Georgia foreign agent law

Georgia: Press Freedom Erosion amid Reintroduced ‘Foreign Agent Law’

Georgia: Press Freedom Erosion amid Reintroduced ‘Foreign Agent Law’

25 April, 12:00 CEST

On April 25, 2024, the Media Freedom Rapid Response will host a webinar addressing the recent decline in press freedom in Georgia. This decline has been exacerbated by the reintroduction of a Russia-style foreign agent law earlier this month. 


The new law, titled ‘Transparency of Foreign Influence’ requires independent media and civil society organizations that receive funding from abroad to label themselves as “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power.” 


Since then, journalists from online media were barred from the parliament when the law was being debated and on April 16, 2024, reporters from online media outlets Publika, Tabula, and Aprili were physically and verbally assaulted while reporting large scale protests against the bill. 


Join us and leading Georgian journalists and press freedom advocates as  we delve into the implications of the law and explore the broader state of press freedom in the country.


Teona Sekhniashvili

Europe Network & Press Freedom Coordinator at the International Press Institute (IPI)


Mariam Nikuradze

Co-founder and Executive Director at Open Caucasus Media

Lika Zakashvili

Co-founder and Editor-in-chief of Publika

Tamar Kintsurashvili

Executive Director of the Media Development Foundation

Mamuka Andguladze

Chairperson of the Media Advocacy Coalition

Feindbild Journalist 8: Fear of self-censorship

Feindbild Journalist 8: Fear of self-censorship

Feindbild Journalist 8: Fear of self-censorship

In 2023, the number of physical attacks on journalists in Germany increased compared to 2022. Rising from 56 cases in 2022, 69 cases of physical attacks on journalists were verified by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) as part of the MFRR in 2023.

For more than four years, the annual number of attacks on journalists has been at a high level compared to before the coronavirus pandemic, when an average of about 23 cases per year were registered between 2015 and 2019. The assumption that the number of attacks on journalists in Germany would decrease with the marginalisation of the “Querdenker” movement and the associated decline in the number of rallies has not materialised. Patrick Peltz, co-author of the study, said:

Indeed, the number of attacks in this context is declining. However, the figures from the Feindbild studies suggest that in certain, partially overlapping milieus and the resulting common protest structures, mistrust of the media has increasingly developed into hostility towards the media, which also has an increasingly pronounced behavioural side. Hostility towards the media no longer ‘only’ manifests itself in the ‘Lügenpresse’ cries, insults and threats that have become part of journalists’ everyday lives, but also in an increased number of violent attacks on journalists over the past four years.

Berlin replaces Saxony as the frontrunner for 2023 in terms of physical attacks on journalists compared to the previous year. Although Saxony recorded 13 cases, more than in the previous year (11 cases), Berlin recorded a significantly higher figure with 25 assaults. Of the 25 cases, 21 occurred in the context of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Bavaria follows with six cases.

Focus on local journalism: security concerns have an impact on critical reporting

In cooperation with the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), ECPMF continued to monitor threats to local journalism in 2023. Compared to the previous year, the number of physical attacks on local journalists has declined. A total of seven physical and eight non-physical attacks were registered. In 2022, the number of physical attacks was 12. Some of the local journalists who were the target of physical and non-physical attacks in 2023 were also affected in the past. It was already pointed out in the previous study that a lack of anonymity in the local area can pose a security problem for local journalists.

A closer analysis of the state of Saxony, which accounts for a third of all registered cases since 2015 (117 out of 390), also reveals a previously underexposed phenomenon: self-censorship. Local journalists who work in areas where the far-right’s territorial capture is highly pronounced and reaches into the so-called centrist part of society report that certain topics are omitted locally due to a perceived permanent threat situation. Patrick Peltz said:

Reports from local journalists that they themselves or colleagues refrain from reporting on certain actors and movements out of concern for their safety is a very worrying development for press freedom in Germany. Critical reporting is particularly important ahead of the many upcoming local, state and European elections in Saxony this year, in which numerous right-wing extremists are running. ‘Blind spots’ in reporting make it easier for these actors to present themselves as harmless and benevolent candidates and thus attract the attention of people who feel neglected by the established parties.

