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Chance for Czech Presidency of EU to champion media…

Chance for Czech Presidency of EU to champion media freedom

Seventeen media freedom and freedom of expression organisations from across Europe wrote to Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala to urge his government to use it upcoming presidency of the European Union to help drive forward vital EU initiatives to protect media freedom across the bloc, including the European Media Freedom Act (EFMA).

Sent on the eve of Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the open letter welcomes the Czech administration’s ongoing commitment to the freedom of the media and stresses the opportunity to advance the debate around the EMFA as a vital tool for pushing back against the threat posed to independent journalism by media capture.

Read the full letter below and a joint statement by the same groups on the need for a strong and ambitious EFMA

June 30, 2022

Petr Fiala, Prime Minister, Czech Republic

CC: Mikuláš Bek, Minister of Europe

CC: Charles Michel, President of the European Council

CC: Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Dear Prime Minister Fiala,

On behalf of seventeen journalists, media freedom, and human rights groups we take the opportunity of the upcoming Czech Republic’s presidency of the Council of the European Union to welcome your government’s commitment to freedom of the media and determination to advance the EU’s ability to address threats to journalism and media freedom.

 

The current Commission has prioritized media freedom as part of its Democracy Action Plan and has taken important initiatives in advancing the safety of journalists through the recommendations issued in September 2021, and in addressing the balance of power on the internet to preserve fundamental human rights and combat disinformation in the Digital Services Act.

 

In April the much-needed anti-Slapps Directive was launched and, left undiluted in its current form, can make a very significant impact on protecting journalists from being targeted by vexatious lawsuits designed to stifle public debate and prevent accountability.

 

And under your presidency the European Commission is due to publish the European Media Freedom Act providing a crucial opportunity to combat the threats posed to European democracy by the capture of media by political parties and governments that has become increasingly prevalent in parts of the European Union.

 

Media Capture as conducted by political forces can be broadly understood as the abuse of government powers to create a pliant media acting in the interests of the government. It can be divided into four key areas,

  • the misuse and abuse of government funds – advertising, public subsidies or other public contracts – to boost media support for government and punish independent media
  • the taking over of media regulators with politically aligned supporters that can abuse their authority to rule on media licensing and mergers in favour of pro-government media
  • the manipulation of media ownership to create a bubble of government propaganda outfits – often dependent on government largess – and sidelining independent media to the edges of public debate
  • the control of public media, often converted into flagrant propaganda arms.

 

The EMFA should address all of these areas by introducing Europe wide rules on

  • Improving transparency of media ownership and funding and all financial relations between media and the government
  • Ending the abuse of government funds to finance media allies and creating a hostile economic environment to independent media
  • Improving the independence of media regulators, and
  • Protecting public media from political interference

The Czech Presidency has an opportunity to advance the debate around the EMFA as it understands well the threat posed by media capture and the necessity for EU action.

 

In particular you have witnessed how public advertising and public contracts were abused by the previous Czech government to fund media close to and owned by the former Prime Minister. You have also witnessed how the appointments process for the governing bodies of the Czech TV were politicised by the previous government in an attempt to take control of the public broadcaster. And you have witnessed how media pluralism can suffer when mainstream media are taken over by oligarchs dependent on close relations with the government to protect their broader business interests.

 

You were elected to power on the promise of promoting media freedom, independence and pluralism and introducing reforms to end the ability of governments to abuse state funds to influence media coverage. We ask you to help replicate these actions with a strong endorsement of the European Media Freedom Act.

 

Kind regards,

International Press Institute (IPI)

Association of European Journalists (AEJ Belgium)

Baltic Centre for Media Excellence (BCME)

Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)

The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

Cultural Broadcasting Archive (cba), Vienna

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Finnish Foundation for Media and Development

Free Press Unlimited

Global Forum for Media Development

IFEX

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

Ossigeno.info

Public Media Alliance (PMA)

South East Europe  Media Organisation (SEEMO)

Society of Journalists, Warsaw

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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Emilia Șercan | Culisele operațiunii „Kompromat” - Interviu cu Emilia Șercan | YouTube/HotNews Romania Library

Concern over delay in investigation into leak of Emilia…

Media freedom groups concerned by delay in investigation into leak of Emilia Șercan’s stolen photos

MFRR consortium joined a collection of media freedom and freedom of expression groups in writing to Nicolae Ciucă, Prime Minister of Romania, Minister of Internal Affairs of Romania, Lucian Bode, General Prosecutor of Romania, Gabriela Scutea, General Prosecutor attached to the Bucharest Court of Appeal, Ioan Viorel Cerbu, Romanian Ombudsman, and Renate Weber, General Inspector of the Romanian Police, Quaestor of police Benone-Marian Matei.

