The statue outside the headquarters of Slovenian public broadcaster Radiotelevizija Slovenija (RTV) in the capital Ljubljana

Slovenia: Government faces hurdles in effort to ‘depoliticise’ public…

Slovenia: Government faces hurdles in effort to ‘depoliticise’ public broadcaster

By IPI contributor Katja Lihtenvalner

Since coming to power in April 2022, Slovenia’s new centre-left government led by Prime Minister Robert Golob has pressed ahead with a campaign pledge to reform the country’s outdated media law and strengthen the independence of Radio-Television Slovenia (RTV).

The centrepiece of this reform is a legislative effort to depoliticize the management of the public broadcaster through a restructuring of its two main oversight bodies, the programme and supervisory boards.


However, challenges started immediately after the government brought forward a draft version of the amendment to the RTV law in July. At the same time, new management within the broadcaster is leading to continued accusations of pressure on journalists and editorial freedom.


Depoliticization of public broadcaster

Back in July, the country’s 90-seat National Assembly approved the government’s draft amendment to the RTV Act, with 50 MPs voting in favour.


“Today’s debate shows that a new broadcasting law is urgently needed. The public reckoning with employees, the trade unionist – all this shows the mismanagement of public service broadcasting”, newly appointed Minister for Culture Asta Vrecko said in the parliament at the time.


The amendment to the RTV Act proposes changes to the management, administration and supervision of the RTV Slovenia. Instead of the existing programme and supervisory boards – which have for years been seen as a tool for a new government to stamp its influence on the broadcaster through politicised appointments – the revised law would introduce a single management and supervisory body, the RTV Council. This body would consist of 17 members, with civil society and RTV employees playing a decisive role.


“The aim is to remove politics from public service broadcasting and ensure its institutional and programme autonomy”, an official government statement said. Vrecko added: “I don’t care who started this politicization. What is important to me is that we put an end to it.”


However, this reform process is facing a major challenge from the largest opposition party, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), which has criticized the initiative as a politically motivated and unlawful attempt to remove RTVS’s director general, who was appointed during its government.


“We are witnessing a beheading of RTV that has never been seen before in the history of the country”, SDS said after the adoption of the amendment.


When in government, members of the SDS including then Prime Minister Janez Janša were accused of undermining the integrity of the public broadcaster, appointing politicized figures to RTVS’ oversight boards and engaging in several smears against some of its management and journalists.


Referendum challenge

In an effort to block the amendments, on September 9 SDS started a campaign to collect the 40,000 signatures needed to call for a legislative referendum on the proposed reforms.


“The amendment recklessly introduces a new management and supervisory body which, under the guise of depoliticization, abolishes the programme and supervisory boards, which guarantee impartiality and balance”, SDS said during the signature campaign, which it titled “against the politicization of RTV”. SDS did not respond to questions for this article about its criticism of the amendment.


Back in July, Prime Minister Golob commented on the opposition’s referendum initiative: “This is a misuse of the referendum law in order to stop the executive or the legislature.”


The second largest opposition party, Nova Slovenija (the Christian Democrats), also opposed the amendment to the Broadcasting Act.


“In principle, we support greater involvement of civil society in the RTV Council, but the amendment effectively excludes part of civil society. In fact, only certain civil society organizations could appoint representatives, which in our view do not represent a broad range of viewers and listeners with different views and beliefs”, the party said in a written response for this article.


However, Nova Slovenija said it will not actively join SDS in collecting signatures for the referendum.


SDS now has until October 5 to collect the necessary signatures of support. After that, the initiator of the referendum has seven days to submit a request. If this is complete, the National Assembly then has seven days to call the referendum by decree.


RTV under pressure

While the political confrontation continues, internally RTVS remains mired in disputes between journalists and its new management.


The situation has deteriorated since April last year, when 37-year-old lawyer Andrej Grah Whatmough took over the leadership of RTVS. Internal disputes escalated further in June when Uroš  Urbanija, a previous editor at the Slovenian Press Agency and former head of the Government Communication Office (UKOM) under the government of previous Prime Minister Janez Jansa, was appointed as a director of public TV.


Both are seen as having political ties to Janša. While Urbanija headed UKOM, the body suspended financing for the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) over a legal dispute, driving it to the point of bankruptcy and leading to strong criticism from EU leaders.


