – which can require considerable costs to execute – were halted by the hackers. Waves of attacks have mostly occurred over successive weekends, when IT staff are most likely not to be working.


With more than 40 different media websites targeted, some multiple times, this campaign of DDoS attacks is understood to be one of the broadest cyber-attacks against an independent media community within a European Union member state to date, according to IPI’s analysis.


While some of the media involved have filed police reports, investigations have so far yielded no discernible progress. Police are understood to be investigating cases individually, rather than as part of a unified national investigation. The perpetrators of DDoS attacks are notoriously challenging to identify due to the variety of tools available to attackers to remain anonymous.


While no actor has claimed responsibility, the hacker or hackers appear to go by the nickname HANO – an acronym in Hungarian for a type of disorder which affects the human body. In recent months, they have also left messages in Hungarian behind in the code of attacks, indicating that they are being coordinated domestically, rather than by foreign actors. The attacker appears to demonstrate a knowledge of the Hungarian media landscape and individual journalists.


In other cases, messages were left in the code of DDoS attacks which warned of future attacks against certain media, only for those attacks to then be carried out at the precise date and time. The costs associated with this scale and duration of DDoS attacks, continuing over several months, also indicates that those responsible are relatively well-funded, according to experts.


Although IPI referred some independent media outlets in Hungary to Cloudflare’s Project Galileo – which provides cyber defences by redirecting overload attempts to its own servers – the attackers have found new ways to crash or drastically slow down websites. This further indicates the sophisticated offensive cyber capabilities of those responsible.


Major democratic and security threat

The DDoS attacks so far appear to follow a pattern of targeting critical and independent media websites and were in some cases aimed at smothering access to certain types of news reporting or investigations. In some cases, DDoS attacks began less than half an hour after the publication of reports critical of the government or entities connected to it.


Examples include a critical report about journalists from independent media not being allowed into a government press conference, or a critical report about the pro-government propaganda outlet Megafon. None of the attacks appear so far to be extortionate in nature, but rather intended to cause maximum disruption.


IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said the months-long DDoS campaign represented an insidious form of digital censorship and another form of pressure against critical and independent media in Hungary. He warned that while the current cyber-attacks were worrying enough for media freedom, the potential for them to be weaponized during elections in Hungary – when access to factual and independent journalism are more vital than ever – could also pose a major threat to election integrity and democracy.


“The potential for cyber attackers to cause major obstruction for citizen’s access to independent news reporting during periods like elections or protests are clear”, he said. “What we have been seeing in recent months could be the probing for weaknesses in advance of a major coordinated attack, which is why authorities need to act now to identify and put a halt to this democratic and security threat”, he said.


“IPI today calls on Hungarian law enforcement authorities to consolidate investigations into one major national probe, assisted by expert cybercrime officers and if necessary, intelligence agencies, aimed at identifying the source of these cyber-attacks, what their motive is, and how they are funded. Those responsible should face serious criminal cybercrime charges for their obstruction of free speech online and attacks on important media infrastructure.”


Griffen also called for greater international attention, particularly from the European Union, to the DDoS attacks against media in Hungary and the democratic threat they pose.


While multiple motives for the attacks were possible, he said, another theory could be that they are aimed simply at undermining business operations of independent media companies. DDoS attacks have led both to a loss of advertising revenue and forced some media to invest in stronger cyber defense capabilities, hitting balance books of the smaller news outlets in particular. Independent media in Hungary continue to face major threats to their viability.


DDoS attacks are not new to Hungary. In 2022, the website of the united opposition movement was hit with a powerful DDoS attack as it was in the process of conducting its pre-election for the nominee for Prime Minister. Around the same time, independent media platforms also faced isolated DDoS attacks. In July 2023, the website of the Budapest Pride was crashed for hours on the day it was due to hold LGTBQ+ events in the capital. In a recent attack on Hungarian outlet Media1, the attacker also left messages in the code which admitted that they were responsible for carrying out the attack on the Pride website.


In March 2022, several news websites belonging to right-wing and conservative media supportive of the government were also hit by hackers claiming to be from Anonymous, with the justification that the media were supporting Russia’s war on Ukraine. At the time, the DDoS attacks drew a strong statement from the then Justice Minister Judit Varga. By contrast, no government official has yet condemned the attacks on independent media. The perpetrators of the 2022 cyber attacks were never identified.


Although DDoS attacks affect major media companies around the world, including in Europe in recent months, the financial resources and specialized security apparatus available to larger media companies mean that such cyber attacks are frustrating but cause little disruption.


DDoS attacks are broadly aimed at identifying and then exploiting vulnerabilities in website and server systems. They work by flooding these systems with what appears to be legitimate internet traffic from multiple locations, which overwhelms bandwidth or server capacity, significantly slowing or crashing websites. Efforts to protect against DDoS generally involve blocking the IP addresses of illegitimate access requests. Often this means mitigating attacks rather than stopping them outright. Attacks can be carried out via botnets – networks of infected computers and other digital devices around the world – making it very difficult to trace the perpetrators.


Media1 has been tracking the DDoS attacks on its website. IPI has been documenting these cases on the Mapping Media Freedom (MMF) platform and the Council of Europe Platform for the Safety of Journalists.


IPI has been working with our members and other independent media organizations in Hungary in recent months to help bolster their cyber-security defences.


Click here for more of IPI’s reporting and advocacy on Hungary

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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European Media Freedom Act: The end of source confidentiality?

European Media Freedom Act: The end of source confidentiality?

The new European regulation aims to protect the secrecy of journalistic sources, the key concept at the heart of journalism, but actually risks legitimising its systematic violation.

By Dimitri Bettoni

Originally published by OBCT. Also available in ITA

The original draft

Published last September by the European Commission, the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) is a huge, ambitious project to ensure that the media have the same level of protection and rules across the European Union. The European landscape is in fact very fragmented and the various member countries regulate this delicate area in very different ways, with the risk of undermining the solidity of the European project.