It is important to further examine how pronounced the phenomenon of self-censorship already is and to what extent these reports can be generalized to other regions in Saxony and other federal states where the far-right capture of territory is also pronounced and a corresponding electoral milieu is very dominant.


Focus on countermeasures

Journalists, associations, media companies and many state institutions have developed countermeasures in response to the increased threats of recent years. In some cases, learning effects can be observed. While an increasing number of media houses offer their employees psychological counselling services, associations and organisations continuously initiate new support offerings, such as last year’s Helpline project. Police media protection has also tended to improve overall, although its quality can vary greatly. The committees of the Conference of Interior Ministers continue to advocate a new version of the Code of Conduct for Police and Media. Time and again, journalists report cases in which they were not adequately protected or were themselves the target of police measures. Overall, there is still a considerable need to improve existing services and create further ones. Alina Haynert, co-author of the study, said: 

Even though we are seeing improvements in many areas – both from the state and non-state side – there are still significant gaps in protection and support. These affect freelance journalists in particular, who often do not seem to benefit from the protection structures of media houses. At the same time, they are disproportionately affected by physical attacks.

Feindbild Journalist 8: Fear of self-censorship

Key findings

  • Attacks increased again: With 69 attacks, the number of cases is on the rise again.
  • Demonstrations – the most dangerous workplace: 77 percent of all cases occurred at demonstrations (53 out of 69 cases), 40 percent of them at pro-Palestinian assemblies (21 out of 53 cases).
  • Precarious employment relationships: At least 59 percent of cases involved a freelance employment relationship (41 out of 69 cases).
  • Local assaults: Seven physical and eight non-physical attacks on local journalists.
  • Saxony – hotspot of far-right violence: 79 percent of attacks against media professionals since 2015 have come from the far-right spectrum (92 out of 117 cases).
  • “Blind spots” in Saxony: In Saxony, there are signs of self-censorship and an increasing lack of reporting as a result of the extreme far-right capture of territory.
  • Focus on Berlin: Berlin is the most affected federal state with 25 cases.
  • Overall view 2015-2023: ECPMF documented 390 cases.

This report was coordinated by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) 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.

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Georgia: MFRR partners strongly condemn new attempts to introduce…

Georgia: MFRR partners strongly condemn new attempts to introduce a “foreign agent” law

The undersigned media freedom organizations strongly condemn Georgia’s ruling party’s renewed effort to pass a Russian-style “foreign agent” law that would threaten media freedom and civic space in the country, which received EU candidate status last year. We call on the Georgian Dream (GD) party to immediately withdraw this restrictive piece of legislation.

On Wednesday, April 3, the ruling GD party announced it would reintroduce a “foreign agent” bill, which was passed in a first hearing in 2023 but subsequently withdrawn following widespread protests and international criticism. On April 8, the Georgian Parliament’s Bureau formally registered the bill under the title  “Transparency of foreign influence”. This move breaks the assurances given last year by Georgian Dream officials that there would be no reintroduction or reconsideration of the legislation. 


While the government claims that the bill is necessary to increase the transparency of funding of independent media and non-governmental organizations, we are gravely concerned that this law provides the authorities with a powerful tool to discredit and curtail independent voices, threatening press freedom and freedom of expression. “Foreign agent” laws not only affect the media or NGOs directly designated as such; they also produce a chilling effect on the right to seek and receive information and on participation in public affairs.

In comparison to the text proposed by GD in 2023, the new version of the law would only change the way that organizations receiving foreign funds, including media outlets, are labeled, from “agents of foreign influence” to “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power”. Aside from this wording, the law would otherwise maintain the same excessive powers to interfere in the work of such organizations. 

According to the draft law, upon its adoption, foreign-funded organizations would have two months to register themselves as “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power”, and submit annual financial declarations on funds received from foreign sources. Failure to register would be an administrative offence, punishable by fines of up to 25.000 GEL (approximately 8.700 EUR). The law also authorizes the Ministry of Justice to conduct “thorough investigations” of the organizations to ensure their respect of the law.

