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European Commission must urgently address media market distortion in…

The European Commission must urgently address media market distortion in Hungary

MFRR partners, alongside other media freedom groups and associations have again urged the EU’s Competition Commissioner to swiftly address concerns over media market distortions in Hungary.

The group of 16 organisations note the continuing deterioration of media pluralism in Central Europe and renew their call to the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager to open a prompt investigation into pending state aid complaints.

The Commission’s lack of enforcement of market rules in Hungary, the groups said, is not only allowing the situation there to worsen but now also empowering the deliberate distortion of the media market in Poland, with worrying implications for both media freedom and democracy.

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Letter to Charles Michel: time for EU Member States…

MFRR letter to Charles Michel: time for EU Member States to act to protect journalists

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) sent a letter to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel in expressing serious concern about the sharp decline in freedom of the press in the European Union.

2020 was an unfortunate record year: MFRR recorded 245 alerts (with 873 attacked persons or entities related to media) in 22 EU Member States, and the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism recorded 115 media freedom violations in 27 EU Member States (the highest level since 2015).

According to MFRR data, nearly one in four incidents (23.7%) resulted in journalists and media workers being physically attacked. In more than every tenth incident (11.4%) media workers were injured.

The EU is not immune and has been profoundly shaken by a series of dramatic events, including the murders of journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia (2017) and Jan Kuciak (2018). European leaders should not wait for another murder before acting decisively. This is also crucial to set a much needed worldwide example.

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The Media Freedom Rapid Response condemns the harassment directed…

The MFRR condemns the harassment directed at Nadine White and calls on MPs and Ministers to stop targeting journalists

Following a twitter thread by a minister discrediting journalistic inquiries, Nadine White faced online harassment and abuse for doing her job. MFRR partners call on politicians to live up to their responsibility to protect and value media freedom.

On Friday 29th January, Huffington Post UK journalist, Nadine White was subjected to online harassment severe enough to warrant making her Twitter account private after UK Treasury & Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch MP tweeted a thread discrediting the journalist and incorrectly accusing her of making false claims. This followed two emails sent by Ms White to the Minister’s official email address requesting a statement as to why she did not contribute to a video with black cross-party MPs calling for greater uptake of the vaccine by the black community.

The MFRR calls on the UK Government to respond to all journalistic requests in the good faith this process deserves to ensure the public is informed. We also call on all elected officials and representatives of the government to take meaningful action to ensure their actions do not ennoble or encourage online harassment targeting journalists and media workers. 

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Montenegro: MFRR calls for urgent police protection for Olivera…

MFRR calls for urgent police protection for Olivera Lakić

The MFRR calls on Montenegrin authorities to follow up on verbal commitments and immediately provide Lakić and her family with adequate police protection. These new assassination plots must also be swiftly and thoroughly investigated to ensure that both the perpetrators and those ultimately responsible for ordering Lakić’s death are brought to justice.

Olivera Lakić is an investigative journalist who covers organised crime and corruption. On 25 December 2020, the special state prosecutor announced two suspects’ arrest for planning her assassination, with other suspects who are already in prison. They are part of the same criminal organisation suspected of a previous assassination attempt on Lakić in 2018 when she was wounded in the leg. In May 2020, it had also emerged that there had been an attempt to recruit an assassin in Spuz prison. According to the special prosecutor, the suspects aim to prevent Lakić from investigating criminal organisations in Montenegro and their ties with other such groups in the broader Balkan region.

We reiterate our urgent call for Olivera Lakić and her family to be protected as the investigation continues to ensure their lives are not in jeopardy due to Lakić’s vital work. This cannot and should not be delayed. Furthermore, we consider this latest threat to Olivera Lakić demonstrates once again the urgency of tackling impunity for attacks on and threats against journalists and media workers and creating a safe working environment, which will be a crucial element of your government’s commitment to the EU accession process. 

