Feinbild Journalist – photo - Alexander Pohl

ECPMF Feindbild Study 2022

English version below

Zentrale Ergebnisse der Studie

83 gewaltsame Angriffe registrierte das Europäische Zentrum für Presse- und Medienfreiheit (ECPMF) für das Jahr 2021. Damit wurde der Negativrekord des Jahres 2020 nochmals um 14 verifizierte Fälle übertroffen. Die Sicherheitslage für Journalist:innen blieb damit auch im zweiten Pandemiejahr stark angespannt. Die Zunahme an Tätlichkeiten gegen Medienschaffende lässt sich – wie bereits im Vorjahr – zum größten Teil auf die Demonstrationen der Corona-Maßnahmen-Gegner zurückführen: 75 Prozent aller Angriffe ereigneten sich im Umfeld dieser Proteste.

Durch die heterogene Zusammensetzung der Teilnehmenden an diesen Demonstrationen kann nur ein Teil der Angriffe klar bestimmten politischen Lagern zugeordnet werden: 39 Prozent lassen sich dem rechten politischen Spektrum zuordnen, ein Prozent dem linken, bei 60 Prozent war keine eindeutige Zuschreibung zum politischen Hintergrund des Übergriffs möglich.

„Querdenken & Co wirken wie Brandbeschleuniger. Sie entzünden den unter der Oberfläche lodernden Hass ihrer Anhänger aufs System. Ihre Wutreden, Videos und Posts festigen ihre Ablehnung der Presse, die sich bei einigen in Form von Gewalt gegen Medienschaffende entlädt“,

sagt Co-Autor Martin Hoffmann.

Besorgniserregend ist neben dem erneuten Anstieg der registrierten Fälle auch die zunehmende Ausbreitung der Gewalt in die westdeutschen Bundesländer: 2020 wurden 52 Prozent der Angriffe dort registriert, 2021 schon 61 Prozent (jeweils ohne Berlin). Diese geografische Ausdehnung geht einher mit der Zunahme von politischen Protesten gegen die Maßnahmen zur Pandemieeindämmung. Sachsen ist mit 23 Fällen das meistbetroffene Bundesland, wie in nahezu allen Jahren seit Beginn der Erfassung im Jahr 2015.

Ab dem letzten Quartal 2021 ist zudem ein wachsender Anteil von Lokaljournalist:innen betroffen. Dies könnte mit einer Zunahme von nicht-registrierten Protesten im ländlichen Raum zusammenhängen.

„Ab dem Winter 21/22 verlagerte sich die Proteste zunehmend ins Regionale – und damit auch die pressefeindlichen Übergriffe. Für betroffene Medienschaffende, die vor Ort verwurzelt sind, ist das nicht nur eine berufliche Belastung, sondern eine ihres Alltags.“

sagt die Co-Autorin der Studie, Roberta Knoll. Das hat sichtbare Folgen für die Berichterstattung vor Ort: Medienschaffende ziehen sich von der Berichterstattung von den Protesten zurück.

Die Entwicklung in den ersten beiden Monaten des Jahres 2022 zeigte zunächst keine Anzeichen für eine Besserung der Arbeitssituation von Medienschaffenden. Bis zum 1. März wurden bereits 22 Fälle pressefeindlicher Gewalt registriert, sechsmal waren Lokaljournalist:innen betroffen.

„Die Feinbild-Studie hat gezeigt, dass die Pressefeindlichkeit in Deutschland weiter eskaliert – und dass insbesondere Lokaljournalistinnen und -journalisten unter Druck sind. Sie können nicht ausweichen, sie können nicht abtauchen, sie müssen mit den Menschen leben, von denen sie bepöbelt und bedroht werden. Was wir brauchen ist: mehr Schutz für Medienschaffende, eine konsequentere Ahndung von Straftaten und mehr Medienkompetenzkunde”,

sagt Lutz Kinkel, Geschäftsführer des ECPMF.

Vom 1.01.2015 bis zum 1. März 2022 hat das ECPMF bereits 287 Tätlichkeiten gegen Medienschaffende erfasst. Als Tätlichkeiten gewertet werden etwa Schläge, Tritte, Stoßen und Spucken sowie der Angriff mit Waffen. Das ECPMF ist eine Non-Profit-Organisation mit Sitz in Leipzig, die sich europaweit für die Pressefreiheit einsetzt.