Overall, the proposal does not withstand scrutiny from the perspective of media freedom, and more broadly, the rights to freedom of association and expression. The vague pretext of financial transparency alone does not constitute a recognized legitimate aim to impose additional labeling, registration, or reporting requirements. Additional responsibilities and bureaucratic demands accompanying the “foreign agent” status disrupt the regular operations of NGOs and the media, counteracting their civic and journalistic functions. Such measures discriminate against certain organizations based on their funding sources and create unjustified restrictions.  

Draft law met with harsh criticism  


The bill has elicited extensive criticism in Georgia, including from President Salome Zourabichvili, who accused the government of ‘sabotaging’ the country’s EU membership bid. 


When Georgia was granted EU candidate status in 2023, it committed to implementing numerous democratic reforms, including creating and enabling an environment for free and independent media. Given the ample criticism of the bill from EU representatives, the current bill would likely jeopardize the country’s prospects to join the EU.  


Georgian online media outlets promptly issued a joint statement condemning the initiative and promising to fight against its adoption. “The main goal of the ‘Russian law’ is to destroy independent public and media organizations, suppress freedom of speech, and establish total control over public opinion,” read the joint statement. Later, on April 8, over 400 Georgia-based media and non-governmental organizations signed a statement condemning the bill. 


“Foreign agent” laws spreading throughout the region


The legislation proposed by Georgian Dream is presented by its critics as inspired by Russia’s “foreign agent” law, which since its adoption in 2012 has evolved into a primary tool for suppressing Russian civil society, and press freedom in particular.


When it was first adopted in 2012, Russia’s “foreign agent” law was also presented as a mere list of entities financed from abroad. However, legislation evolved over the following decade to become a tool excluding journalists, media, and a range of other civil society organizations from playing an active role in society. Today, any organization, media, or private individual can be designated as a “foreign agent” for receiving funding of any amount from abroad, or because they are considered to be “under foreign influence” by Russia’s Ministry of Justice.


Worryingly, Russian-style legislation is increasingly gaining traction in neighbouring countries. On April 2, Kyrgyzstan’s president signed a law on “foreign representatives” obliging non-profit organizations, including media outlets, to designate themselves as “foreign representatives”, and submit regular financial reports and audits. 


In February of this year, the “foreign agent” law was among 43 other bills proposed for voting in the parliament of Abkhazia, a separatist-occupied breakaway region in Georgia, as part of an ongoing effort to ‘harmonize’ Russian and Abkhazian legislation


MFRR partners fear that the proposed legislation by the Parliament of Georgia could severely undermine independent journalism, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and association, in the country. We stand in full solidarity with independent journalists and press freedom defenders in Georgia, and reiterate our call to the authorities to refrain from adopting the proposed legislation. 

Signed by:

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

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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Safety and justice: demanding accountability for attacks against journalists…

Safety and justice: demanding accountability for attacks against journalists in Serbia

Commemorating 25 years since the brutal murder of Serbian journalist Slavko Ćuruvija, media freedom organisations unite to condemn continued impunity in this case and demand accountability for all acts of violence against journalists in Serbia. The recent acquittal of security officers accused of Ćuruvija’s murder, as well as the escalating attacks against journalists in Novi Sad, underscore the urgent need for authorities to act and protect press freedom in Serbia.

Marking a quarter of a century since the murder of Serbian journalist Slavko Ćuruvija, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners and the SafeJournalists Network stand united in condemning the impunity surrounding his assassination. Ćuruvija, an esteemed editor and publisher, was fatally shot in front of his home in Belgrade on 11 April 1999. No one is convicted for executing him or ordering the killing.


Justice in Ćuruvija’s case was delayed from the start, with the first trial beginning only 16 years after his death, in June 2015. The accused were sentenced to a combined 100 years in prison in 2019, a retrial in 2021 confirming the guilty verdicts. However, the recent decision by the Belgrade Court of Appeals to acquit former Serbian state security officers implicated in Ćuruvija’s murder due to alleged lack of evidence is deeply troubling.