“Urbanija, the former head of the government’s Communications Office, is highly political and biased, and his media history leaves traces of unprofessionalism, bullying, conflicts with journalists’ collectives and personal vendettas”; the journalist’s union said when it urged Whatmough not to appoint Urbanija.


IPI asked Urbanija for his response to these accusations. Urbanija agreed to comment on the allegations only in a separate interview in which he is the only person interviewed.


Claims of harassment and pressure have been made by several journalists in recent months.


“What is happening now has crossed all borders of the limits of decency, professionalism and common sense”, one of Slovenia’s most influential television commentators, Igor Bergant, recently said about the developments at RTV.


Another TV presenter, Saša Kranjc, said: “It happens that we have to publish stories that we don’t know, that an editor asks for a statement to be retracted from a story and that we are forbidden to publish a piece of news.”


As a gesture of support, journalists have now gathered twice during the news programme to point out the problems to the audience. They also wanted to show the support for colleagues who were threatened by Urbanija with “disciplinary action” among them above mentioned Kranjc and editor, Vesna Pfeiffer.


“The new management is cancelling programmes, cutting the news bulletin and violating the programme and production plan, which is already seriously undermining public information about what is happening at home and around the world, and thus the public’s right to be informed”, the staff of TV Slovenia’s news programme said in a press release.


Journalists and media workers have also staged several strikes organized by the unions. Various open letters have been published and sent to the Prime Minister Golob by the director of RTV and the director of TV.


“We are witnessing a kind of staging of an epic confrontation: the management, the supervisory and programming board, on a political mission to destroy the house, confronting the journalistic collective”, media analyst Boris Vezjak explained. “In between, there are the extras, the majority of them, who look the other way and do not get involved.”

This article is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Albania: Media must not face criminal prosecution for public…

Albania: Media must not face criminal prosecution for public interest reporting

The undersigned media freedom and journalist associations today express our shared concern over the blanket publication ban issued by Albanian prosecutorial authorities regarding a trove of hacked data, and stress that no journalist or media outlet should face criminal sanctions for publishing information in the public interest.

While our organisations recognise the sensitive nature of these leaks and urge all media in Albania to handle the material in a strictly ethical and responsible manner, it is vital that Albanian authorities proceed with caution and full consideration for journalistic freedoms protected under both domestic and international law.


On 19 September 2022, the Prosecutor’s Office of Tirana issued an “order” which banned all media in Albania from publishing data or information from a cache of files which had been hacked from Albanian servers and computer systems and then leaked online. The high-profile leaks followed a wave of damaging cyber-attacks on Albanian servers and computer systems in recent months by state-backed hackers in Iran, which has caused a diplomatic crisis and the severing of ties between the two countries.


The bulk of the hacked material contains classified police information and sensitive email correspondence, documents and memos between Albanian politicians, authorities and foreign ambassadors, including documents about suspected plans to assassinate foreign and domestic political figures, according to reports.


In response to the latest leaks, the Prosecutor’s Office of Tirana issued the order and warned that media that violate the ban would face criminal investigation under articles 103, 208 and 304 of the penal code. This included publication in audio-visual, print and online media, as well as social media. News websites that published data would subsequently be blocked.The information was first shared via a post on the Facebook account of the Albanian Police.


Our organisations recognise the severity of these cyber-attacks and the sensitive nature of the leaked data. In such circumstances, the media have a professional responsibility to handle and present this kind of material in an ethical manner, with full consideration given to citizens’ right to privacy and serious national security concerns.


However, regardless of the source of the material or the intent of those behind the attacks, journalists have a responsibility to assess the veracity and public interest nature of the leaked information, as well as the right of citizens to be informed about newsworthy matters.


The response by the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office to try and unilaterally limit all reporting on the leaked information, without proper consideration given to the public interest, therefore raises serious concerns about unjustified infringements on the freedom of the press, which is already under the spotlight in Albania.


Threats of criminal investigations and website blocking for media or journalists that violate the banning order will meanwhile have a censorious effect on reporting and could open the door to the criminalisation of legitimate journalistic activity. No journalist, editor or publisher in Albania should face prosecution for publishing accurate information on a matter of public interest.


