Picture of Jonathan Taylor

MFRR welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of…

MFRR welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia to revoke the decision to extradite whistleblower, Jonathan Taylor to Monaco

Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners, whistleblowing, human rights and transparency organisations, and international jurists welcome the decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia to revoke the first-instance court decision, which allowed for the extradition of whistleblower, Jonathan Taylor to Monaco. While the case must now return to the Dubrovnik Court, we call on the Court to do the right thing and allow Jonathan Taylor to return home to the United Kingdom without delay.

In 2014, Mr Taylor blew the whistle on a $275 million international network of bribes paid by his former employer, the oil platform company SBM Offshore, to secure oil contracts around the world. The evidence he provided to the UK Serious Fraud Office, and investigators in Brazil and the Netherlands as well as the FBI and the Department of Justice in the United States, helped ensure SBM Offshore was fined over $800 million.

As result of his whistleblowing, the Monegasque authorities have continued for six years to pursue a criminal complaint filed in 2014 against Jonathan Taylor by SBM Offshore accusing him of bribery and corruption. Despite the case being rejected by a Monegasque court two years ago it was resurrected, and earlier this year, Monaco requested an Interpol Red Notice which resulted in Jonathan Taylor’s arrest at Dubrovnik Airport on 31 July 2020 just as he arrived for a short holiday with his family.  Released on bail five days later, Mr. Taylor has now spent over 80 days in limbo unable to leave the country, forced to fight for his freedom through the Croatian legal system.  Jonathan Taylor’s life is on hold, and his ability to work and provide for his family is in jeopardy.

We continue to call on the Dubrovnik court to ensure that Jonathan Taylor and his family are free to return home. However, this is not enough; we demand that SBM Offshore officially drop their criminal complaint against Jonathan Taylor and for the Monaco authorities to formally withdraw their extradition request and all charges against him.

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MFRR letter regarding PPF Group’s majority stake in the…

MFRR calls on PPF to commit to protecting media freedom and pluralism

MFRR partners sent a letter to PPF Group majority shareholder, Petr Kellner regarding the group’s recent purchase of a majority stake in the Central European Media Enterprises (CME), calling for a commitment to press freedom, transparency and pluralism in five European countries

On 6 October, the European Commission gave the green light under the EU Merger Regulation for the PPF Group to purchase a majority stake in the Central European Media Enterprises (CME) from AT&T’s WarnerMedia for approximately €940 million. After the deal was finalised on 13 October, the company added to its business portfolio more than 30 TV channels broadcasting to approximately 45 million people across Bulgaria, Czechia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, including influential brands such as bTV and Nova.

The MFRR calls on the PPF Group to commit to protecting media freedom and ease the uncertainty that many journalists across 30 affected TV stations are feeling at this moment.

On 20th October, the PPF Group published a response to the MFRR letter stating that “PPF and CME fully respect independent, objective, pluralistic and high-quality journalism to continue, just as we stated when we announced the completion of the CME acquisition.”

Virtual vigil for Daphne Caruana Galizia

Justice delayed is justice denied: Join the virtual vigil…

Justice delayed is justice denied: Join the virtual vigil for Daphne Caruana Galizia

The MFRR stands together 3 years after the assassination of Maltese investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia to reiterate our call for justice and the end to impunity that continues to threaten media freedom in Malta

Three years ago on 16 October 2017, a car bomb killed the Maltese investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia. Those responsible have still not been brought to justice. With the media freedom community, we demand an end to the triple impunity: the criminal trial is still ongoing, the public inquiry is under government pressure to end before all the evidence has been examined and Daphne’s grieving family is still being dragged into court to fight unjust defamation actions or SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) that were filed against her before her death.

Yet there is hope. The courage and determination shown by Daphne Caruana Galizia have inspired many people to campaign for better protection for journalists and to continue her work by investigating corruption on the island of Malta and beyond.

To mark this anniversary, as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), ECPMF is organising an online vigil to remember this remarkable and fearless journalist and stand in solidarity with her legacy, family, colleagues and other journalists in Malta. For this we are calling on everyone to stand with us calling for justice, because justice delayed is justice denied.

You can take part in the vigil in two ways:

  1. Share images of ECPMF’s vigil alongside a message of solidarity and support.
  2. Produce your own vigil and share images of it, alongside a message of solidarity and support. This can be in your home or work place and can bring together quotes from Daphne, photos, candles, flowers or other elements that represent her work and her legacy.

To support you in this we have produced a number of graphics that can be printed off for your vigil, or shared via social media in a range of colours to suit your preferences or organisation’s brand. These can be accessed here.