This shocking verdict, going against previous convictions, has raised our concerns about Serbia’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law. Taking into account also the unresolved deaths of Milan Pantić in 2001 and Dada Vujasinović in 1994, the general impunity environment demands attention.


Urgent need for action: escalating attacks against journalists in Novi Sad

Moreover, the impunity for yesterday’s violence only intensifies our worries about today’s environment. An unprecedented escalation of threats and attacks against journalists in Novi Sad, in northern Serbia, underscores the need for concrete action to protect journalists’ safety in the country.


We are deeply alarmed to see the absenteeism of institutions in reacting effectively to these assaults, which exacerbates the risks facing journalists. The revival of insults by politicians in public debates also stresses the need for officials to refrain from targeting journalists.


For the past month, leaders of the Association of Independent Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), Ana Lalić Hegediš and Dinko Gruhonjić, have been the target of serious death threats. In the face of the authorities’ lack of response despite our persistent calls for a thorough investigation and conviction of the perpetrators, the MFRR has provided private protection to both journalists for the first time.


On this sombre anniversary, we reiterate that such a spate of assaults, harassment, and intimidation is unacceptable and must be met with swift and decisive safeguard measures from the Serbian authorities.


Serbia must prioritise journalists’ safety and end impunity

As we commemorate Slavko Ćuruvija’s memory, we reassert our commitment to defending media freedom and call upon the Serbian state to prioritise the safety of journalists. We stand in solidarity with all journalists in Serbia who courageously continue their vital work in the face of adversity. Perpetrators of violence and intimidation must be held accountable to ensure a free and safe environment for the media workers in Serbia.


We call upon the international community to join us in unequivocally condemning the impunity in the cases of Slavko Ćuruvija, Milan Pantić and Dada Vujasinović. We urge them to solve these cases and support efforts to ensure justice for all journalists who have been targeted for their commitment to truth and transparency.

Signed by:

Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR)

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


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

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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The scene of Giorgos Karaivaz’s murder

Three years later: Still no justice for murdered Greek…

Three years later: Still no justice for murdered Greek journalist Giorgos Karaivaz

Three years have elapsed since the assassination of Giorgos Karaivaz, a veteran Greek crime reporter. Today, the undersigned members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) commemorate his death and renew demands on the Greek authorities to redouble their efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Giorgos Karaivaz was one of Greece’s most prominent investigative journalists specializing in organized crime and police reporting when he was gunned down in broad daylight outside his Athens home on April 9, 2021. The execution was conducted by professional hitmen who escaped on a motorbike and therefore almost certainly worked for organized crime.


Despite the arrest of two suspects in April 2023, shortly before the national elections, there has been no discernible progress in the investigation. Given that Karaivaz also reported on corruption between the police and organized crime, the risk that some parties within the police may be interested in obstructing the investigation cannot be ruled out. For this reason, the lack of transparency over the investigation is particularly troubling.


Despite repeated calls for greater transparency in accordance with European standards, Greek authorities have failed to disclose the progress of investigations. As the sole EU member with two open cases of impunity for the killings of journalists, Greece’s lack of progress in prosecuting perpetrators underscores the urgency for expedited investigations and the implementation of measures recommended by the European Commission for the Safety of Journalists.


The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners are concerned that the failure to identify and prosecute the responsible parties is having a profound chilling effect on the journalistic community, in addition to being a profound injustice and undermining the rule of law in Greece. We therefore urge the Greek authorities to increase efforts to identify and prosecute all those responsible for this heinous crime.


We reiterate our recommendations made following the MFRR 2023 mission to Greece outlined in the report ‘Stemming the tide of Greek Media Freedom Decline’. These included:

  • The public prosecutor should dedicate additional resources and seek assistance from international bodies such as Europol in Karaivaz’s investigation
  • The government should commit to promoting effective and independent investigations of crimes against journalists
  • The prosecutor of the Supreme Court should commission an independent evaluation of all unresolved cases of attacks against journalists

The report also noted the ongoing failure to prosecute those behind the 2010 murder of journalist Sokratis Giolias, further adding to the climate of impunity.