»Feindbild Journalist« 6 – Hass vor der Haustür

Zentrale Ergebnisse der Studie

  • Erneuter Negativrekord: Mit 83 tätlichen Angriffen gegen Medienschaffende übersteigt das Jahr 2021 nochmals den Höchststand von 2020 (69 Angriffe).
  • Tatort Demonstrationen: 75 Prozent aller Fälle ereigneten sich auf Protesten gegen die Corona- Maßnahmen.
  • Der Hass zieht westwärts: Zwar bleibt Sachsen mit 23 Fällen Negativ-Spitzenreiter, die Angriffe in Westdeutschland nehmen jedoch deutlich zu.
  • Diffuse politische Zuordnung: 39 Prozent der Tätlichkeiten erfolgten 2021 aus dem rechten Spektrum, ein Prozent aus dem linken, 60 Prozent waren nicht eindeutig zuzuordnen.
  • Besorgniserregende Entwicklung: Journalist:innen ziehen sich immer häufiger von der Protestberichterstattung zurück.
  • Winter der Gewalt: 19 Fälle im Dezember 2021, 18 Fälle im Januar 2022 – noch nie wurden so viele Fälle in zwei Monaten erfasst.
  • Gesamtschau 2015-2021: Das ECPMF dokumentierte 265 Fälle.

Key findings of the study

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) registered 83 violent attacks against journalists in 2021, surpassing the negative record set in 2020 by 14 verified cases. The security situation for journalists thus remained very tense in the second year of the pandemic. As in the previous year, the increase in assaults against media representatives can be largely attributed to the demonstrations by opponents of COVID-19 containment measures: 75% of all attacks occurred in the context of these protests.

Due to the heterogeneous composition of the participants in these demonstrations, only a portion of the attacks can be clearly assigned to specific political camps: 39% can be assigned to the right-wing political spectrum, 1% to the left, and for 60% no clear attribution to any political background of the attack was possible.

“Querdenken & Co act like fire accelerators. They ignite the hatred of their followers for the system that is blazing beneath the surface. Their angry speeches, videos, and posts consolidate their rejection of the press, which some of them discharge in the form of violence against media professionals,” says co-author Martin Hoffmann.

In addition to the renewed increase in the number of registered cases, the increasing spread of violence into the western German states is also worrying. In 2020, 52% of the attacks were registered there, and in 2021 this reached 61% (in each case excluding Berlin). This geographical expansion goes hand in hand with the increase in political protests against pandemic containment measures. Saxony is the most affected state, with 23 cases, as has been the case in almost all years since recording began in 2015.

As of the last quarter of 2021, a growing proportion of local journalists are also affected. This could be related to an increase in unregistered protests in rural areas.

“Starting in the winter of 21/22, the protests increasingly shifted to the regional level – and with them the anti-press attacks. For media professionals on the ground, this is not just a professional burden, but one affecting their everyday lives,” says the study’s co-author, Roberta Knoll.

This has visible consequences for reporting on the ground, as seen by media professionals withdrawing from reporting on the protests.

Developments in the first two months of 2022 initially showed no signs of improvement in the working situation of media professionals. By 01 March, 22 cases of anti-press violence had already been registered, with local journalists being affected six times.

“The Feinbild study has shown that press hostility in Germany continues to escalate – and that local journalists in particular are under pressure. They can’t avoid it, they can’t go underground, they have to live with the people who harass and threaten them. What we need is more protection for media professionals, more consistent punishment of crimes, and more media literacy education,” says Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director of ECPMF.

From 01 January 2015 to 01 March 2022, ECPMF has recorded 287 assaults against media professionals. Assaults include punching, kicking, pushing, and spitting, as well as assault with weapons. ECPMF is a non-profit organisation based in Leipzig that campaigns for press freedom throughout Europe.