The regulation touches on issues such as audience measurement and the advertising market, the functioning of public media, the transparency of media ownership, and the protection of sources. The text recognises journalism as a fundamental actor in public coexistence and defines the strong protection of press freedom as a necessary condition not only for the functioning of European democracies, but also for the European economic market.


The latter is a fundamental step because it is the instrument via which the Commission legitimises the regulation in the eyes of the member states. In fact, regulating the media is much more than an economic operation: it touches fundamental chords of the functioning of democracy and also concepts such as security, an issue that today remains the exclusive competence of states.


Here the first problems arise because the member states have seen the EMFA as a pitch invasion by the Commission, whose competences fall above all in the management of the common market.


Article 4: protection of editorial autonomy, protection of sources, and the threat of spyware

This fracture between the Commission and the member countries is especially true for Article 4, which more than others regulates the relationship between the media and the member states on the issue of security.


The starting assumption is that in recent years European states have shown little attention, if not total contempt, for the sacredness of the confidentiality of sources, especially since they have equipped themselves with new tools: spyware. These are digital products designed to exploit the vulnerabilities of other digital products and which allow covert surveillance of natural or legal persons, by monitoring, extracting, collecting, or analysing their data. The most famous is Pegasus, used to surveil journalists, politicians, lawyers, and activists. But there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, for a booming billion-dollar industry that is still too little known due to the climate of secrecy and opacity that states have built around it.


The Commission, having taken note of this, has decided to intervene by protecting the media through article 4 which can be summarised as follows:

  1. The media have the right to carry on their economic activities in the internal market without restrictions other than those permitted by Union law.
  2. Member states cannot interfere or influence the policies and editorial decisions of the media.
  3. Member states may not sanction, intercept, subject to surveillance, search or seizure, media professionals, their employees, or their family members for refusing to disclose information about their sources, unless justified by public interest.
  4. Member states may not install spyware in any device used by media professionals, their family members, or their employees unless the use is justified, on a case-by-case basis, by reasons of national security or the use is in an investigation on serious crimes, as required by national law and in accordance with Union law, and when any other measure would be inadequate to obtain the requested information.

The text therefore seeks to provide journalism with the necessary guarantees for its functioning, but at the same time opens the way for a violation of sources on the basis of public interest, investigations involving serious crimes (a restricted list of crimes considered particularly worrying by the EU jurisprudence), and national security issues.


A plurality of visions

Dozens of civil society and journalism organisations have analysed the text and, while finding it one step ahead of existing legislation, especially in some European countries, have also offered the Commission advice on how to improve it, in particular on two points. First, Article 4 must explicitly provide that any surveillance provision must be assessed by a judicial body, including the legitimacy and duration of the provision. Second, the text must remove the principle of national security – to date an extremely confused principle, legally vague and the cause of the major violations of professional secrecy, as confirmed by numerous journalistic investigations and academic research, in addition to the conclusions of the PEGA parliamentary commission, which in recent months has dealt specifically with the Pegasus spyware scandal.


However, things can always get worse. The modification proposal presented last June by the European Council, a body that represents the interests of the member states, worsens the protections of article 4 and reinforces the legitimacy of state surveillance for reasons of national security which, reads the text, must remain a guaranteed prerogative of the member states and never be challenged by the EMFA. Furthermore, the Council proposes that the legitimate use of surveillance and in particular of spyware be extended to dozens of other crimes, including minor crimes such as copyright infringements.


Among the countries promoting this pejorative draft we find Germany and France – countries producing Spyware technology – but also Greece  , a country where surveillance abuses against journalists have become a topic of national relevance.


In July, however, the revision draft produced by the commissions of the European Parliament was presented, which incorporates the indications received from civil society and implements fundamental safeguards which make the surveillance of journalists and the use of spyware the last resort when any other tool available to member states does not produce satisfactory investigation results. On the other hand, some important requests were absent in the parliamentary draft: the elimination of the national security exception, the ban on spyware against the journalistic category, and strong cryptography as a legitimate professional protection tool for protecting sources.


The EMFA is on its way

The regulation is now awaiting its last phase, the trilateral discussion between the Commission, the European Council, and the Parliament. From this discussion a text will emerge which will be the synthesis of the positions of the three European institutions. Plausibly, the regulation will affirm those safeguards that are still absent in the national legislations of many EU countries. At the same time, it is easy to foresee that the EMFA will establish once and for all that it is possible and legitimate for member states and their police forces to access the confidential contents of journalistic sources. Journalists working in tomorrow’s Europe will therefore have to know that nothing of their work will be truly safe anymore.

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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Barış Pehlivan Library

Turkey: International groups condemn fifth imprisonment order against journalist…

Turkey: International groups condemn fifth imprisonment order against journalist Barış Pehlivan

The undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression, human rights, and journalists’ organisations strongly condemn the latest incident of judicial harassment against journalist Barış Pehlivan and reiterate calls to the Turkish authorities to respect media freedom.


Turkish translation available here.

On August 2, journalist Barış Pehlivan was informed via an SMS from the Ministry of Justice that he was expected to turn himself over to the Marmara Low Security Correctional Institution (formerly Silivri) between August 1-15, 2023. Pehlivan has already been incarcerated four times due to his journalism, two of those being one day behind bars in February and May 2023 for the same sentence. This order would mark his fifth time behind bars


We are concerned by the repeated judicial harassment of Pehlivan, who is exercising his fundamental right to free speech as a journalist in Turkey. 


Due to his coverage of the funeral of an MIT (Turkish National Intelligence Organization) officer in Libya, Pehlivan was arrested on March 6, 2020 and taken to court, alongside journalists Aydın Keser, Barış Terkoğlu, Eren Ekinci, Hülya Kılınç, Ferhat Çelik and Murat Ağırel, and was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in prison on charges of exposing classified intelligence documents.