The government’s failure to secure justice should also be seen in the broader context of an ongoing erosion of press freedom and the rule of law in Greece, which, as highlighted by a recent European Parliament resolution, includes the misuse of spyware against journalists, challenges to media pluralism and intimidation of journalists.


While we note the establishment of the Task Force on Ensuring Protection of Journalists in July 2022, we are yet to see any tangible results for journalists. The Greek government must take decisive action to address these alarming concerns by safeguarding journalists from threats and attacks and ensuring accountability for past injustices.

Signed by:

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

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

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Slovakia: Independence of Slovakia’s leading TV news channel must…

Slovakia: Independence of Slovakia’s leading TV news channel must be protected

The undersigned members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response are deeply alarmed by the actions of the Slovak government towards Slovakia’s leading commercial broadcaster, TV Markíza, aimed at silencing its critical journalism. We call on Markíza’s owners, the Central European Media Enterprises (CME), to resist the pressure and guarantee the editorial independence of the newsroom.

TV Markiza has been under pressure from the moment the new government was formed in September 2023. Prime Minister Róbert Fico accused it last November of being part of the “enemy media” and quickly threatened to cut contracts for state advertising, which Markíza broadcasts.


In December, Markíza’s owners, the Prague-based Central European Media Enterprises (CME), replaced Markíza’s long-time news director, Henrich Krejča, with Michal Kratochvíl, transferred from CME’s Czech broadcaster, Nova TV.


On February 28, Markíza staff appealed to the general director, Peter Gažík, claiming Kratochvil was muzzling the news output to reduce political content and avoid confronting the government.


The commercial media outlet, TV Markíza was launched in 1996 and quickly became a key player in the country’s media landscape. Its news programming has been particularly influential, with its coverage often setting the agenda for public discourse. In the summer 2023, SMER, the ruling party, announced that its politicians would not take part in pre-election debates on this TV station, due to “disinformation.” Many politicians of the current Fico-led government boycott the channel and threatened it with cuts to state advertisement, increasing the pressure on the newsroom. Meanwhile, there is growing speculation that CEM is under pressure to sell Markíza.


The internal crisis at TV Markíza is taking place at the same time as the government attempts to take control over public service media by dissolving Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) and replacing it with Slovak Television and Radio (STaR).


MFRR partners previously expressed profound concerns over these developments, emphasizing the need to uphold democratic values and protect press freedom in Slovakia. Our previous calls for the withdrawal of the repressive broadcast law and opposition to government interference in public media underscore the gravity of the situation.


We call upon Prime Minister Róbert Fico and his government to cease all attacks, threats, and pressure on independent media, including TV Markíza. Critical media are not the “enemy”. They are a pillar of a democratic society and must be allowed to carry out their watchdog role free from retaliation in any form.


In this critical moment, the organizations of the MFRR stand in solidarity with TV Markíza journalists in their calls to defend the outlet’s independent journalism. We urge TV Markíza’s owners (the Central European Media Enterprises – CME) and management to resist external pressures and guarantee editorial independence in the newsroom. They must act decisively to uphold the public’s right to access diverse and independent sources of information.


Additionally, we call upon Slovak authorities, regulators, and the country’s newly elected president Peter Pellegrini to uphold media freedom, media pluralism, and allow the media to work free from political pressure. The integrity of the upcoming European elections and the credibility of Slovak democracy depend on it. 

Signed by:

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

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

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Edi Rama

Media in Albania, under the blows of power

Media in Albania, under the blows of power

The recent angry attack by the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama against a journalist has brought the constant pressure and intimidation that the power in Albania exerts on the media and media professionals back under the spotlight.


By Erion Gjatolli

Originally published by OBCT, also available in ITA

A group of journalists and activists took to the streets in Tirana to voice their indignation against the arrogance of power and the ongoing attempts to limit press freedom in the country.