All commemoration activity should take place on Friday 16th October. At ECPMF we are planning to share our first piece of content in the morning, approximately at 8am (CET). Please feel free to share content throughout the day and please look to others to retweet and share their work to amplify the impact of the day’s campaigning.


  • #DaphneCaruanaGalizia
  • #JusticeforDaphne
  • #MediaFreedomRR
  • #MediaEU

Social media messaging

  • Justice delayed is justice denied. 3 years after the assassination of Maltese journalist #DaphneCaruanaGalizia we renew our call for justice #JusticeforDaphne
  • Three years ago today #DaphneCaruanaGalizia was assassinated in #Malta for speaking out and speaking up. Still we await justice #JusticeforDaphne
  • 3 years since #DaphneCaruanaGalizia was murdered. 3 years of impunity. 3 years of justice denied. #ShareTheVigil to show solidarity with Daphne and to support the continuing fight for justice. #JusticeforDaphne
  • Today, we commemorate #DaphneCaruanaGalizia, a brave journalist who was assassinated for speaking the truth. This virtual vigil is to remember and remind: We remember Daphne but we remind #Malta that justice delayed is justice denied #ShareTheVigil
  • Assassinated for her brave journalistic work – and still no #JusticeforDaphne. Three years is too long to wait #DaphneCaruanaGalizia
  • The media in Malta will not be free until there is #JusticeforDaphne. Justice delayed is justice denied #DaphneCaruanaGalizia
Image of union representatives condemning the arrest

Sweden: two journalists prosecuted for investigative documentary about ‘MS…

Sweden: two journalists prosecuted for investigative documentary about ‘MS Estonia’

As part of the MFRR, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliates in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia and Denmark in condemning the decision of the Swedish authorities to prosecute the journalists carrying out their reporting.

Photo Credit: Swedish Journalists’ Union

Journalist Henrik Evertsson and camera operator Linus Andersson have produced a new documentary series entitled “Estonia: The Discovery that Changes Everything”, which investigates the sinking of the cruise ferry the “MS Estonia” en route from Tallinn to Stockholm in September 1994. It is known as one of Europe’s greatest maritime disasters, killing 852 people. Survivors had long been calling for further investigation.

Evertsson and Andersson are charged with “violating a burial site” and are facing a two-year prison sentence. The trial is due to begin in Gothenburg in January. The Swedish authorities also tried to confiscate the film.

The reason for the prosecution is the criminalisation after the tragedy of diving and other underwater activities in and around Estonia through the so-called Estonia Act. The wreck is on international waters and it is unclear whether the Estonia Act is compatible with international law.

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MFRR calls on EU countries to protect Hungarian Journalists…

MFRR calls on EU countries to protect Hungarian Journalists in Europe from state monitoring

Last month MFRR partners reached out to EU countries calling on them to respond to allegations that the Hungarian authorities were monitoring the actions and movements of Hungarian journalists and media workers in Europe through local embassies

On 25 September 2020, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) wrote to the EU countries’ Ministries of Foreign Affairs to express our deep concern about a letter sent by the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to Hungarian embassies in EU member states, instructing them to monitor the activities of Hungarian journalists in their host countries and share all information relating to work trips, training courses or study visits with the Hungarian Government.

We believe this request interferes with the ability of Hungarian journalists and media workers to work free from intimidation or undue state surveillance, while also threatening to turn other EU Member States into the next stage for the Hungarian Government’s attacks on media freedom that have so damaged the rule of law in the country itself. Accordingly, we urged the other EU countries to interpellate the Hungarian ambassador, in order to ensure Hungarian journalists and media workers in their country were afforded all rights and protections and to refer back to the Hungarian Government any attempts to expand surveillance and intimidation of journalists on foreign soil.

We regret that to date, we have received no response to our letter or seen any public condemnation of the Hungarian government’s request by the other EU Member States.

photo of Jovo Martinovic

MFRR partners and media freedom organisations condemn conviction of…

Montenegro: journalism is not a crime

The ​Media Freedom Rapid Response​ partners and media freedom organisations strongly condemn the decision by the High Court of Montenegro to sentence investigative journalist Jovo Martinovic​ to one year in prison for participating in drug trafficking.

Jovo Martinovic’s conviction is a gross injustice, following almost five years of judicial persecution merely for doing his job. Beyond the violation of Martinovic’s human rights, his prosecution and conviction moreover contribute to a chilling effect on media freedom in Montenegro and raise serious concerns about the effectiveness of the rule of law in the country, a key condition for accession to the European Union. Questions remain as to the court’s readiness to take into consideration evidence from the defence or establish an understanding of the journalistic practices that readily explain Martinovic’s actions.