Moreover, the role of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) and the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) – two independent bodies – in monitoring the media ecosystem for potential violations on behalf of the Prosecutor’s Office also raises clear concerns.


Moving forward, our organisations urge investigatory and government authorities in Albania to avoid taking any further steps which undermine the exercise of responsible journalism or endanger the liberty of journalists publishing public interest material. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the coming days and respond to further developments.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • Balkan Free Media Initiative
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Safe Journalists Network
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso 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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picture alliance / NurPhoto | Manuel Dorati

Call for Italian political forces to take a stand…

Call for Italian political forces to take a stand against SLAPPs

A group of media freedom and journalists’ organisations have published a statement outlining a list of measures that must be adopted in order to protect victims of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) in Italy.

The right of citizens to be informed about matters of public interest and of journalists to write freely about them cannot and must not be hindered by SLAPPs. Civil society’s appeal to the future parliament to promote measures to contrast strategic lawsuits


SLAPPs (Strategic lawsuits against public participation) aim at silencing journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and anyone who sheds light on matters of public interest. SLAPPs are a true violation of the right of citizens to be informed and freedom of expression. SLAPPs also pose serious restrictions on democratic participation as they deprive the public debate of voices reporting on issues of public interest. The explicit goal of those who carry out legal actions against journalists and activists dealing with e.g. corruption, abuse of power, and environmental issues is to silence them – a threat to freedom of expression and the right to report.


The use of SLAPPs is widespread in Italy. The legal tool most commonly employed to instigate SLAPP cases is defamation, both civil and criminal. However, the right to privacy and the right to be forgotten are also misused to prevent the disclosure of inconvenient information. Often, legal threats even precede the publication of the investigation, triggering mechanisms of self-censorship.


The Italian Parliament has already been urged to abide by the recent Constitutional Court rulings on the issue of defamation. The Court, in fact, intervened with a decision in 2020 and a ruling in 2021 on the issue of the constitutionality of prison sentences for journalists in cases of press defamation, calling on the Parliament to remove the rules that provide for incarceration – except for cases of ‘exceptional gravity’ – and to promote a wide-ranging reform of the relevant legislation. Such a reform, which has remained stagnant and obstructed in previous legislatures, is necessary in order to hopefully reach an “effective balance between freedom of expression and the protection of reputation”, as the Court emphasised in 2021.


At the European level, last April the European Commission presented its response to the problem by drafting a two-pronged document: a directive on transnational cases, which will now have to follow its approval process between the EU Council and the European Parliament, and a recommendation with immediate but non-binding effect, which gathers precise indications to be applied in national cases. This was possible also thanks to an intense mobilisation of the Coalition against SLAPP in Europe (CASE), which gathers more than 40 European civil society organisations committed to combating SLAPPs.


European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova calls the directive under discussion “Daphne’s law”, to remember Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed in 2017 while being targeted with several legal proceedings, and whose tragic story helped to raise attention to the issue. The presentation of the proposal at European level was celebrated as a moment of historic significance, an achievement unthinkable until a few years ago.


This heritage must not be lost.


The European initiative should propel the urgent adoption of measures to protect SLAPP victims in Italy as well. Now it is up to the next Italian Parliament and Government to do their part. In view of the vote on 25 September, the signatories of this appeal ask all the candidates in the forthcoming elections and the political forces for a public commitment to support during the next legislature, in the European and national fora, the adoption of measures, within and beyond the legislative realm, to counter SLAPP.


Specifically, we call for:


  • the introduction of the issue of SLAPP as a priority on the Italian political agenda;
  • the launch of a comprehensive legal reform on defamation, both criminal and civil, in line with recent Constitutional Court rulings and the standards of international law on freedom of expression;
  • the introduction of a procedure for the timely dismissal of legal actions classifiable as SLAPP;
  •  the establishment of punitive and deterrent sanctions for SLAPP perpetrators;
  • the systematic and independent data collection and monitoring of intimidating legal acts by institutions in cooperation with civil society;
  • the continuation of the parliamentary intergroup dealing with information, media, and journalism and the effective engagement of its members in combating SLAPPs;
  • the implementation without delay of the guidelines contained in the European Recommendation for national cases;
  • the support, in the European fora, of the proposed anti-SLAPP Directive presented by the European Commission on 27 April 2022.