The open letter, which follows up on a previous letter sent by the group on 13 April 2022, expresses concern at delays to the investigation into the publication of Romanian journalist Emilia Șercan’s stolen photos and the alleged leak of key elements of the investigation into this offense.

Open letter, sent electronically

28 June 2022

 

Dear Prime Minister of Romania, Nicolae Ciucă,

Dear Minister of Internal Affairs of Romania, Lucian Bode,

Dear General Prosecutor of Romania, Gabriela Scutea,

Dear General Prosecutor attached to the Bucharest Court of Appeal, Ioan Viorel Cerbu

Dear Romanian Ombudsman, Renate Weber,

Dear General Inspector of the Romanian Police, Quaestor of police Benone-Marian Matei

 

The undersigned organizations write to share their deep concerns about the delay in the investigations into the publication of Romanian journalist Emilia Șercan’s stolen photos and the alleged leak of key elements of the investigation into this offense.

 

The compelling need for independent investigations has been pointed out in an open letter that our organizations sent to the Romanian authorities in April 2022.

 

Although the principle of confidentiality of investigation applies, the law enforcement authorities seem to have failed – according to available information – to make significant progress four months after Emilia Șercan became the target of harassment and a smear campaign through the publication of her private pictures and the alleged leak of key elements of the criminal investigation into the matter amplifying the exposure of her private pictures. .

 

Moreover, neither the response of the Ministry of Interior to the above-mentioned open letter, nor the state reply to the alert published on the Council of Europe’s platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists addressed our organizations’ legitimate concerns about the progress of the investigation into the leak.

 

Hence, our organizations find that the authorities are neither designating the investigation a priority, nor devoting sufficient resources to it.

 

Guaranteeing a swift and independent investigation appears all the more necessary and urgent in the light of the risk of alteration of evidence and of the inaccessibility of the evidence caused by the delay. This could significantly complicate the proper conduct of the investigation.

 

Furthermore, the information newly added to the file indicates possible involvement of the police in the alleged leak from the criminal investigation into the offense, as a screenshot that Emilia Șercan had provided to the police appeared in the media along with her private pictures. It seems that before the leak, solely the police – in addition to the journalist herself – had access to the screenshot.

 

This last hypothesis is supported by a recent independent expert report concluding that any surveillance of the plaintiff’s devices is unlikely.

 

It is all the more crucial to prosecute these offenses given that they specifically target a journalist who has been threatened for her investigations into the practice of plagiarism by heads of the highest state institutions, including military educational institutions.

 

It is of utmost importance that the probe into both the threats that targeted Emilia Șercan and into the alleged leak of her stolen pictures from the criminal investigation be conducted in total independence and reach a successful conclusion as soon as possible.

 

As stated by Vice-President of the European Commission Vera Jourova in her reply to the open letterof Members of the European Parliament on Emilia Șercan’s case, “the Commission calls on Member States to investigate and prosecute all criminal acts committed against journalists, whether online or offline, in an impartial, independent, effective, transparent and timely manner (…) and (to) make full use of existing national and European legislation, to ensure that fundamental rights are protected and justice is swiftly delivered in particular cases and prevent the emergence of a ‘culture ’ of impunity regarding attacks against journalists”.

 

Indeed, the authorities swift and transparent action in Emilia Șercan’s case is in the interest of improving press freedom in Romania, which recently has declined due to an increasing number of threats and resulted in RSF ranking the country 56th in its World Press Freedom Index.

 

Thank you for considering our concerns.

Signed by:

  • ActiveWatch
  • Article 19 Europe
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Transmis electronic

Paris, 28 iunie 2022

 

Subiect: Publicarea pozelor furate ale Emiliei Șercan și presupusa scurgere din ancheta penală

 

Stimate premier al României, Nicolae Ciucă,

Stimate ministru al Afacerilor Interne al României, Lucian Bode,

Stimate procuror general al României, Gabriela Scutea,

Stimate procuror general de pe lângă Curtea de Apel București, Ioan Viorel Cerbu

Stimate Avocat al Poporului, Renate Weber,

Stimate Inspector General al Poliției Române, Chestor de poliție Benone-Marian Matei

 

Organizațiile semnatare vă scriu pentru a-și împărtăși îngrijorarea profundă cu privire la întârzierea investigațiilor privind publicarea fotografiilor furate ale jurnalistei românce Emilia Șercan și presupusa scurgere a unor elemente cheie ale anchetei în această infracțiune.