IPI Podcast: Press Freedom Files

Podcast launch: Aftermath of the Ján Kuciak verdict

IPI Podcast launch: Aftermath of the Ján Kuciak verdict

The first episode of IPI’s podcast series ‘Press Freedom Files’ looks at the impact of the Ján Kuciak case on media freedom in Slovakia

After the surprise acquittal of the alleged mastermind in the 2018 murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, what are the next steps in the fight for justice?

The International Press Institute (IPI) launches today its new podcast series on global press freedom developments, “The Press Freedom Files”. The series’s first episode focuses on the aftermath of the Kuciak verdict on September 3.

Guests Beata Balogová, editor-in-chief of the leading Slovak daily SME, and Pavla Holcová of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) join IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen, who observed the trial proceedings, to analyse the impact of the court’s decision, public trust in the Slovak justice system and whether impunity in the case can be prevented.

“I don’t think society will accept a situation in which the mastermind of the Kuciak murder escapes punishment”, Balogová says.

Slovenia Flag - credit: Balkan Photos

Who, and why, is surveilling journalists in Slovakia (SME)

Who, and why, is surveilling journalists in Slovakia (SME)

They would go to the bathroom and turn the water tap on, so the water filling the bathtub would make it harder for anyone to hear them talk about serious issues. They knew which rooms to avoid if they wanted to speak of secret meetings and critical texts they were writing. Phone calls were like scenic plays for the state that they knew was listening: Hi, how’s life? Do we need to buy any milk?

In the 1980s, Czechoslovak, Polish, and Hungarian samizdat authors knew the state was actively intercepting them and keeping detailed records of their talks. Civic courage and disobedience were their working methods.

Journalists of the banned publications engaged in their own rituals. They set up meetings in surprising places. They never came to the meetings together, and they left only one by one. Sometimes, before such a meeting, they would buy a train ticket to a small village where they would get off and then secretly return to the city.

They recognised the faces of some of those that followed them. If they met in a café in the suburbs, and noticed anyone suspicious around, they would gesture each other into changing the topics.

The real messages they wanted to exchange they wrote on small bits of paper, only to immediately burn them in the ashtray as soon as they were read. There were ashtrays everywhere; smoking was allowed everywhere back then.

It was clear who listens and why

Editors of the Hungarian samizdat Beszélő protected their sources. They openly published their own names, to make sure the police would focus on them rather than on the people who were helping them, with information or with distribution. The police would regularly raid their homes. They reckoned with that and learned to live with it.

Beszélő was a quarterly publication and the publishers’ main goal was for the state to miss the printing day. And so, not even the editorial team knew where the publication was printed and who the middleman between the editorial and the printing house was.

Some 2,000 pieces of the issue would be divided immediately into packages of 25 and sent around the country. The state always managed to catch at least one or two distributors, but it never managed to dissolve the entire network. The editors never had more than a few copies with them at a time.

In the Gutenberg galaxy

This is how things worked in the world where it was clear who was surveilling journalists and why. Journalists knew exactly what communication channels were connected to the state, they knew the secret service was trying to recruit people from among them, to report on their colleagues.

The snitches continued to act as revolutionaries and criticise the communist state, but in reality they had already crossed over.

This was a system that the communist power openly admitted to on the ideological basis. It was the Gutenberg galaxy with no Googles or Facebooks, where civic courage could weaken the state machinery. Some samizdats managed to remain sustainable for as long as an entire decade.

Too much of a lure?

Today, journalists in working democracies mostly do not expect the state to surveil them. Wiretapping or surveillance without a reason is always the first symptom of the abuse of power and the technological apparatus of the intelligence services. If anything like that comes out, the media ring a loud alarm. And they are right to do so.

Today, the state power no longer requires a snitch, a whisperer or an informant, to be able to find out who thinks what. They no longer need to collect receipts from cashiers to monitor people’s purchases, or secretly sit near their table in a café to hear whether they are badmouthing the government.

They can find out about everything with the potential help of tech companies. They do not boast about it, nor do they cover up these activities with ideology. That is why control mechanisms are necessary to make sure the state does not abuse its technological means against journalists. Because if it dares to do it to the media, then it will easily dare to do it to an ordinary citizen.

The Pegasus scandal has shown how much of a lure a software originally developed for countering terrorism is for governments. For the government of Viktor Orbán in Hungary, among others, which used it to tap into the mobile phones of more than 300 people, including investigative journalists and publishers of independent media.