Thanks to an active network throughout Europe, civil society has made a fundamental contribution in formulating responses to prevent reckless lawsuits from restricting free expression, participation, and democracy. We will continue to advocate for the proposed measures to be adopted.


The appeal is open to all organisations and individuals who share these demands. List constantly being updated here.

Signed by:

  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa


  • Articolo 21

  • Transparency International Italia

  • Article 19 Europe

  • Environmental Paper Network

  • Greenpeace Italia

  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

  • International Press Institute (IPI)

  • Festival dei Diritti Umani

  • Associazione Italiana Medici per l’Ambiente (ISDE)

  • info.nodes

  • Lega Italiana Antivivisezione (LAV)

  • Parliament Watch Italia

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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EU flags outside the European Commission

Joint Statement on the Proposal for the European Media…

Joint Statement on the Proposal for the European Media Freedom Act

The undersigned journalists’, media freedom, and human rights organisations welcome the European Commission’s initiative to strengthen the free and pluralistic media system and the commitment to protect journalists and editorial independence within the European Union.

These values directly link to fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, the right to access to information, the formation of opinion, and making informed choices in elections, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.


Matters relating to the media have traditionally been the competence of member states, however such is the threat posed to media freedom that an EU wide action has become necessary to protect Europe’s democratic values.


Therefore we support the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) which breaks significant new ground in our efforts to protect media freedom in Europe. The EMFA has identified many of the key issues where the EU and member states must urgently act in order to protect media freedoms. This statement of intent, alone, is very welcome.


However, if the EMFA is to become effective in the struggle to guarantee media pluralism, to protect journalists’ rights and ensure editorial independence from the impact of vested commercial and political interests, it should strengthen efforts to increase the transparency in media ownership; introduce rules governing all financial relations between the state and media (in addition to advertising); guarantee the independence of national regulators as well as the independence of the European Board for Media Services; and fully protect journalists from all forms of surveillance (in addition to spyware).


The undersigned organisations look forward to continuing to engage with the institutions of the European Union to ensure that the text of the European Media Freedom Act is as robust and effective as possible and helps provide a foundation for generations of journalists to come.

Signed by:

  • Association of European Journalists (AEJ) 
  • Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) 
  • Coalition for Creativity (C4C) 
  • Committee to Protect Journalists 
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) 
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) 
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU) 
  • Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) 
  • Index on Censorship 
  • International Press Institute (IPI) 
  • Media Diversity Institute, Belgium (MDI) 
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) 
  • Reporters WIthout Borders (RSF) 
  • Society of Journalists, Warsaw 
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) 
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation 
  • Transparency International EU 
  • World Association Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC Europe)
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MFRR Monitoring Report: 311 European media freedom violations recorded…

MFRR Monitoring Report: 311 European media freedom violations recorded in first half of 2022

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) has published the latest edition of the MFRR Monitoring Report, outlining the state of media freedom throughout all European Union Member States and candidate countries from January to June 2022.

The Monitoring Report includes an analysis of the data compiled for Mapping Media Freedom, which collects and visualises all press freedom violations in the European Union and candidate countries. Although Moldova and Ukraine received candidate country status on 23 June 2022, alerts from these countries are not included in the 6 month analysis. However, given the severe impact Russia’s invasion has had on journalist safety and media freedom, the report includes a dedicated chapter focusing on Ukraine.


Read below for an overview of the report’s general findings. Specific thematic and country analyses can be accessed in the full report using the button below.

In the first six months of the year, 311 media freedom violations were recorded in 29 countries. These involve 552 persons or entities related to media, including journalists, media companies, family members, journalists’ sources, and NGOs fighting for press freedom.

Verbal attacks, including harassment and threats, were the most common types of violations, making up 39.2% of the total number of attacks. This was followed by legal incidents (30.9%) and physical attacks (19.3%). Attacks to property made up 14.2% of alerts and 12.9% of alerts were linked to censorship, such as blocked access to information.


Among these attacks was the murder of Güngör Arslan, Managing Editor of the Turkish newspaper Ses Kocaeli.

As for perpetrators, private individuals remained the main source of attacks to journalists and media workers (36.3%), followed by police and state security (17.7%) and government and public officials (11.6%).