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Czech Republic: MFRR concerned over sidelining of critical media…

Czech Republic: MFRR concerned over sidelining of critical media outlets during government press conferences

MFRR partners sent a letter to the government of the Czech Republic expressing our disappointment over the lack of communication with the media and the repeated denial of access for certain outlets to COVID-19 press conferences.

On 14 October, the Board of Trustees of the Czech National Committee of the International Press Institute (IPI) wrote to Tünde Bartha, Director of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic seeking urgent clarification about the government’s communications strategy and the restrictions placed on journalists from certain outlets. Highlighting the case of Forum 24, one of the country’s biggest independent news media, it called on the government to immediately rethink its system for access to online press conferences, while also allowing more time for journalists from different publications to pose questions.

Since then, however, IPI’s Czech National Committee has received no response from your administration. Forum 24 likewise remains in the dark as to why they have been denied accreditation since March. Moreover, we have heard from other media outlets that efforts to send questions to the Ministry of Health press office and the government spokesperson Jana Adamcová have repeatedly gone unanswered. This seriously undermines the ability of journalists to carry out their professional responsibilities at a time where impartial and factual information is vital to support public health.

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Greek police urged to explain detention of German documentary…

Greek police urged to explain detention of German documentary crew

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) sent a letter to Greek authorities seeking an urgent explanation for the recent detention of a German documentary on the island of Samos

The letter, addressed to local and national police chiefs and the Greek Minister of Interior, expressed serious concern over the mistreatment of a German journalistic crew by the Samos Police Department. On 19 October, a German media crew making a film about climate-induced migration on the Greek island of Samos were detained for seven hours, strip searched and held in jail without charges and repeatedly denied access to a lawyer.

While they were eventually allowed to leave Greece, uncertainty remains regarding possible “espionage” charges being brought against them as a result of their journalism. The letter sent on 11 November demands clarification and condemns these acts, which run counter to Greece’s commitments to media freedom

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Investigation into threats against Northern Irish journalist is inadequate

The police investigation into the threats against Patricia Devlin is inadequate

MFRR partners wrote to Police Scotland, Police Service of Northern Ireland and the relevant ministries in Northern Ireland and Scotland to express our concern about the adequacy of ongoing investigations by Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Police Scotland into threats made against Patricia Devlin.

On 28 October 2019, Northern Irish journalist, Patricia Devlin received threatening messages on her private Facebook account, which included threats of sexual violence against her young child. They were sent by an individual with known connections to paramilitary groups and white supremacist organisations. Subsequently, Devlin was again subjected to threats on social media in April 2020 and in August she received a phone call from the suspected perpetrator.

Regrettably, the MFRR observes that to date, no effective investigation has taken place. We call on PSNI and Police Scotland to ensure that the necessary steps are taken with the appropriate urgency that lead to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrator of the threats against Patricia Devlin and to immediately put in place the necessary protection measures.

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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.”

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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.

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Police violence and press restrictions raise further red flags…

Police violence and press restrictions raise further red flags in Bulgaria

MFRR partners send a letter to the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Interior Minister and the Speaker of the National Assembly following a number of alarming developments facing journalists and media workers in the country.

The letter, sent to the Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Interior Minister Hristo Terziyski and the Speaker of the National Assembly Tsveta Karayancheva, condemned recent police violence and intimidation towards journalists and media workers reporting on recent anti-government protests.

It also raised concerns over the recent police questioning of a journalist and the recent implementation of a restrictive new system for press access inside the new Bulgarian Parliament building, calling for action to be taken to investigate allegations and increase transparency.

UPDATE. On 28 September, Associate Professor Dr Diana Kovatcheva, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria responded to the MFRR, confirming that she has submitted a recommendation to the Speaker of the National Assembly to provide a guarantee that journalists have complete access to the Parliament. As well as this, she has called on the Minister of Interior to carry out a “thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the allegations of police violence”. Read the response below.