Feindbild Journalist 6 – Hate on the doorstep

Key findings

  • Another negative record: With 83 physical assaults against media professionals, the year
  • 2021 exceeds the record previously set in 2020 (69 attacks).
  • Crime scene demonstrations: 75% of all cases occurred at protests against COVID-19 containment measures.
  • Hate is moving westward: Although Saxony remains the negative leader with 23 cases, attacks in Western Germany are increasing significantly.
  • Wide-ranging political classification: 39% of the assaults in 2021 were from the right-wing, 1% from the left-wing, and 60% could not be clearly attributed.
  • A worrying development: Journalists are increasingly withdrawing from from reporting on protests.
  • Winter of violence: 19 cases in December 2021, 18 cases in January 2022 – never before have so many cases been recorded within two months.
  • Overall view 2015-2021: ECPMF documented 265 cases.

Eine Studie des Europäischen Zentrums für Presse- und Medienfreiheit in Kooperation mit dem Bundesverband Digitalpublisher und Zeitungsverleger im Rahmen des Media Freedom Rapid Response

Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, who was killed outside his home in Athens on Friday 9 April, 2021

Remembering Giorgos Karaivaz: One year later, targeted killing remains…

Greece: Remembering Giorgos Karaivaz, one year later, targeted killing remains unresolved 

April 9 marks the one-year anniversary of the killing of veteran Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz in Athens. Ahead of the date, the partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) honour Karaivaz’s memory and call on the Greek authorities to urgently bring to justice all those responsible for this abhorrent murder and to provide more transparency about the investigation.

On April 9, 2021, Karaivaz, an experienced reporter who worked for the TV channel STAR and ran a news website focusing on crime and policing, was gunned down by two men on a scooter outside his home in broad daylight. After the killing, police said the “professional” style of the hit indicated the involvement of organized crime groups, which have carried out a number of targeted killings in recent years and which Karaivaz was known to have investigated.

Karaivaz’s assassination represents a low point for press freedom in Greece and has drawn international attention to the country’s significant problems with journalists’ safety, many of which were highlighted in our recent MFRR mission report.

No signs of progress

Troublingly, over the last year the Greek authorities have not announced any significant progress in the investigation. Despite the collection of substantial amounts of data, security camera footage, and forensic analysis, no suspects have been publicly identified and no arrests have been made. Despite multiple requests from the MFRR partners and other press and media freedom organisations, information about the status of the investigation has been kept secret, relying on an unwarrantedly restrictive interpretation of the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure. Contrary to the authorities’ promises, progress in the investigation appears to be slow.

Although we acknowledge that a murder investigaton requires a certain level of discretion, we emphasise that transparency and public scrutiny are essential to monitoring progress and preventing impunity. Given the fact that the killing took place a year ago without any visible progress, we urge authorities to provide an update on the status of this case, which is a matter of high public interest.

The European Commission Recommendation on ensuring the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists in the European Union states that “Member States should investigate and prosecute all criminal acts committed against journalists, whether online or offline, in an impartial, independent, effective, transparent, and timely manner, making full use of existing national and European legislation – to ensure that fundamental rights are protected and justice is swiftly delivered […] and prevent the emergence of a ‘culture’ of impunity regarding attacks against journalists.” The Council of Europe’s 2016 Recommendation on the protection of journalists in this regard says that “Investigations into killings, attacks and ill-treatment must be effective and therefore respect the essential requirements of adequacy, thoroughness, impartiality, and independence, promptness and public scrutiny”.

Although this lack of transparency means we cannot assess the extent to which the recommendations regarding an effective investigation have been met, it is clear that the lack of transparency entails that the European Commission and Council of Europe Recommendations are not adequately followed at the moment.

The uncertainty and the lack of communication by police and prosecution service have a chilling effect on the work of other journalists, which was confirmed by MFRR’s recently published report on the safety of journalists in Greece.

The longer that these kinds of attacks go unpunished, the higher the risk of long-term impunity. Moreover, others thinking about silencing journalists are more likely to act, as they see that attacks on the press carry no consequences.

On the one-year anniversary of the brutal murder of Giorgos Karaivaz, we renew our call for all those responsible to be identified and prosecuted. We will continue to honour Karaivaz’s memory and push for justice for both him and his family.