In terms of contexts in which violations took places, online and digital attacks increased significantly and became the most frequent context (22.8%) closely followed by attacks during protests (22.2%), violations in courts (15.1%), and in public places or on the street (11.3%).

Contexts Monitoring Report

After providing a general overview of the alerts, the report continues with thematic analyses focusing on the war in Ukraine, compliance with some topics raised in the European Commission Recommendation on the protection, safety, and empowerment of journalists, and the surveillance of journalists and media workers. These analyses are followed by country reports summarising the state of media freedom in Turkey, Greece, Spain, Poland, Malta, France, Germany, Serbia, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

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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Albania: Press freedom groups call for a fair trial…

Albania: Press freedom groups call for a fair trial in defamation lawsuit by former top prosecutor against Isa Myzyraj

The undersigned media freedom and freedom of expression organisations and journalist unions and associations are highly concerned by the defamation lawsuit filed against journalist Isa Myzyraj, who works for Ora News, by Elizabeta Imeraj.

Formerly Tirana’s top prosecutor, Imeraj was fired in April 2022 as part of the justice reform process for causing a loss of trust in the justice system and inability to justify or explain her assets. Following yesterday’s postponement of the case and ahead of the hearing now scheduled for 16 October, we call for a fair trial with full respect for all due process rights and in which the importance of free speech, press and public interest reporting is appropriately considered.


Imeraj is suing Myzyraj after he reported threats and intimidation he received for writing about Imeraj’s vetting process to international networks. In late March and early April 2022, Myzyraj commented on the developments around Imeraj’s vetting process carried out by the constitutionally-mandated International Monitoring Operation (IMO). The journalist had noticed that colleagues from other media outlets began self-censoring, while many mainstream media did not report the developments. At the same time, anonymously owned media outlets in Albania began publishing defamatory pieces attacking members of the IMO in what the EU’s Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement characterised as an “orchestrated smear campaign”. Myzyraj said his investigations found that at least three of these online outlets had links to Imeraj and published these allegations on Facebook and Twitter. Imeraj contests this statement and filed a lawsuit before the Elbasan District Court.


The defamation case is set against serious concerns about media freedom and threats to independent watchdog journalism in Albania, which plummeted to 103rd rank in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, last in the Balkans.


We will continue to monitor the case closely and stand in solidarity with Myzyraj.

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)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • 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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The EC Recommendation on journalists’ safety: A view from…

The EC Recommendation on journalists’ safety:

A view from the field one year on

21 September, 14:00 CEST.

On 16 September 2021, the European Commission published their Recommendation on the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists. The Recommendation illustrated the European Commission’s commitment to the safety of journalists and set out a range of measures that – if implemented – would see a marked improvement to journalist safety in EU member states.


One year on, journalists in Europe still face major threats to their safety and security. In this webinar, we will hear from a range of journalists about their experiences with the aim of creating a view from the media field, one year after the publication of the Recommendation.


Guusje Somer

Policy & Advocacy Officer, Free Press Unlimited


Emilia Sercan

Romanian investigative journalist, author and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Science within the University of Bucharest

Maja Sever

Journalist and President of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Turkish journalist blacklist

Turkey: Solidarity with twenty journalists including TGS leadership blacklisted…

Turkey: Solidarity with twenty journalists including TGS leadership blacklisted by police

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) expressed solidarity with the twenty journalists blacklisted by the Turkish General Directorate of Security (EGM) for their writing and joined Turkey’s Journalists Union (TGS) in denouncing an apparent attempt to intimidate independent journalists and trade unionists.

On 5 September, the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) revealed that the General Directorate of Security (EGM) had blacklisted 20 journalists in relation to their writings for the online magazine Journalist Post, a periodical run by journalists living in exile. No legal proceedings have yet been initiated against them.


The confidential document, containing the blacklist, was disclosed during the trial of MA editor-in-chief Dicle Müftüoğlu, on trial under terrorism charges. According to media reports, the list was prepared based on intelligence information collected against the Fethullah Gülen movement for anti-terrorism police departments. Based on this intelligence information, the EGM Foreign Relations Department of the Turkish Police classified Journalist Post as being run by a Fethullah Gülen-linked network.


Since 2020, four magazine issues have been published as part of a solidarity campaign for freedom of expression and press freedom worldwide. It featured 74 articles, interviews, news and analysis written by journalists and academics from 32 different countries, available in Turkish, English and German.