On May 12, 2020, Turkish authorities postponed the sentences of thousands of inmates due to Covid-19, but a last-minute clause excluded primarily the charges that journalists face, keeping all journalists, including Pehlivan, in prison. 


After spending 6 months behind bars, journalist Barış Pehlivan was released on September 9, 2020 on parole on the condition that he not be subject to another court case. After his release, Pehlivan commented on the court’s decision by saying: “There is no crime in this case. This case aims to punish our journalism.”


On July 15 this year, the Turkish Parliament enacted a measure drafted by the governing coalition regulating parole and probation rules. According to this regulation, Pehlivan also gains the right to benefit from parole, his lawyer reports. When Pehlivan’s lawyer filed a request for information on the decision that Pehlivan submits himself to the correctional institution, the response indicated that the prison administration had disregarded the relevant clauses of the legislation from July 2023.


Shortly after he co-authored a book titled “SS” (referring to the initials of former Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu) in April 2023, Pehlivan was targeted by then-advisor of the Minister of Interior on the grounds of having ties to organised crime, and another one of his articles became the subject of an insult case. While the trial process has not begun for the latest court case that was opened in April 2023, it has been seen as an attempt to end Pehlivan’s parole. 


In mid-July, 15 journalists were released from prison, while as of August 7, 20 journalists still remain behind bars in Turkey. In the past year 232 alerts regarding Turkey were reported on the Mapping Media Freedom database, impacting 329 journalists, media workers or outlets, which shows the dire conditions independent journalism operate under in the country. All together, these alerts make up a quarter of all the reported alerts in Europe. 


Acts of judicial harassment targeting journalists hinder media freedom and people’s right to access information.


We call upon the Turkish authorities to reverse the decision to reimprison Pehlivan and end the systematic judicial harassment against him and other journalists.


We reiterate our solidarity with the imprisoned journalists. Journalism is not a crime and every minute a journalist spends behind bars is a violation of freedom of expression and media freedom.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • Articolo 21
  • Association of Journalists (GC)
  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • Danish PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD)
  • Freedom House
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Media Research Association (MEDAR)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • PEN America
  • PEN International
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • Roma Memory Studies Association (Romani Godi)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO

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: Uluslararası kuruluşlar gazeteci Barış Pehlivan’ın beşinci defa parmaklıklar ardına girecek olmasını kınadı


Aşağıda imzası bulunan medya özgürlüğü, ifade hürriyeti, insan hakları ve gazetecilik örgütleri; gazeteci Barış Pehlivan’a yönelik son yargı tacizini şiddetle kınamakta ve Türkiye yetkililerine medya özgürlüğüne saygı gösterme yönündeki çağrılarını yinelemektedir.


Gazeteci Barış Pehlivan’a 2 Ağustos’ta Adalet Bakanlığı tarafından gönderilen SMS ile 1-15 Ağustos 2023 tarihleri arasında Marmara Açık Ceza İnfaz Kurumu’na (eski adıyla Silivri) teslim olması gerektiği bildirildi. Gazeteciliği nedeniyle ikisi 2023 yılının Şubat ve Mayıs aylarında aynı cezadan birer gün olmak üzere şimdiye kadar dört kez cezaevine giren Pehlivan, hakkındaki son kararın bozulmaması halinde beşinci kez hapse girmiş olacak.


Bir gazeteci olarak temel ifade hürriyeti hakkını kullanan Pehlivan’a yönelik tekrar eden yargı tacizinden endişe duymaktayız.


Pehlivan, Libya’da yaşamını yitiren bir Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT) görevlisinin cenaze törenini haberleştirdiği için 6 Mart 2020 tarihinde gazeteciler Aydın Keser, Barış Terkoğlu, Eren Ekinci, Hülya Kılınç, Ferhat Çelik ve Murat Ağırel ile birlikte tutuklanarak mahkemeye çıkarılmış ve gizli istihbarat belgelerini ifşa etmekten 3 yıl 9 ay hapis cezasına çarptırılmıştı.


12 Mayıs 2020’de Türkiye yetkilileri Covid-19 salgını nedeniyle binlerce mahkûmun cezasını erteleme kararı almış, ancak son dakikada eklenen bir madde ile özellikle gazetecilerin karşı karşıya kaldığı suçlamalar bu ertelemenin kapsamının dışında bırakılmıştı. Bunun sonucunda Pehlivan da dahil olmak üzere tüm tutuklu gazeteciler cezaevinde kaldı.


Gazeteci Barış Pehlivan, parmaklıklar ardında altı ay geçirdikten sonra, başka bir davaya konu olmamak kaydıyla, 9 Eylül 2020 tarihinde denetimli serbestliğe ayrıldıi. Pehlivan tahliyesinin ardından mahkemenin kararını şu sözlerle yorumladı: “Bu davada suç yok. Bu davada bizim gazetecilik hayatımızı cezalandırma amacı var.”


15 Temmuz 2023’te iktidar koalisyonu tarafından hazırlanan şartlı tahliye ve denetimli serbestlik kurallarını düzenleyen bir tasarı mecliste kabul edildi. Barış Pehlivan’ın avukatı, bu düzenlemeye göre Pehlivan’ın da denetimli serbestlikten yararlanma hakkı kazandığını bildirdi. Ancak avukatı Pehlivan’ın cezaevine teslim olması kararına ilişkin bilgi talebinde bulunduğunda, cezaevi yönetiminin Temmuz 2023 tarihli düzenlemenin ilgili maddelerini göz ardı ettiği anlaşıldı.


Pehlivan, Nisan 2023’te “SS” başlıklı (eski İçişleri Bakanı Süleyman Soylu’nun adının baş harflerine atıfla) bir kitap yazdıktan kısa süre sonra, dönemin İçişleri Bakanı danışmanı tarafından organize suçlarla bağlantısı olduğu gerekçesiyle hedef gösterilmiş, bir başka yazısı da hakaret davasına konu olmuştu. Nisan 2023’te açılan yeni davanın yargılama süreci henüz başlamamış olsa da, bu dava Pehlivan’ın denetimli serbestliğini sona erdirmeye yönelik bir girişim olarak yorumlandı.