 

Necesitatea imperioasă a unor investigații independente a fost subliniată într-o scrisoare deschisă pe care organizațiile noastre au trimis-o autorităților române în aprilie 2022.

 

Deși se aplică principiul confidențialității anchetei, autoritățile de aplicare a legii par să fi eșuat – conform informațiilor disponibile – în a face progrese semnificative la patru luni după ce Emilia Șercan a devenit ținta hărțuirii și a unei campanii de defăimare prin publicarea fotografiilor sale private și prin presupusa scurgere de elemente cheie ale anchetei penale, amplificând expunerea pozelor sale private.

 

Mai mult, nici răspunsul Ministerului Afacerilor Interne la scrisoarea deschisă menționată mai sus, nici răspunsul statului la alerta publicată pe platforma Consiliului Europei pentru promovarea protecției jurnalismului și a siguranței jurnaliştilor, nu au abordat preocupările legitime ale organizaţiilor noastre cu privire la progresul anchetei privind scurgerea.

 

Prin urmare, organizațiile noastre constată că autoritățile nu acordă acestei investigații un statut prioritar și nici nu îi alocă resurse suficiente.

 

Garantarea unei investigații rapide și independente pare cu atât mai necesară și mai urgentă în lumina riscului de alterare a probelor și a inaccesibilității probelor, cauzate de întârziere. Acest lucru ar putea complica semnificativ desfășurarea corectă a investigației.

 

Mai mult, informațiile nou adăugate la dosar indică o posibilă implicare a poliției în presupusa scurgere din investigația penală asupra infracțiunii, întrucât în ​​mass-media a apărut o captură de ecran pe care Emilia Șercan o furnizase polițiștilor, alături de pozele sale private. Se pare că înainte de scurgere, doar poliția – pe lângă jurnalista însăși – a avut acces la această captură de ecran.

 

Această ultimă ipoteză este susținută de un recent raport de expertiză independentă care concluzionează că orice supraveghere a dispozitivelor reclamantei Emilia Șercan este puțin probabilă.

 

Este cu atât mai important să investigăm aceste infracțiuni cu cât vizează în mod specific o jurnalistă care a fost amenințată pentru anchetele ei privind practicarea plagiatului de către șefi ai celor mai înalte instituții ale statului, inclusiv instituții militare de învățământ.

 

Este de maximă importanță ca ancheta atât cu privire la amenințările care au vizat-o pe Emilia Șercan, cât și cu privire la presupusa scurgere, a pozelor ei furate, din cadrul urmăririi penale, să se desfășoare în deplină independență și să ajungă la o rezolvare cu succes cât mai curând posibil.

 

După cum a afirmat vicepreședinta Comisiei Europene, Vera Jourova, în răspunsul său la scrisoarea deschisă a deputaților din Parlamentul European cu privire la cazul Emilia Șercan, „Comisia solicită statelor membre să investigheze și să urmărească penal toate faptele penale comise împotriva jurnaliştilor, fie online, sau offline, într-o manieră imparțială, independentă, eficientă, transparentă și în timp util (…) și (să) utilizeze pe deplin legislația națională și europeană existentă, pentru a se asigura că drepturile fundamentale sunt protejate și că actul de justiție este îndeplinit rapid în cazuri individuale și pentru a preveni apariția unei <<culturi>> a impunității în ceea ce privește atacurile împotriva jurnaliștilor”.

 

Într-adevăr, acțiunea rapidă și transparentă a autorităților în cazul Emiliei Șercan este în interesul îmbunătățirii stării libertății presei în România, care recent a scăzut ca urmare a unui număr tot mai mare de amenințăr, și a dus la clasarea de către RSF a țării pe locul 56 în Indexul mondial al libertății presei.

 

Vă mulțumim că luați în considerare preocupările noastre.

Signed by:

  • Reporteri fără Frontiere (RSF)
  • ActiveWatch
  • Article 19 Europe
  • Federația Europeană a Jurnaliştilor (EFJ)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

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.

MFRR 3 consortium logos
Greek journalist Thanasis Koukakis Library

Greece: Letter to government after spyware surveillance of journalist…

Greece: Letter to government after spyware surveillance of journalist Thanasis Koukakis

The partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response are concerned about surveillance measures hitting journalists in Greece.