Signed by:

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

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

MFRR to host press conference on journalist safety in…

MFRR to host press conference on journalist safety in the Netherlands

As part of an international fact-finding mission to map the declining safety of journalists in the Netherlands, Free Press Unlimited, the European Center for Press and Media Freedom, and the International Press Institute are organising an international press conference on April 13th 3:30-4:30 PM CEST.

The report is published as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response. A panel discussion will be held with, among others, crime reporter Paul Vugts and Thomas Bruning, Secretary General of the Dutch Association of Journalists. This will be a hybrid event with the chance to ask questions both in-person and online.

The Netherlands is internationally known for having one of the highest levels of press freedom worldwide (ranking 6th in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index); PersVeilig often being cited as a best-practice example. However, there are growing concerns regarding an uptake in aggression against journalists. With an increase in attacks on journalists in the Netherlands, the decision by major Dutch Public Broadcaster NOS to remove their broadcaster logos from its vans in order to protect employees, and following the murder of Peter R. de Vries in broad daylight, the topic of press freedom in the Netherlands is receiving more and more international attention.

To investigate this further, Free Press Unlimited took the lead in an international fact-finding mission. As part of the mission, Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners together with the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, conducted several interviews with, among others, some of the country’s most renowned investigative journalists, editors-in-chief, the Police Department, key academic figures, and influential policy-makers. The findings of these interviews have been compiled and mapped out as part of an international research study on the safety of journalists in the Netherlands. Ultimately, the research study maps out key findings of the discussions that were held, providing expert recommendations in line with the Council of Europe and the European Commission’s Recommendations on the Safety of Journalists. If you wish to join, please register using the button below. Registration is required for both physical and online participation.

This press conference 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 to hold press freedom mission to Italy

MFRR to hold press freedom mission to Italy

From 4 to 6 April, representatives of all partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) will be in Italy for a fact-finding mission focused on two main topics: safety of journalists and state protection measures on one side, and SLAPPs against journalists and the need for comprehensive legislative reforms of the framework of defamation and media freedom on the other. 

In collaboration with local partners, including the Italian National Federation of Journalists (FNSI), the journalists’ association Articolo 21 and the Chamber of Journalists, the MFRR delegation will address these issues from different perspectives and with a variety of stakeholders.

The Italian media freedom landscape is full of contrasts and contradictions, and the mission will explore lights and shadows of the situation of media freedom in the country.

As documented on Mapping Media Freedom, the safety of journalists is at risk more than ever across the EU member states and candidate countries. At the same time, the Italian State coordination system that monitors intimidation against journalists and decides on their protection measures is one of the good practices highlighted in the European Commission’s Recommendation on the Safety of Journalists. During the mission, the MFRR delegation will meet Ministry of the Interior officials engaged in analysing threats and protecting journalists. An official hearing is also scheduled at the Parliamentary Inquiry Anti-Mafia Commission to exchange views with Members of Parliament of the Subcommittee on Mafia, journalists and media. The delegation will also meet with journalists under threat in Campania, a region with a worryingly high number of reporters under police protection. This visit also serves the purpose of showing solidarity with a neglected area in Italy, where media, institutions and citizens are under pressure from organised crime and where local journalism is a bulwark of resistance and civil engagement.

The mission will also follow up on the two Constitutional Court decisions concerning the abolition of prison sentences for convictions of defamation through the press: both in 2020 and 2021, the Court invited the Parliament to legislate and find a balance between freedom of expression and the right to defend one’s reputation. This invitation has, however, not been actioned yet by Parliament. By meeting the judge rapporteur who wrote the decisions and Members of Parliament, the MFRR delegation will investigate why this is the case and what steps are planned towards realising such reform.

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) will be the focus of a closed event hosted by the FNSI with journalists, lawyers, members of the union and journalists’ associations. With these stakeholders, the MFRR will discuss the impact of abusive lawsuits on the everyday activity of a reporter in Italy and upcoming legislative and policy measures that are being designed by the European Commission to tackle the problem.

Lastly, media capture will feature centrally in a discussion hosted by the Chamber of Journalists, where the MFRR delegates will hear critical cases related to low wages and other problematic labour conditions faced by journalists, and media capture. This meeting will also represent an opportunity to showcase initiatives that support freelance journalists and video reporters.