12 Temmuz’da tutuklu yargılanan 15 gazeteci tahliye edildi, ancak 7 Ağustos itibariyle Türkiye’de halen 20 gazeteci cezaevinde bulunuyor. Son 12 ay boyunca Mapping Media Freedom veri tabanında Türkiye ile ilgili 232 vaka rapor edildi. Bu vakalar 329 gazeteci, medya çalışanı ve kuruluşunu ilgilendiriyordu. Bu da ülkede bağımsız gazeteciliğin içinde bulunduğu zorlu koşulları göstermektedir. Türkiye kaynaklı bu vakaların tamamı Avrupa’dan bildirilen tüm vakaların dörtte birini oluşturuyor.


Gazetecileri hedef alan yargı tacizi uygulamaları, medya özgürlüğünü ve halkın bilgiye erişim hakkını engellemektedir.


Türkiye yetkililerine; Barış Pehlivan’ın denetimli serbestlik şartlarını oluşturmadığı gerekçesiyle 15 Ağustos’ta yeniden cezaevine girmesi yönündeki karardan vazgeçilmesi ve Pehlivan ile diğer gazetecilere yönelik sistematik yargı tacizine son verilmesi yönünde çağrıda bulunuyoruz.


Tutuklu gazetecilerle dayanışma içinde olduğumuzu bir kez daha yineliyoruz. Gazetecilik suç değildir. Gazetecilerin parmaklıklar ardında geçirdiği her dakika ifade ve basın özgürlüğü ihlalidir.


  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • Articolo 21
  • Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
  • Avrupa Gazeteciler Federasyonu (EFJ)
  • Danimarka PEN
  • Freedom House
  • Gazeteciler Cemiyeti 
  • Gazetecileri Koruma Komitesi (CPJ)
  • Gazetecilikte Kadın Koalisyonu (CFWIJ)
  • Güney Doğu Avrupa Medya Örgütü (SEEMO)
  • İfade Özgürlüğü Derneği (İFÖD)
  • Medya Araştırmaları Derneği (MEDAR)
  • Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • PEN Amerika
  • Roman Hafıza Çalışmaları Derneği (Romani Godi)
  • Sınır Tanımayan Gazeteciler (RSF)
  • Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI)
  • Uluslararası PEN

Purchase of services for an external content evaluation of…

Purchase of services for an external content evaluation of MFRR-III

Location: Europe (flexible)

Deadline for applications: 17 August 2023

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) tracks, monitors and reacts to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The MFRR is organised by an alliance led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) including ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBC Transeuropa). The project commenced in 2020 and is co-funded by the European Commission.

With funding from the European Commission, the current MFRR project period started on 4 May 2022 and runs until 31 October 2023.

The final evaluation is scheduled to take place during the last two months of the project period, from September to October, 2023


The programme’s overall objective is to continue the implementation of the previously established Media Freedom Rapid Response mechanism within the European Union and Candidate Countries. The project is following the MFRR pilot project implementation in 2020.

The general objectives and expected results of the programme to be evaluated are:

  • Strengthen media freedom and media pluralism to foster open democratic debate.
  • Enhance protection and direct support of journalists, media workers and outlets under threat in Europe.
  • Rapidly respond to and prevent media freedom violations in Europe by appropriate intervention to mitigate consequences of deterioration of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.
  • Support and expand the media freedom community in Europe; stimulate collaboration, joint initiatives and new alliances amongst European, regional and local stakeholders.

A detailed list of the specific objectives can be provided on request.

The activities conducted under the programme consisted in designing and managing a Europe-wide rapid response mechanism to support media freedom and journalists’ safety. With the following main pillars of the action:

  1. Monitor the state of media freedom in the EU Member States and candidate countries.
  2. Support to journalists and other media professionals in need.
  3. Advocacy and awareness-raising in the field of media freedom and safety of journalists.
  4. Awareness-raising campaigns.
  5. Ensure communication and dissemination activities.
  6. Monitoring and evaluating the action.

Objectives of the evaluation

An indicative list of the areas of assessment is provided below. The evaluation questions can be further refined by the provider carrying out the evaluation.

Relevance: Assess whether the funds from the European Commission contributed to the development and implementation of the Media Freedom Rapid Response across Europe.

  • To what extent did MFRR-III achieve its overall objectives?
  • To what extent did MFRR-III contribute to strengthening media freedom in Europe?
  • To what extent did MFRR-III achieve the specific objectives?

Effectiveness: Assess whether the grant was implemented effectively and efficiently by the partners in the consortium to fulfil the planned deliverables, especially amid upheaval caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

  • To what extent were the planned activities carried out and were these delivered within the planned budget and timetable?
  • Were risks properly identified and managed?
  • How effective was the programme’s design in the success of the project? (Elements of the programme’s design include the roles and responsibilities of consortium partners)

Impact: Assess the changes resulting from the programme (positive/negative, direct/indirect, intended/unintended).

  • What measurable impact, if any, did MFRR-III-supported investigations have on policy, public discourse or any specific outcomes?
  • How did MFRR-III help to safeguard Media Freedom across the EU?
  • To what extent did MFRR-III help build a clear picture of threats against Media Freedom in Europe?
  • To what extent has MFRR-III supported media workers under threat in the EU?

Sustainability and replicability: Assess whether the impacts achieved through the programme are likely to be sustained after the current funding period and if they are replicable in other regions.

  • What are the prospects of the programme being sustained?
  • To what extent has government (EC) grants and private philanthropy been successful in contributing to the production of independent journalism in the public interest?
  • To what extent are the outputs of the project (i.e., supported investigations) likely to continue fostering debate across borders and result in progressive change?

Learning Review: Identify and expand upon lessons learned that have not been drawn in the sections above.