The list includes the name of the journalists who have been involved in running the magazine or contributing to it, their ID numbers, their positions, and whether they have an entry with their ID numbers on the National Judiciary Network (UYAP).


The listed journalists are: Engin Sağ, Şemsi Açıkgöz, Mustafa Kılıç, Yüksek Durgut, Ramiz Kılıçarslan, Necdet Çelik, Hasan Cücük,  İsmail Muhammet Sağıroğlu, Enes Cansever,  Basri Doğan, Türkmen Terzi, Vedat Demir, Rabia Yavuz Türe, Yunus Erdoğdu, Naciye Nur Kılıç, Erkan Pehlivan, Erkin Emet, Dicle Müftüoğlu, Dicle Fırat (Journalists Association DFG Co-chairperson), Mustafa Kuleli (General Secretary of Journalists Union of Turkey and EFJ Vice-President) and Gökhan Durmuş (President of Journalists Union of Turkey).


Listed among the 20 journalists, EFJ Vice-President Mustafa Kuleli reacted: “Erdogan’s regime is trying to criminalise journalism and advocacy by juxtaposing them with terrorism. They are trying to intimidate us. We will continue to defend journalists, journalism and democracy.  As I wrote in my article that got me blacklisted: Turkey is bigger than Erdogan. The people of Turkey will eventually defeat tyranny and despotism.”


Our organisations urge the Turkish authorities to end the repression of media freedom advocates and to not start legal proceedings against the listed journalists. Thirty-eight journalists and media workers are still behind bars in Turkish prisons for doing their job in the public interest.

Signed by:

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

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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OK Radio

Serbia: Support for OK Radio as it faces intimidation…

Serbia: Support for OK Radio as it faces intimidation by powerful businessperson

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today express support and solidarity with embattled broadcaster OK Radio and urge Serbian law enforcement authorities to put an end to the dangerous campaign of harassment and pressure exerted on the media outlet by a powerful local businessperson.

Over the last few months, OK Radio, a leading independent radio station which covers local news in the southern city of Vranje, has faced an increasingly violent wave of attacks and intimidation from Dejan Nikolic Kantar, a powerful gambling businessperson. Pressure on the media outlet and its staff began in March 2022 after they filed a complaint to an inspector about plans by a company connected to Kantar to illegally build a new gambling business on the site next to the radio station.


Around this time, the radio station’s owner Olivera Vladković told police that she received threats over the phone from Kantar, who demanded she give consent for the construction or face “problems”. After OK Radio refused to back down, in April masked individuals smashed windows at the “No Comment” cafe, a business attached to the station which is also owned by Vladković and provides OK Radio with a large part of its income.


In early June, construction of the betting shop continued without permits and walled up one of the windows of the radio station overnight. OK Radio reported the news and shared pictures. Soon after, the café was vandalised again when a man was filmed spray painting the building. An individual then entered the café holding a mobile phone with the speaker turned on, through which Kantar screamed threats at OK Radio staff and journalists.


As the plight of the radio station gained national attention, representatives of Serbia’s Permanent Working Group for Safety of Journalists visited Vranje in mid-June to support OK Radio. Posters were put up overnight in the streets of Vranje which depicted a fake arrest warrant for Veran Matić, a leading member of the Working Group. Four men were recently tried but found not guilty of threatening the safety of Matić.


On June 16, Kantar was arrested for violent behaviour after he went to the café to allegedly threaten OK Radio journalists. Two other individuals who are alleged to have carried out attacks on his behalf have also been detained. All three are facing criminal charges brought by prosecutors and have denied the allegations. Kantar, a leading figure in the local gambling and construction industry, is currently serving separate sentences for violent behaviour and illegal betting, according to reports. Although a planning inspector has ordered the illegal building to be demolished, local companies have refused to carry out the demolition for fear of reprisals.


Most recently, during the trial of the businessperson on August 16, Kantar explicitly threatened the radio station’s owners in the courthouse telling them: “The fact that you said in court that you are afraid, you are right, you have reasons to be afraid, and I will not stop…”. According to reports, he also made a veiled death threat in a reference to murders at the Jasenovac concentration camp in 1941, at which point he made the sound of gunfire. In recent months, two employees have left their jobs at OK Radio over fears for their safety.