Dear Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece

Panagiotis Pikramenos, Deputy Prime Minister,

Takis Theodorikakos, Minister of Civilian Protection,

Konstantinos Tsiaras, Minister of Justice,

Dimitris Galamatis, Secretary General Communication and Information,

Panagiotis Kontoleon, Commander of the Greek National Intelligence Service

cc.

Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice

Sophie in ‘t Veld, MEP, Rapporteur of Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware

Jeroen Lenaers, Chair of Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware

 ———————————————————–

The undersigned European and international press freedom and journalists’ organisations are writing to express our serious concern over the recent surveillance of Greek financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis using a powerful new spyware tool, Predator.

Our organisations are equally alarmed by state documents which reveal that one year prior to the spyware surveillance, the same journalist’s private communications were intercepted by the Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP), a body which is overseen by the office of the Prime Minister.

In light of these revelations, we urge Greek authorities to first provide further information about the source of the spyware attack and second to immediately explain the state surveillance of a journalist, and to indicate clearly whether these two incidents are linked.

On April 11 it was first revealed that Koukakis, an investigative journalist for CNN Greece who writes for multiple international publications including Financial Times and CNBC, had his mobile phone infected between July and September 2021 by Predator, an advanced spyware tool developed by a North Macedonian company called Cytrox.

In the wake of the initial revelations, on April 12 government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou suggested the Predator hack had been carried out by an “individual” or private actor and denied that the Greek government had any role in monitoring Koukakis using the spyware tool.

Days later, however, it was revealed that the EYP had itself been carrying out surveillance on Koukakis in June, July and August 2020 for what it said were “national security reasons”. Documents show that when the journalist asked the independent Authority for Ensuring the Confidentiality of Communications (ADAE) to confirm whether his phone had been tapped, the EYP stopped the surveillance the same day.

When Koukakis sought to confirm his suspicions about being wiretapped, he did not receive a response from ADAE for a year. During this time, in March 2021 the Greek government passed an amendment which blocked the ADAE, with retroactive effect, from informing citizens if they had been surveilled if it had been carried out under national security grounds, meaning the journalist was blocked from knowing whether or not his phone had been bugged.

These two cases of surveillance are troubling on many levels. Our organisations urge the Greek government to first provide greater clarity and answers about how, and by whom, Predator was abused to target Koukakis. Intellexa, which owns Cytrox, maintains that it sells its services to law enforcement agencies – not private individuals. Moreover, like other advanced spyware products, Predator is extremely expensive to acquire, making it unaffordable to many private actors. The Greek authorities should take all steps to determine if a private actor or individual was responsible, ensuring a full and independent investigation with a view to bringing the alleged perpetrators to justice.

However, our organisations note that the confirmed state surveillance of Koukakis just one year before the Predator attack undermines the claim that state intelligence agencies had no role in the recent surveillance. It is deeply concerning that an agency under the control of the office of the Prime Minister spied on a journalist investigating corruption in the business and financial world.

The grounds for the surveillance in 2020, which were approved by an EYP prosecutor, appear to be completely groundless and point to potentially unlawful monitoring by the agency. We therefore welcome the preliminary investigation launched by the head of the Athens Prosecutor’s Office, which must establish why the decision to surveil Koukakis was approved and whether it violated telecommunications privacy legislation.

At a wider level, the timing of the retroactive legislative change in 2021 regarding the EYP also poses questions about whether the government changed the law in order to block Koukakis’ surveillance from becoming public. We note with concern that this is not the first time that potential evidence has surfaced that the EYP has intercepted the private communications of journalists and their sources. These cases have had a chilling effect on public interest journalism in Greece and pose serious questions about the mandate of the EYP, its closeness to the PM’s office, and the rule of law in Greece.

Moving forward, we believe it is important that Greece take immediate steps to better regulate spyware technology so that it cannot be abused in the future. As we have seen over the past year, governments around the world, including those in the EU, have used this kind of spyware to snoop on journalists, posing serious threats to source confidentiality and journalists’ safety. We therefore urge the government to clearly confirm or deny whether its own law enforcement or intelligence agencies have acquired Predator or other privately developed spyware products, now or in the past, including the Pegasus spyware sold by Israeli company NSO Group.