  • This section will cover any key areas that have not featured in the sections above and that may surface throughout the evaluation process.

Methodology and deliverables

The selected provider will:

  • Review all grant-related documents;
  • Assess the impact of the different activities implemented throughout the project implementation of MFRR-III;
  • Interview staff from the consortium organisations involved in the project, including project managers and senior management;
  • Interview a cross-section of MFRR-III beneficiaries;
  • Other relevant activities.

All interviews with beneficiaries will remain confidential and anonymised. During all contacts with stakeholders, the independent evaluation provider will clearly identify themselves as independent consultants and not as an official representative of the consortium behind MFRR-III.

The consultant will provide one draft report (approximately 30 pages long) covering all areas noted in Section 2. It shall be submitted to ECPMF by 25 October 2023. The final report – which incorporates or has responded to any internal feedback provided on the draft version – should be submitted to ECPMF by 20 November 2023.

Eligibility criteria

The selected provider will need relevant subject knowledge and experience conducting journalism-related evaluations.

The independent evaluation provider must be strictly neutral, and they will not have had any involvement in the project prior to this activity, so as to avoid any potential conflict of interests.

Award criteria

Quality of the offer (60%), including:

  • Methodology proposed;
  • Previous experience in evaluating journalism-related projects/programmes;
  • Technical competence and experience in conducting evaluation from a distance/by video conference.

Financial offer (40%).

Eligible tenderers will be invited for an interview to discuss their credentials and proposed plan. All tenderers will be informed about the outcome of their submission by email.


Interested parties must provide a short proposal outlining their approach (two pages maximum). This should be accompanied by:

  • CV(s) of staff who will be involved in carrying out the evaluation;
  • A proposed methodology for carrying out the monitoring and evaluation;
  • Ideally, one example of an evaluation report recently completed in English.

Tenders shall be submitted by email only (with attachments) to the email address with the reference “MFRR-III 2022/23 evaluation”. Deadline for submission: 17 August 2023.

Interviews are tentatively scheduled to take place between 18-22 August and these will be conducted remotely.

Other considerations

The assignment shall be conducted remotely.

The maximum amount available for the evaluation of the project, covering all the deliverables to be achieved by the selected tenderer as listed above, is 15,000 Euros (incl. VAT). The allocated budget includes consultancy fees, and travel and subsistence if relevant, and translation costs, if any.

MFRR 3 consortium logos
Turkish journalists Library

Turkey: International groups condemn detention of journalists in Ankara,…

Turkey: National and International groups condemn detention of journalists in Ankara, Diyarbakır, İstanbul and İzmir

The undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organizations strongly condemn the detention of T24 editor Sibel Yükler, Mezopotamya Agency (MA) reporters Delal Akyüz and Fırat Can Arslan, bianet editor Evrim Kepenek and freelance journalist Evrim Deniz in Turkey on July 25.


Turkish translation available here.

While four of these journalists were conditionally released, Arslan was arrested later the same day. We demand his immediate release.


The five journalists were detained the day after July 24, which is marked in Turkey as “Day of Struggle for Press Freedom”, during several house raids.


Local media outlets reported that the journalists were detained over their social media posts concerning the reassignment of a prosecutor and a judge, to whom the former is married, by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), involved in the recent court case of 18 journalists in Diyarbakır. The journalists are reportedly being accused of “disclosing, publishing and targeting a public official on anti-terror duties” (Anti-Terror Law Art. 6/1).


T24 editor Yükler was detained during a raid on her home in Ankara in the early morning hours and taken to the Ankara police department. Yükler was released later in the day under judicial control including an international travel ban.


MA reporter Arslan was also detained during a morning raid on his home in Ankara. Police reportedly seized Arslan’s phone and computer during the raid. Arslan was arrested later that day on the charge of “identifying officials on anti-terror duties as targets”.


MA reporter Akyüz was detained in his home in İzmir early in the morning and taken to a police department in the city’s Çankaya district. Akyüz was released later that day and placed under judicial control including an international travel ban.


Bianet editor Kepenek was detained in the afternoon hours of the same day in her Istanbul home. The police seized Kepenek’s digital equipment and cuffed the journalist with plastic handcuffs before taking her to a police department in Taksim, central Istanbul. The police stated that Kepenek was taken into custody as part of an investigation conducted by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on the grounds of “disclosing, publishing and targeting a public official on anti-terror duties”. After one day in detention, Kepenek was brought to the Istanbul Courthouse in metal handcuffs on the morning of July 26. Kepenek was released under judicial control including an international travel ban.


Freelance journalist Deniz was detained when she went to a local police department in Diyarbakır to give her statement upon the request of the local police. She was released later that day and placed under judicial control including an international travel ban.


Article 6 (1) of the Anti-Terror Law under which the journalists are investigated, is being misused in order to punish journalists for sharing information of public interest that is publicly available. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers have previously expressed their reservations about the application of the provision, for failure to recognise the defense of truth and public interest.


The fact that the prosecutor who prepared the indictment against journalists who were arrested en masse turned out to be married to one of the three judges on the panel of judges of the same case and that this prosecutor and judge were later reassigned is public information and is of public interest. Therefore, reporting and dissemination of such information must be regarded as journalistic activity.


According to the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS), 20 journalists were in jail as of July 12, 2023.


We stand in solidarity with the journalists in detention and call on the Turkish authorities to stop abusing anti-terror laws, and the arbitrary and systematic detention of journalists.

Signed by:

  • Amnesty International Türkiye
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Association for Monitoring Equal Rights
  • Association of Journalists in Ankara
  • Association of Lawyers for Freedom
  • Association of Life Memory Freedom
  • Articolo 21
  • Citizens’ Assembly – Turkey
  • Civil Rights Defenders
  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • English PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD)
  • Human Rights Agenda Association
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • IPS Communication Foundation / Bianet
  • Kaos GL
  • Lambdaistanbul LGBTI+ Solidarity Association
  • May 17 Association
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Media and Migration Association
  • Media Research Association (MEDAR)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • PEN International
  • Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
  • Research Institute on Turkey
  • Roma Memory Studies Association (Romani Godi)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Truth Justice Memory Center
  • Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project (TLSP)
  • University Queer Researches and LGBTI+ Solidarity Association (UniKuir)
  • Women’s Time Association
  • 9th Istanbul Trans Pride Week Committee
  • 31st Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee
  • Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways
  • FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

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.  