Our organisations view these actions as a brazen attempt by a local strongman to threaten the media outlet into silence, put its staff in danger, and intimidate other journalists from critical reporting on Kantar and his business interests. These tactics are used all too often by powerful business interests in Serbia who feel that they can threaten the media with impunity.


We urge Serbian authorities to ensure the safety of the journalists and staff at OK Radio and demonstrate that such attacks on journalists will not go unpunished. We also welcome the vocal support given to OK Radio by media representatives of the Permanent Working Group for Safety of Journalists and the wider journalistic community in Serbia. Our organisations will continue to monitor the situation closely and will be watching for the next hearing in the trial on the violent attacks against OK Radio scheduled for September 30.

Signed by:

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

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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Analysis: Strengthening Moldova’s independent press in the shadow of…

Analysis: Strengthening Moldova’s independent press in the shadow of polarisation and propaganda

By IPI Contributor Daniel Salaru

Following the election of a pro-EU president in 2020, Moldova’s independent press has grown in strength and significance. However, challenges remain as a result of the country’s political and social instability, its vast levels of corruption, and the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine. Among growing regional tensions, Moldova’s independent press is preparing for an uncertain future.

Moldova, historically a frontier between empires, continues to suffer as a result of its past. Despite gaining independence from the USSR in 1991, its society has been continuously divided between aligning with the west or the former Soviet sphere.


The conflict between these opposing viewpoints led to the tumultuous early years of independence, with the tiny nation being divided between one central government, an autonomous territorial unit, Gagauzia, and a separatist region occupied by Russian forces, Transnistria.


The coming to power of President Maia Sandu’s pro-western government in 2020 brought new hopes for an independent press. However, against the backdrop of the nearby war in Ukraine, growing political and economic uncertainty continues to impede press freedom and pluralism to this day.


Between jingoists, oligarchs, and politicians 

Moldova’s press environment, though diverse, remains highly polarized. While the news conglomerates of oligarch and former Democratic Party of Moldova leader Vlad Plahotniuc collapsed after he fled the country in 2019, a new threat soon emerged. Another media empire rose to prominence under the control of the pro-Russian Socialist party (PSRM). Seven notable TV channels, several dozen news portals and Telegram channels, alongside dozens of political commentators, came under the direct or indirect control of the PSRM and its leader, Igor Dodon. Their rhetoric was continuously bolstered by Russian propaganda, exploiting the popularity of the Russian language in Moldova.


Despite an often-hostile environment, independent outlets continued to reveal the corruption of leading officials and fight disinformation. RISE, a leading independent Moldovan investigative outlet, released a notable series of reports discussing the ties between Kremlin and Dodon. Other investigative outlets often used their platforms to expose the opulence and schemes of oligarchs, public officials, and members of the judiciary. The free press has had successes in exposing the root causes of disinformation.


However, the combined efforts of the pro-Kremlin and pro-PSRM media networks continued to undermine popular confidence in state institutions and the very concept of Moldovan independence, making it difficult for independent outlets to gain the trust of the public. Despite domestic and international efforts, low levels of media literacy often rendered many in Moldova susceptible to disinformation campaigns.


“Propaganda is like radiation, it is very hard to contain,” said Vladimir Thorik, the Russian-language editor of RISE, in an interview with IPI. “No matter what you do, you can’t succeed. Propaganda appeals to the ideas of the good old Soviet times and that the West is foreign to Moldovan society. It uses corrupted methods and ideas.”


After 2020, the increasingly hostile rhetoric of the pro-Russian media, both external and internal, continued to sow instability. A 2021 poll by the Institute of Public Politics, a Moldovan civil society organization, found that 90 percent of the inhabitants of Gagauzia got their news from Russian-language media outlets. A total of 62 percent of the respondents expressed their extreme confidence in Russian-language news. These channels were controlled either by the Kremlin or the PSRM.


Russia’s influence remained strong in all territories of the Republic, as Moldova’s governmental institutions were simply not strong enough to counter the barrage of disinformation.


However, the war in Ukraine brought the battle against disinformation into the spotlight.