Signed by:

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

This mission 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.

Controlling the Message: Challenges for independent reporting in Greece

Controlling the Message: Challenges for independent reporting in Greece

Today, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) publishes the report “Controlling the Message: Challenges for independent reporting in Greece”, which details the findings and recommendations of its online fact-finding mission to Greece. The mission, involving interviews with more than thirty local stakeholders, was implemented by the MFRR together with Reporters Without Borders in December 2021. The partner organisations conclude that challenges to the independence of the media and the safety of journalists are systemic in the country. While the problems are not unique, their intensity is highly problematic and sets it apart from most other EU Member States.

The result of this crisis is that news that is inconvenient or unflattering for the government, which includes reporting on serious human rights violations, does not get reported in many outlets. This creates a significant obstacle for the public’s access to information and, subsequently, their informed participation in the democratic process.

Understanding the political polarisation and fragmentation of the media landscape requires taking the long view. The current situation has been shaped by more than a decade of severe financial and political crisis which has harmed the way journalism is understood. At the same time, there has been a deterioration of press freedom since Nea Dimokratia’s electoral victory in 2019, who are “obsessed with controlling the message” and minimising critical and dissenting voices, as we heard again and again during the fact-finding mission.

The murder of crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz represents a low point for media freedom in Greece and drew international attention to the significant problems with journalists’ safety. The investigation progress appears slow and lacks basic transparency, which has had a chilling effect and leads to mistrust about the authorities’ ability or willingness to protect the journalistic community.

Migration policy, human rights violations committed in its implementation including pushbacks, and the humanitarian crisis that the refugee stream has created are highly sensitive topics for the government. Reporting on the issue is increasingly difficult, as journalists face obstructions including arbitrary arrest and detention, restriction of access to migration hotspots, surveillance, and harassment.

Reporting on protest is another particularly problematic area of journalistic practice in Greece. Journalists face aggression and harassment from law enforcement and from protesters. Overall, there is a lack of political will to ensure that journalists can safely report from demonstrations, which translates to a lack of adequate protection at the operational level.

Legal threats are also a significant problem for media freedom in Greece, including criminal prosecutions as well as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). Such threats can lead to self-censorship.

In light of these findings, the MFRR has issued a series of recommendations to the Greek authorities and to the European community, including the institutions of the European Union and the other EU Member States.

The fact-finding mission to Greece 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.

Report launch: “Controlling the Message: Challenges for independent reporting…

Report launch: “Controlling the Message: Challenges for independent reporting in Greece”

The MFRR has conducted a media freedom mission in Greece and the report consisting of findings and recommendations will be launched on 28 March, 2022 with an online event.

On 28 March 2022, the Media Freedom Rapid Response will publish the report of its online fact-finding mission to Greece that took place in December.

Under the title ‘Controlling the Message: Challenges for independent reporting in Greece’, the report reflects the mission’s findings and recommendations on:

  • The assassination of Giorgos Karaivaz;
  • Polarisation of a fragmented media landscape;
  • Reporting on migration;
  • Reporting on protests; and,
  • Legal threats.

The report will be launched with an online panel on 28 March at 2pm CEST (=3pm EEST) with:

  • Laurens Hueting, Senior Advocacy Officer of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Iliana Papangeli, Managing Director of Solomon
  • Renate Schroeder, Director of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Nikos Smyrnaios, Associate Professor at the University of Toulouse
  • Anne ter Rele, Advocacy Officer at the International Press Institute

Please register for the event.

The report will be made available on mfrr.eu and the websites of the MFRR partner organisations at the time of the launch event.

For interview requests and media inquiries, please contact laurens.hueting@ecpmf.eu.

The fact-finding mission to Greece 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.

IPI Bulgaria Report

IPI report shines light on hidden alliances and vested…

IPI report shines light on hidden alliances and vested interests behind media capture in Bulgaria

Third report as part of IPI’s campaign on media capture. The International Press Institute (IPI) today published a new report on media freedom and independence in Bulgaria. The report explores the capture of media by vested business and political interests and the corrupting relationship between media owners and politicians as they compete for power and profit.