MFRR 3 consortium logos

Türkiye: Uluslararası ve yerel kuruluşlar Ankara, Diyarbakır, İstanbul ve İzmir’de gazetecilerin gözaltına alınmasını kınadı


Yetkilileri gazetecilere yönelik sistematik gözaltıları son vermeye çağırıyoruz


Aşağıda imzası bulunan basın özgürlüğü, ifade hürriyeti ve insan hakları örgütleri 25 Temmuz’da T24 editörü Sibel Yükler, Mezopotamya Ajansı (MA) muhabirleri Delal Akyüz ve Fırat Can Arslan, bianet editörü Evrim Kepenek ve serbest gazeteci Evrim Deniz’in gözaltına alınmasını şiddetle kınamaktadır. 


Bu gazetecilerden dördü adli kontrol şartıyla serbest bırakılırken, Arslan aynı gün içinde tutuklandı. Arslan’ın derhal serbest bırakılmasını talep ediyoruz.


Beş gazeteci, Türkiye’de “Basın Özgürlüğü İçin Mücadele Günü” olarak kutlanan 24 Temmuz’dan bir gün sonra evlerine yapılan baskınlarla gözaltına alındı.


Yerel medya, gazetecilerin Diyarbakır’da 18 gazetecinin yargılandığı davanın iddianamesini hazırlayan savcı ile, onunla evli olan bir mahkeme üyesinin Hakimler ve Savcılar Kurulu (HSK) tarafından görev yerlerinin değiştirilmesine ilişkin sosyal medya paylaşımları nedeniyle gözaltına alındıklarını duyurdu. Gazetecilerin “terörle mücadelede görev almış kamu görevlilerinin hüviyetlerini açıklamak, yayınlamak veya bu yolla bu kişileri hedef göstermek” (TMK Md. 6/1.) ile isnad edildikleri bildiriliyor.


T24 editörü Yükler, sabah erken saatlerde Ankara’daki evine yapılan baskınla gözaltına alınarak Ankara Emniyet Müdürlüğü’ne götürüldü. Yükler, günün ilerleyen saatlerinde yurt dışına çıkış yasağını da içeren adli kontrol tedbiri uygulanarak serbest bırakıldı.


MA muhabiri Arslan da sabah saatlerinde Ankara’daki evine yapılan baskınla gözaltına alındı. Polisin baskın sırasında Arslan’ın telefonuna ve bilgisayarına el koyduğu bildirildi. Arslan günün ilerleyen saatlerinde “terörle mücadelede görev almış kamu görevlilerini hedef göstermek” isnadı üzerine tutuklandı.


MA muhabiri Akyüz, sabah erken saatlerde İzmir’deki evinde gözaltına alındı ve Çankaya ilçesindeki İzmir İl Emniyet Müdürlüğü’ne götürüldü. Akyüz, günün ilerleyen saatlerinde yurt dışına çıkış yasağını da içeren adli kontrol şartıyla serbest bırakıldı.


Bianet editörü Kepenek aynı gün öğleden sonra İstanbul’daki evinde gözaltına alındı. Polis, Kepenek’in dijital ekipmanlarına el koydu ve gazeteciyi plastik kelepçeyle kelepçeleyerek Taksim’deki bir polis merkezine götürdü. Polis, Kepenek’in Diyarbakır Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı tarafından yürütülen bir soruşturma kapsamında “kamu görevlisini hedef göstermek” suçlamasıyla gözaltına alındığını belirtti. 26 Temmuz sabahı İstanbul Adliyesine metal kelepçe takılmış halde getirilen Kepenek, yurt dışına çıkış yasağını da içeren adli kontrol şartıyla serbest bırakıldı.


Serbest gazeteci Deniz, Diyarbakır’da ifade vermek üzere gittiği polis merkezinde gözaltına alındı. Günün ilerleyen saatlerinde yurt dışına çıkış yasağını da içeren adli kontrol şartıyla serbest bırakıldı.


Soruşturmalara konu olan Terörle Mücadele Kanunu’nun 6(1). maddesi, kamuya açık bulunan ve kamuyu ilgilendiren bilgileri paylaşan gazetecileri cezalandırmak amacıyla kullanılıyor. Avrupa Konseyi Bakanlar Komitesi de daha önce, kamuyu ilgilendiren konularda yapılan doğruluğu kanıtlanmış açıklamaların uygulamada sözü geçen madde kapsamında değerlendirilmesi konusundaki tereddütlerini bildirmişti.


Gazetecilerin topluca tutuklanmasını içeren bir dosyada, davanın iddianamesini hazırlayan savcının mahkeme heyetindeki üç hakimden biriyle evli olması ve söz konusu davanın ilk duruşmasının ardından bu savcı ve hakimin görev yerlerinin değiştirilmesi kamuya açık ve kamuyu ilgilendiren bilgilerdir. Bu nedenle, bu bilgilerin paylaşılması gazetecilik faaliyeti olarak kabul edilmelidir.


Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikası’na (TGS) göre, 12 Temmuz 2023 itibarıyla Türkiye’de 20 gazeteci cezaevinde bulunuyor.


Gözaltındaki gazetecilerle dayanışma içinde olduğumuzu belirtiyor; Türkiye makamlarına terörle mücadele yasalarını kötüye kullanma ve gazetecileri keyfi ve sistematik olarak gözaltına alma uygulamasına son verme çağrısında bulunuyoruz.