Investigative journalist Aurora Velaj urged her colleagues to gather in front of the Prime Minister’s office, reiterating the growing danger to press freedom in the country and the importance of being present in solidarity also for those who, for fear of repercussions at work, cannot actively participate.


Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama has come under accusation for attacking journalist Ambrozia Meta, who was rejected with an angry gesture from Rama, just before the latter abruptly left a group of journalists gathered to collect the his statements.


What made the Prime Minister nervous were the journalist’s pressing questions about an investment project on the Albanian coast by Jared Kushner, and the accusations of favoritism linked to his family connection with Donald Trump and his previous position as advisor at the White House.


Together with the controversial construction project of the Gaza seafront, Kushner’s company has also planned the construction of 10,000 housing units also on the Albanian island of Saseno, a protected area until a few weeks ago.


While Rama dismissed the incident as an “imaginary assault”, refusing to issue an apology, Meta expressed her disappointment, underlining the Prime Minister’s chronic arrogance towards journalists.


In fact, the episode is certainly not isolated, as already in 2022 Rama had temporarily denied Ambrozia Meta access to his press conferences. On another occasion, when Meta asked a question at a press conference about a socialist MP arrested for corruption, the Prime Minister responded by suggesting a period of “re-education” for her, once again avoiding addressing the issue directly.


In a similar story, journalist Kelvin Muka was excluded from press conferences after asking the Prime Minister to comment on a case of conflict of interest of then Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka, whose spouse had been awarded a strategic investment project, again a luxury resort on the coast of southern Albania.


The director of the NGO Citizen Channel, Lorin Kadiu, present at the demonstration, told OBCT that the use of intimidating language, including sometimes inappropriate gestures, has become an ordinary reaction when the Albanian Prime Minister is called to account for inconvenient matters of particular public interest.


“For me, this protest represents an act of rebellion on the part of journalists, who have been prevented from carrying out their role properly”, commented Kadiu.


Beyond Rama: attacks against journalists become a widespread trend in Albanian politics

Hostility towards journalists in Albania is not limited to the Prime Minister. In recent months, the mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, has come under criticism for his denigration of investigative journalist Ola Xama. After reporting for the Balkan Investigative Journalism Network (BIRN) on the mayor’s alleged involvement in a serious case of corruption over waste management, Xama was defined by Veliaj as a “militant” and “hired killer”.


The statements were followed by a broader smear campaign, culminating in recent weeks with several news sites close to the government publishing articles characterised by a concerning level of sexist verbal violence, including online harassment, aimed at Xama and her family, “slut-shaming”, and the disclosure of the journalist’s home address.


As journalist Isa Myzyraj highlighted in his speech at the event, many politicians have adopted the disparaging language used by national leaders against the press.

In fact, in recent days, the socialist mayor of the peripheral city of Rrogozhine, upon hearing the news that he was being investigated for vote-buying, harshly attacked the media, taking up an expression used by Premier Rama who defined them as “rubbish bins”.


“The Prime Minister’s language towards journalists has become alarming in recent years, but now it has also reached the point of physical gestures, putting journalists at risk in their daily work. On the other hand, the institutions must shed light on every case of intimidation, since every action against journalists is an act against freedom of the press”, tells us Myzyraj, a young journalist with an ongoing defamation lawsuit brought by the former chief prosecutor of Tirana, now removed from the judiciary following the judicial reform, and a recent anti-Semitic and homophobic death threat, received via email to the editorial staff.


“This protest is first and foremost about the safety of journalists. In Albania, journalists are not safe” – concludes Myzyraj.


Albania lags behind in Europe and the Balkans

The climate of media intimidation in Albania has attracted criticism from international observers, with Reporters Without Borders placing Albania second to last in Europe and last in the Western Balkans in 2023 in terms of press freedom.


The organisation found that journalists face threats from organised crime, suffer frequent political attacks aimed at discrediting them and face obstacles in accessing public information held by the government.