A new fight 

After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in an effort to counter the increasingly damaging effects of Kremlin propaganda, the Moldovan parliament effectively banned the broadcast of news, military, political and analytical Russian programmes on June 22. However, even this radical ban was not able to counter the effects of years of disinformation.

“In Gagauzia and Transnistria they air Russian news channels and the Chisinau authorities cannot do anything about it,” said Thorik.

Disinformation continued to spread through the internet. The Socialist-controlled TV channels, while supposedly airing Moldovan news, ignored the war in Ukraine at best and disseminated Kremlin talking points at worst.

“Some media chose to not talk about the war, but talked a lot about refugees, failing to discuss who started the war and how the war was going. It was bizarre,” said Nadine Gogu, the executive director of the leading Moldovan press freedom NGO Center for Independent Journalism (CJI), in an interview with IPI. “A lot of Russian content replaced this, like shows and movies. Once Russian talk shows were banned, even the shows not discussing politics still discussed politics, as the Russians adapted and tried to reach outside Russia.”

Facing a weakened, yet persistent network of disinformation, Moldovan outlets continue to look for new ways to counter disinformation and strengthen their presence. However, the ever-present military threat from Russia via Transnistria and Gagauzia has created a permanent level of uncertainty for all outlets in Moldova.


Adapting to the new reality 

The full-scale conflict in Ukraine, at its start, presented an unprecedented challenge to Moldovan outlets. Amidst a drastic increase in work intensity, advertising revenues collapsed, while staffing shortages became more acute.


“The first months were very difficult,” said Gogu. “Advertising revenues fell drastically… a lot of mass media institutions were left without the few revenues that were coming from advertising. Some said that this withdrawal was even selective, advertising was taken from the outlets that were actually reporting about the war, while others who chose to ignore the war or be silent on it continued to receive revenues.”


“The volume of work has grown massively, editors are few and continue to remain in small numbers,” Gogu added. “People continue to be exhausted, working seven days a week as things are changing hour to hour, minute to minute. They do not have the resources to hire people, due to the fall in advertising revenues.”


Despite these hardships, the free press has attempted to adapt to the new reality. Through new international partnerships and methods of financing, as well as long-term education campaigns, many hope to break the media bubble that some Moldovans have found themselves in.


“We started talking more intensively with Ukrainians and Russians,” said Thorik. “We have the Transnistrian problem and many other threats that we did not talk about much before.” Indeed, in cooperation with the independent Ukrainian outlet Slidstvo, RISE published an investigation into the use of Ukrainian passports by leading Transnistrian leaders in order to travel freely through Europe. “On the one hand, they organized a mini North Korea and on the other hand they used the passports to go abroad,” said Thorik.


Many in the independent press have also increasingly looked to outside grants to compensate the loss of advertising revenues. As advertising contracts are often politically motivated, grants act as a guarantor of editorial independence for many outlets. “Today many Moldovan outlets have accessed international grants,” said Gogu. “They wish to continue their work.”


However, problems with grants persist.


“There was some international aid,” stated Thorik. “There were some grants for improving safety. However, they were not structural or institutional grants, they were one-time, purchasing equipment piece-by-piece for the time being. As we see from the example of Ukrainian journalists, once war starts, we have to be prepared. We are in a period of uncertainty, we do not know the threats that are facing us.” Like Ukrainian journalists themselves, members of the Moldovan free press have expressed their concern over the short-term nature of many of the grants.


Leading outlets and press freedom NGOs have also made efforts to increase levels of media literacy and critical analysis skills to improve the population’s ability to detect disinformation. Thanks to CJI support and leadership, in the 2021-2022 school year, the optional school subject of media education was taught by 128 teachers to 4,208 schoolkids across the entire country. The center supported numerous other projects promoting critical analysis skill and media literacy. “We work on media education and hope to integrate this concept in other institutions,” said Gogu.


Uncertainty on the horizon 

“It is calm now, but we do not know what will happen in the fall,” says Gogu. Independent journalism in Moldova, while currently showing remarkable progress, is ultimately under grave threat.


With the continuously evolving situation in Ukraine, as well as growing domestic hardships, it is likely that the challenges that the Moldovan press will face in its near future will be immense. With the growing potential for Moldova’s domestic situation to be exploited by external forces, it is imperative that the work of a free and independent press is continuously supported, both domestically and internationally.

This article is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries, and Ukraine. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

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