Articolo 21Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)

Gazeteciler Federasyonu (EFJ)

Civil Rights Defenders

Eşit Haklar İçin İzleme Derneği

Gazeteciler Cemiyeti (GC)

Gazetecilikte Kadın Koalisyonu (CFWIJ)
Güney Doğu Avrupa Medya Örgütü (SEEMO)

Hakikat Adalet Hafıza Merkezi

IPS İletişim Vakfı / Bianet

İfade Özgürlüğü Derneği (İFÖD)

İngiliz PEN

İnsan Hakları Gündemi Derneği

İşkenceye Karşı Dünya Örgütü (OMCT), İnsan Hakları Savunucularının Korunması için Gözlemevi çerçevesinde

Kadının İnsan Hakları – Yeni Çözümler Derneği

Kadın Zamanı Derneği

Kaos GL

Lambdaistanbul LGBTİ+ Dayanışma Derneği

Medya Araştırmaları Derneği (MEDAR)

Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA)

Medya ve Göç Derneği

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

Özgürlük için Hukukçular Derneği

Punto24 Bağımsız Gazetecilik Derneği (P24)

Research Institute on Turkey

Roman Hafıza Çalışmaları Derneği (Romani Godi)

Türkiye İnsan Hakları Davalarına Destek Projesi (TLSP)

Uluslararası Af Örgütü Türkiye

Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI)

Uluslararası İnsan Hakları Federasyonu (FIDH), İnsan Hakları Savunucularının Korunması için Gözlemevi çerçevesinde

Uluslararası PEN

Üniversiteli Kuir Araştırmaları ve LGBTİ+ Dayanışma Derneği (ÜniKuir)

Yaşam Bellek Özgürlük Derneği

Yurttaşlık Derneği

9. İstanbul Trans Onur Haftası Komitesi

17 Mayıs Derneği

31. İstanbul LGBTİ+ Onur Haftası Komitesi

Uluslararası İnsan Hakları Federasyonu (FIDH), İnsan Hakları Savunucularının Korunması için Gözlemevi çerçevesinde

İşkenceye Karşı Dünya Örgütü (OMCT), İnsan Hakları Savunucularının Korunması için Gözlemevi çerçevesinde


Urgent measures needed to safeguard journalists in Albania

Urgent measures needed to safeguard journalists in Albania

In the wake of recent events, the SafeJournalists Network (SJN) and the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) join hands to bring attention to the alarming situation plaguing media freedom in Albania. The state of press freedom in the country has taken a disheartening turn, posing an imminent threat to the safety and well-being of journalists.

The partners in the SafeJournalists Network (SJN) and the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), as organisations dedicated to the protection of media freedom and the rights of journalists, are deeply concerned by recent events in Albania, which not only highlight a deteriorating environment for press freedom, but also pose a severe threat to the safety of journalists and their ability to inform the public. We call on the Albanian authorities and the international community to condemn these attacks against press freedom and to ensure the safety of journalists in Albania.


The verbal assault on BIRN Albania journalist Ola Xama by Tirana’s Mayor, Erion Veliaj, in response to her investigative report on corruption is not only unacceptable but also undermines the very fabric of free speech and press freedom. A democratic society is built on the principles of transparency and accountability, and the Mayor’s behaviour sets a dangerous precedent for public discourse. It is the duty of public officials to respond to investigative reports with professionalism and respect for the role of journalism in holding power accountable, not with attacks on journalists’ credibility.


The threats received by Marsi Korreshi and her SYRI TV crew in Rrogozhina during their coverage of a political event further underscore the precarious situation faced by journalists in Albania. Although police responded quickly to the incident, it’s alarming that members of the media are facing intimidation and threats simply for carrying out their professional duties. 


Lastly, former Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s attempt to discredit BIRN Albania, a reputable and independent media organisation, presents a serious threat to media freedom in Albania. His allegations, made without evidence, not only attempts to undermine the credibility of an important news outlet but may also incite further attacks against media freedom and journalists’ safety. Moreover, his actions could foster an environment where disinformation thrives, which is detrimental to the public’s right to accurate and factual information.


Journalists should be able to work in an environment free from intimidation, threats and violence. We call on all public officials in Albania to act responsibly, respect the role of the media, and refrain from engaging in personal attacks and unfounded accusations against journalists.


The role of the media in a democratic society is paramount. The public depends on free and independent media for information, holding power accountable, and contributing to public discourse. Therefore, any attempts to undermine the media should be viewed as an attack on democracy itself. It is our collective responsibility to protect and uphold press freedom, and we stand in solidarity with journalists in Albania.

Signed by:

  • SafeJournalists Network
  • Association of Journalists of Kosovo
  • Association of Journalists of Macedonia
  • BH Journalists Association
  • Croatian Journalists’ Association
  • Independent Journalists Association of Serbia
  • Trade Union of Media of Montenegro
  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • 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.

MFRR 3 consortium logos

BiH: MFRR urges Republika Srpska deputies to not re-criminalise…

MFRR urges Republika Srpska deputies to not re-criminalise defamation

On 18 July, Republika Srpska’s National Assembly will vote to re-introduce criminal penalties for defamation. Media Freedom Rapid Response partners urge deputies to reject these amendments, as they would suppress journalism and public discourse across the country.

Members of the National Assembly in Republika Srpska, one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are called to vote on 18 July 2023 on the draft Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code, which would re-introduce criminal penalties for defamation. The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners call on deputies to vote against these amendments, which would stifle journalism, public debate, and civil discourse, not only in Republika Srpska but across the whole country.


Our organisations have warned of the dangers of criminalising defamation as draft amendments were introduced in March 2023. Since then, public discussions have taken place without addressing the concerns of the national and international journalistic communities, and in particular the risk of abuse of the new provisions to intimidate and silence journalists.