The most recent EU report confirmed that the intersection of economic and political interests, combined with intimidation and precarious working conditions, continues to undermine media independence and the quality of journalism, while the atmosphere characterised by verbal and physical attacks, smear campaigns and reckless lawsuits against journalists has not improved.


The power of propaganda: news media as a tool of government

According to BIRN, the Albanian government has achieved unprecedented levels of control over the media in the country. The most recent Media Ownership Monitor revealed that the media market in Albania, where the boundaries between media, politics and economics have always been blurred, remains highly concentrated.


The top four owners in the Albanian television market reach audiences between 48.93% and 58.60%. The incessant attacks against critical journalists or the Prime Minister’s gesture towards Ambrozia Meta represent only the surface of an oppressive policy implemented by the government to limit freedom of expression.


Gjergj Erebara, editor of BIRN Albania, explains to OBCT that defining the media as simply biased or mere instruments of government propaganda would be a euphemistic underestimation of reality.


“They are rather 120% under the thumb of government propaganda and disinformation”, says Erebara, without hiding the regret that while the journalists were protesting, the media they work for did not report the demonstration.


A context that leaves journalists powerless in their role as public informants and even when they manage to inform citizens, after overcoming censorship and economic threats, they become easy targets of personal attacks.


“And you can’t help but notice how the attacks are also gendered. In a country where sexism and homophobia are widespread phenomena, female journalists who dare to tell the truth are labeled as whores, while critical journalists are labelled as homosexuals by government media”, adds Erebara.


These behaviors do not only reinforce already rooted prejudices and discrimination, but perpetuate a culture of intimidation that becomes an obstacle to women’s participation in public life.


“In short, in a media landscape where the owners, complicit in political corruption, control every voice, the few journalists who remain faithful to ethical principles and the defence of fundamental human values become targets of the worst possible attacks”, concludes Erebera.

This article was published by OBCT 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. 

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Media freedom report Romania

Mission Report: Media Freedom in Romania Ahead of Super…

Mission Report: Media Freedom in Romania Ahead of Super Election Year

Amidst Romania’s super election year, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners unveil their latest mission report, delving into the pressing issues surrounding media freedom in the country. To engage on this crucial topic, join our webinar today, 4 April, at 2 PM CET.

Romania faces a year of intense political campaigning as the country organises European and local elections in June, presidential elections in September and parliamentary elections in December.


It is during elections that journalists face their greatest test. They must resist political pressure to report on political leaders, their programmes and their records in office to ensure the public can make informed decisions. They will come under the most intense scrutiny for signs of bias and the greatest pressure to exercise bias. Their ability to successfully exercise the journalistic mission will be crucial for ensuring free and fair elections.


Against this backdrop, the report offers a comprehensive examination of Romania’s media landscape through the lenses of media capture, legal obstacles, and journalists’ safety. It exposes the pervasive influence of political funds on media, advocating for strict limits on expenditure and the implementation of EU regulations on political advertising. Furthermore, it sheds light on the alarming trend of vexatious lawsuits targeting journalists, and the rising tide of online harassment facing them and their sources.


This report, produced by MFRR partners, underscores our collective commitment to defending press freedom and fostering an independent media ecosystem during a super electoral year, in Romania and beyond.


To engage with these crucial issues, the MFRR coalition partners will host a webinar on 4 April at 2 PM CET, providing a platform for stakeholders to delve into the findings and recommendations. Journalists, policymakers, civil society actors, and concerned citizens are encouraged to join this dialogue on media freedom in Romania.

This mission report 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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MFRR joins call for EU to prioritise rule of…

MFRR joins call for EU to prioritize rule of law

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

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


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


Our main recommendations to the European Commission are:

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

Signed by:

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

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

MFRR 3 consortium logos

Media freedom in Romania ahead of Super Election year

Media freedom in Romania ahead of Super Election Year

4 April, 14:00 CET

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


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


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


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


Oliver Money-Kyrle

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


Septimius Parvu

Electoral Expert, Expert Forum

Cristina Lupu

Executive Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ana Poenariu

Investigative journalist

Marius Daea

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


Sielke Kelner

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

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


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