Does every government tap phones?

In the last 30 years, the Slovak governments followed and wiretapped several journalists.

In the early 1990s, Ivan Lexa led the national intelligence agency, the Slovak Information Service (SIS). Under his lead, the SIS abducted the son of President Michal Kováč. Back then, reasonable people reckoned that the government had all critics of the regime under surveillance. Speaking on landlines, people would greet the undisclosed call participant, imagining them as some rank-and-file state official sitting in a shabby office with his or her headphones on.

With the arrival of mobile phones later on, entrepreneurs would remove batteries from their phones during meetings. Some would go as far as to wrap them in aluminium foil. It was almost like a statement of self-importance, to conspire and to pretend having the phone tapped.

For some, it was more than just a disturbing idea. Under Lexa and the then prime minister Vladimír Mečiar, SIS massively followed and wiretapped journalists.

A change?

Cases of tapping into journalists’ phones appeared also after the fall of Mečiar. For example, the police found in its systems an unauthorised recording of a 2002 conversation between the then economy minister Pavol Rusko and a journalist with daily Sme.

Canadian journalist Tom Nicholson obtained information that the secret services wiretapped his phone calls under the first government of Smer (2006-2010), with Robert Fico as prime minister and Mečiar as one of his two coalition partners. Just because he was a foreigner, the SIS agents wanted to know if Nicholson cooperated with foreign secret services.

The military intelligence service under Ľubomír Galko as defence minister tapped the phones of journalists of the Pravda daily and the head of the private television news channel TA3, with the argument that they wanted to know who leaks classified information to whom.

But the surveillance of journalists only grew into monstrous dimensions with the arrival of the commando that, rather than by the state, was built by Marian Kočner who profited from his relationships with high-ranking public officials and nominees of the then-ruling Smer party.

He had journalists screened through his contacts at the police. Then he hired his friend Peter Tóth to put some of them under illegal surveillance. His commando also followed Ján Kuciak, who later ended up murdered.

What stance will the state eventually take towards such brutal interference with the lives of journalists?

The Pegasus era

There are countries that have leaned away from democracy and that use the “illiberal” label to mask their autocratic traits. They no longer need ideology to justify the surveillance of journalists or opponents.

We are faced with a paradox, when the parliament elected in a relatively free election approves a law for the ruling party to legitimise the use of technology for the surveillance of opponents and government critics. Journalists, too. After all, it has become a routine for government representatives to call journalists the enemies of the nation.

They use technology – mobile phones – that nearly everyone uses in their daily lives.

The existence of critical media and independent institutions plays a crucial role in how such interferences into the lives of journalists or ordinary citizens end. Critical media find out and write about it, while independent institutions then investigate it.

Hungarian government representatives deny the surveillance of journalists. The Hungarian prosecution service announced in July 2021 that they were investigating the use of Pegasus software, but in all likelihood, if Orbán gets re-elected next year, this institution’s investigation will be inconclusive.

If some autocrats manage to grind down the independent institutions in their countries, as is the case in Hungary and in Poland, the effect of the surveillance of journalists and ordinary citizens may be similar as that under communism, but without the state having to build the whole communist-time apparatus anew.

What is worse, traditional tools, like those that the samizdat authors fought by, are not effective in the fight against this new machinery.

This piece is published in collaboration with SME as part of a content series on threats to independent media in Central Europe. Read more.

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Covid-19 intensifies challenges for freelance journalists in Italy

Covid-19 intensifies challenges for freelance journalists in Italy

Part of IPI’s series, Europe media freedom in the shadow of Covid, Gabriele Cruciata analyses how the pandemic has created a perfect storm for struggling independent reporters in Italy

IPI correspondent Gabriele Cruciata explores and analyses the seen and unseen impact of COVID-19 on an already struggling industry and what it means for the long term health of Italy’s media environment

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ECPMF urges action upon publication of the first EU…

ECPMF urges action upon publication of the first EU Annual Rule of Law Report

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response, welcomes the publication of the first EU Annual Rule of Law Report, and we appreciate that a number of the concerns we raised in the preparatory phase have been taken into account.

In April 2020, together with other civil society organisations, the ECPMF and several other MFRR partners provided recommendations for safeguarding media freedom and pluralism through the European Rule of Law Mechanism, including specific recommendations for the Annual Rule of Law Report. Among other things, we underlined the importance of the Report covering the wide range of challenges faced by journalists and the media sector. This includes assessments of transparency of ownership and government interference; whether the environment is conducive to an independent and pluralistic media landscape, online and offline; and, the framework for the protection of journalists and media workers.