As a matter of principle, we remain opposed to any criminalisation of defamation. Nevertheless, compared with the initial draft, we welcome that in the latest version of the bill up for discussion in the Assembly tomorrow, proposed fines for the criminal offence of defamation have been lowered, from a proposed range of BAM 8,000-100,000 originally to BAM 1,000-6,000 in the latest version. Similarly, we welcome that newly introduced language now offers some protection of speech that is in the public interest


In a legal analysis of the suggested amendments published in April 2023, ARTICLE 19 Europe stated that the punitive nature of the applicable sanctions renders them to be a disproportionate interference with free speech. In addition to the problematic criminalisation of defamation, a particularly dangerous provision (Article 156a) provides for specific conduct (certain violations of privacy with a defamatory element) to be punished by imprisonment, which would lead to egregious violations of the right to freedom of expression and stifle civic discourse and the work of the media. Onerous financial penalties and the very process of criminal prosecution are a disproportionate response to the protection of one’s reputation. The defences against prosecution stipulated in the proposed legislation are insufficient to protect the possibilities to engage in a debate on issues of public interest, including through criticism of politicians and other public figures.   


Our organisations have long opposed any law criminalising defamation, in line with international standards. We consider criminal defamation laws as unnecessary and disproportionate measures, violating the right to freedom of expression and contributing to a “chilling effect” on journalism and public debate. Where appropriate, alternative remedies such as a publication of a retraction, apology, or correction and the right of reply, constitute a better response to an unjustified attack on one’s reputation.


We reiterate our call on members of the Republika Srpska National Assembly to reject the amendments in their entirety. 

Signed by:

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

MFRR 3 consortium logos

Poland: Media capture fears confirmed in new report examining…

Poland: Media capture fears confirmed in new report examining PKN Orlen takeover of Polska Press

Acquisition of country’s largest regional press publisher by state-controlled oil company has led to shrinking journalists freedoms, report finds.

The undersigned organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) consortium today warn that the findings of a new report assessing the impact of the takeover of regional news publisher Polska Press by Poland’s state-controlled oil company PKN Orlen illustrate a shocking example of media capture in the EU.


The report by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland concludes that the takeover and subsequent editorial purge at Polska Press by Orlen in December 2020 has negatively affected journalists freedoms and led to a shift in editorial lines favourable to the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) ahead of upcoming elections.


These findings, based on multiple interviews with current and former journalists and editors at former Polska Press titles, align closely with our own assessments. They also underscore how repeated warnings made by our organisations after the acquisition about the detrimental impact Orlen’s ownership would have on independent journalism in Poland have regrettably come to fruition.


Since Orlen took over management of Poland’s largest publisher of regional newspapers in December 2020, 14 of the 15 regional editors-in-chief stepped down under pressure, with their replacements coming from the state broadcaster or right-wing media titles supportive of PiS. According to the report, numerous other deputy editors and journalists also quit in protest, allowing new management to appoint new reporters often based on political considerations.


As a result, while experiences differ between different online and print titles, the report notes that these personnel changes have led to overall shift in editorial positions across Polska Press’s network to one more favourable to the ruling party. In some media, while coverage may not be supportive of the government, it at least ceased any critical commentary or reporting which could damage the party or its leaders.


Meanwhile, journalistic reporting on matters sensitive for the government – such as LGBTQ rights and migration – has been broadly diminished, while the positions and perspective of the political opposition have largely been marginalised within news coverage. At some titles, both soft and overt censorship by new editors and interference by outside political forces connected to the ruling coalition have markedly increased, with damaging effects on these media’s independence and impartiality.


Our organisations believe this takeover of Polska Press by Orlen is one of the clearest examples anywhere in the European Union in recent years of media capture in action. Through this acquisition by the state-controlled oil company headed by a close ally of the PiS leadership, the ruling party has significantly increased its ability to influence and control news and opinion across the country. This influence extends to 20 regional dailies, 120 weekly magazines and 500 online portals, and echoes the systematic takeover of regional media in Hungary under the Fidesz government.


The takeover of the country’s largest regional news publisher also draws clear parallels with political capture of the county’s public broadcaster Telewizja Polska (TVP) after PiS first came to power in 2015. While the lack of independence demonstrable at Polska Press titles cannot yet be compared to the party propaganda disseminated by TVP, it nonetheless significantly weakens media pluralism in Poland and undermines the right of citizens to receive unbiased information.


PiS has always claimed its drive for so-called ‘repolonisation’ of the media landscape is about ensuring media reflect Polish national interests rather than those of foreign-based publishers. The case of Polska Press is the clearest indication yet that, in reality, the principal aim of this policy is about engineering greater control over domestic media and ensuring continued support for the government’s own political interests.


Increasing instrumentalization of these media titles is of particular concern ahead of parliamentary elections in the autumn 2023, in which the opinion of voters in Poland’s significant rural population will likely be crucial for electoral success. If approved, the election observation mission to Poland recently requested by the European Parliament should scrutinise the news output of Polska Press titles during the election period as part of its overall assessment of the media environment.


Our organisations also believe this case offers a stark example of the need for the EU to pass a strong and effective Media Freedom Act (EMFA). Specifically, this takeover justifies the proposed establishment of a European Board, made up of representatives from national media regulators, which could scrutinise such acquisitions in the future and challenge them if it believes media pluralism or freedom of expression are at risk.


Had such a body been in place when this deal was approved by the country’s competition regulator UOKiK in February 2021, heightened international scrutiny could potentially have had an impact on the ultimate decision of the regulator or resulted in concrete guarantees and stronger safeguards against political interference.


The damage already done to journalistic freedoms by PKN Orlen is clear. We therefore also call on all international investors and pension funds which claim to follow ethical investment guidelines to carefully consider their relationship with the company and take its corrosive effect on media pluralism and democratic values into account.


Moving forward, our organisations will continue to follow this case closely and continue to warn about the takeover’s damaging implications for media freedom. We welcome the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights’ report and will continue to closely monitor and document all threats to independent journalism in the build up to Poland’s parliamentary election.

Signed by:

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

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

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