The report finds that the story of media capture in Bulgaria differs from the classic Hungarian model, whose mechanism of operation is only thinly veiled. The Bulgarian picture is murkier, driven by a lack of information over the ownership and business interests of the key individuals involved in a country with  the EU’s highest level of corruption and organized crime, which creates an extra layer of complexity and competing power centres that the media and politicians have found themselves ensnared in.

Veiled networks

Bulgaria is ranked as the most corrupt country in the European Union. Here, competing power struggles among politicians, oligarchs, media moguls, and organized crime, and their efforts to win over control of state institutions such as the courts, prosecutors, and media regulators are hidden behind a web of rumours and political scandals, of banking collapses, public protests and politicized prosecutions.

Within this struggle for power, the media has been debased and weaponized as a tool through which private and political interests are projected while often smearing their rivals. Serious independent media that are able to stand outside this corrupted sector to pursue investigative journalism are targeted by those they expose and hauled before the courts either through vexatious private lawsuits, or by trumped-up charges drawn up by politicized prosecutors.

The corruption of politics and media seem to run hand in hand. Just as media owners use their influence to gain political and business favours, so politicians use their power to bring media outlets to heel. Crucially, it’s all hidden behind a veiled network of oligarchs and their competing alliances and rivalries.

The system is enabled by corrupted political and judicial institutions, the misuse of state resources, compromised public service media and media regulators, weaponized judiciary and a lack of transparency over media ownership, thanks to weak rules and the use of multiple shell companies to conceal the powers behind the media.

Chance for reform

Amid this murky landscape, what is evident is how the powers of the state have been abused to weaken public service media, to pressure private media, to prosecute independent investigative media, and to smear political or critical rivals.

Bulgaria’s new prime minister, Kiril Petkov, has vowed to clean up corruption in the country and already committed to making fully transparent all public funds directed to Bulgarian media. This is an important first step, but the report finds that the government must go much further. It must ensure full transparency of ownership of media, it must end the culture of political interference in the media and in particular ensuring a fully independent public service media.  And it must end the persecution of the independent media sector dedicated to investigating and exposing corruption. The report includes key recommendations to this end.

The report was authored by media expert Boryana Dzhambazova and is published as part of IPI’s campaign on media capture. It is organized as 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 and Candidate Countries.

IPI Czechia Report

IPI publishes report on media capture in the Czech…

IPI publishes report on media capture in the Czech Republic

New government must help strengthen media independence and pluralism. The International Press Institute (IPI) today published a new report on media freedom and independence in the Czech Republic. The report focuses on the spread of media capture under the former government of Andrej Babiš and sets forth recommendations for the new government of Petr Fiala to reform and strengthen independence and pluralism in the media sector.

Babiš, one of the Czech Republic’s richest men and owner of the Agrofert conglomerate, served as finance minister from 2014 to 2017 and as prime minister from 2017 to 2021 after purchasing the publishing house Mafra and using it to launch his political career. Babiš left government in November 2021 with a record of undermining the public broadcaster, steering government advertising to his media, and generally using his media power to promote and defend his government’s record.

Media capture

As the report shows, media capture in the Czech Republic differs fundamentally from countries like Hungary. Rather than a state-led media takeover, the Czech Republic witnessed the acquisition of many of the country’s largest private media outlets by a handful of oligarchs for whom media could be used to promote their wider business interests. This development had serious consequences for media pluralism and the standards of journalism. Meanwhile, once in power, Babiš arguably sought to mirror certain media-capture strategies adopted in Hungary and Poland, while other oligarch-owned media limited their criticism of Babiš and his ANO party.

The report also examines how high-quality investigative journalism retreated from mainstream media to a community of small digital outfits that, despite their reduced resources, have been able to maintain a crucial check on power.

The report examines growing pressure on the public-service broadcaster Czech Television (CT) under the Babiš government. While the struggle for control of CT weakened its independence, the broadcaster ultimately held out against full capitulation, remaining a beacon of public-service journalism in the region. In this light, the report looks at key reform proposals to strengthen Czech public media’s defenses against future attempts to compromise its independence.

The report also details how government advertising funds were directed to benefit Mafra media owned by Babiš and recommends policy reform to end the abuse of government funds to reward positive media coverage.

Opportunity for reform

The new Czech government now has the opportunity to strengthen the media sector through a robust reform of the rules on public media and the use of public funds as well as through policies ensuring the support of the quality journalism sector. The report provides key recommendations toward this end.

In July 2022 the Czech government will take over the Presidency of the European Union where it has already announced that media freedom will be central to its agenda.

The report is authored by Michal Klíma, who was the chair of the IPI Czech National Committee until February 2022 when he accepted a position as the advisor to the Czech prime minister on media issues and on countering disinformation.

The report was also presented during the panel “Competing Models of Media Capture in Europe” at the Media Freedom Rapid Response Summit on March 24.

This report is published as part of IPI’s actions in 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 in Focus Podcast: How do women journalists report…

MFRR in Focus Podcast: How do women journalists report on crisis situations?

New episode of ‘MFRR in Focus’ podcast series studies the important work of women journalists during times of political turmoil and war.

What is it like to report as a woman journalist in 2022? And in particular, what is it like to report on crises, like the Russian war against Ukraine? 

Women journalists face many challenges in their work, such as harassment, intimidation and threats – both offline and online – and they are arguably targeted more often than their male colleagues. In times of crisis, different treatments between men and women journalists can lead to real-life aggravated risks, for example because women journalists have less access to special safety equipment. 

In this episode of MFRR in Focus on the topic of women in journalism, host Anne ter Rele discusses how being a woman affects one’s journalistic practice. She speaks with Kiran Nazish, the founding director of the Coalition For Women in Journalism, a global support and advocacy organization for women journalists, and Sitara Thalia Ambrosio, a German photojournalist on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

This podcast episode was produced by IPI as 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 and Candidate Countries.

IPI as part of MFRR

EU: Amidst war in Ukraine, EU must provide emergency…

EU: Amidst war in Ukraine, EU must provide emergency visas for Russian & Belarusian journalists fleeing repression

The undersigned partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today call on the Member States of the European Union to set a global example of support for media freedom in crisis by extending emergency shelter and visa waivers to Russian journalists fleeing the country, as well as Belarusian journalists seeking refuge from war and repression.

Independent journalists and media in Russia are currently experiencing the most severe and wide-ranging crackdown in the last thirty years. Leading broadcasters have been silenced or shuttered; dozens of news websites have been blocked; use of the word “invasion” or “war” have been banned; and a new law criminalizing what authorities deem to be “fake” news or information about the armed forces could see journalists jailed for up to 15 years.

More than 150 Russian journalists have since fled the country fearing for their safety and their liberty. With the crackdown showing no signs of abating, more are likely to follow. So far, most journalists have travelled to neighbouring countries with visa-free entry for Russian citizens: Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan. Some have been arbitrarily turned away, transferred on and, in the case of Dozhd TV’s Mikhail Fishman, detained. Those that do get in are faced with working in exile in states with repressive environments for independent media.

Action is urgently needed to ensure Russia’s independent media is not destroyed altogether. Our organisations call on all EU Member States to provide safe havens for dissident Russian journalists to re-establish their bases of operations and continue reporting. Exemptions must be made by EU states to provide emergency visas to journalists and their families. In addition to financial support to Ukrainian media, EU governments should provide funding to help Russian newsrooms relocate to safety.

Visa exemptions should also be extended to independent Belarusian journalists, who over the past year and a half have undergone a similarly repressive crackdown under President Alexander Lukashenko. Mass arrests and the threat of criminal prosecution led to an exodus of Belarusian journalists, including into neighbouring Ukraine. While Ukrainian journalists fleeing the war currently enjoy visa waivers, their Belarusian colleagues are trapped and are unable to seek safety within the EU’s borders.

The European Union has already shown remarkable unity in its response to the bloody invasion of Ukraine. Though much more needs to be done, the support from Member States to help relocate Ukrainian journalists fleeing the bloodshed has been commendable. A similar show of European unity in helping independent Russian and Belarusian journalists is now needed. If allowed to relocate inside the democratic legal framework of the European Union and rebuild their newsrooms in exile, these independent media may stand a chance of survival.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • 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 and Candidate Countries.