Greater transparency about the trade of these technologies inside the EU is also vital for understanding the scale of the surveillance-for-hire industry inside the bloc and for providing accountability when abuses occur. In light of these allegations in relation to Intellexa, a Greek company, the national authorities must also ensure full compliance with the EU’s new Recast Dual Use Regulation, which seeks to prevent human rights harm resulting from digital surveillance by establishing controls on exports of surveillance technology by EU companies, including by providing transparency around export licenses and full human rights assessments to target countries for export.

As questions about the surveillance mount both in Greece and in Brussels, our organisations believe it is important to add greater clarity to this case. We look forward to your response.

Signed by:

  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • 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.

Emilia Șercan | Culisele operațiunii „Kompromat” - Interviu cu Emilia Șercan | YouTube/HotNews Romania Library

Romania: Open Letter calling for swift and independent investigation…

Romania: Open letter calling for swift and independent investigation concerning publication of stolen pictures of Emilia Șercan and leak from criminal investigation

Ten European and international press freedom and freedom of expression organisations, members of the MFRR and their partners, have reacted to the harassment of Emilia Șercan, expressing serious concerns about the case and its implications for media freedom in Romania. Today, the ten organisations sent an open letter to the Romanian authorities calling for swift and independent investigations. The letter recalls that the threats and harassment of Șercan are set against a background of recent aggression and undue pressure against journalists and media workers in Romania coming from politicians, prosecutors, police, and military officers. 

Open letter, sent electronically

14 April 2022

 

Dear Prime Minister of Romania Nicolae Ciucă,

Dear Minister of Internal Affairs of Romania Lucian Bode,

Dear General Inspector of the Romanian Police, Quaestor of police Benone-Marian Matei,

Dear General Prosecutor of Romania Gabriela Scutea,

We, the undersigned organisations in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and partners, are disturbed by the harassment of journalist Emilia Șercan through the publication of her private pictures and the alleged leak from the criminal investigation into the matter. We call for swift and independent investigations of both issues and previous threats against Șercan. 

On 16 February, Șercan found a dehumanising message from an unknown person among her spam on Facebook Messenger, which alerted her that five personal pictures taken about 20 years ago had been published on 34 porn websites. The next day, Șercan filed a police complaint about cybercrime (concerning the theft of the pictures) and violation of privacy (concerning their upload on the porn websites). In the process, she also provided a screenshot of the Facebook message. 

On 18 February, Șercan discovered that a Moldovan website had published an article containing the five stolen pictures, as well as the Facebook Messenger screenshot made by Șercan, and submitted only to the Romanian police, plus a short comment on Șercan’s professional conduct. Șercan ascertained that the article was published approximately 40 minutes after she left the Criminal Investigation Service. A link to the article was subsequently posted by 74 websites, primarily Romanian and some from the Republic of Moldova. 

Șercan filed another criminal complaint regarding the possible leak from the criminal investigation and violation of privacy with the Internal Affairs Department of the Romanian Police. On 21 February, chief of the Romanian Police Mr Matei presented Șercan with an analysis of the media spread of the pictures, which would have cleared the police and supervising prosecutor of suspicion. Șercan characterised the police’s analysis as implausible and “fabricated”. On 8 March, Șercan discovered that the Internal Affairs Department had sent her complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the 4th District Court of Bucharest, which is potentially a source of the leak. Subsequently, the file was transferred to the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Bucharest Court of Appeal.

We have serious concerns about the harassment of Șercan and the implications for media freedom in Romania more broadly, especially given the context: on 18 January 2022, Șercan revealed in an article that Prime Minister Ciucă plagiarised his doctoral dissertation. The following day, she received a threat to her personal safety on her professional email address, followed by another threat on 2 February via Facebook Messenger. Both threats are under investigation by the Criminal Investigation Service of the Bucharest Police. 

Moreover, the threats and harassment of Șercan are set against a background of recent aggression and undue pressure against journalists and media workers in Romania coming from politicians, prosecutors, police, and military officers. These include, among others, the threat against the wife of G4Media editor-in-chief Pantazi by an employee of the Ministry of National Defence, in March 2022; a reporter and her crew working for Italian public broadcaster RAI who were kept for hours in a Bucharest police station after an anti-vaccine Romanian Senator kept them locked up inside her office during an interview, in December 2021; attacks on two women journalists at a congress of the National Liberal Party congress by party members in September 2021; and, judicial pressure on Libertatea and Newsweek Romania following a criminal complaint and several SLAPPs filed by a Mayor of a Bucharest district, in May 2021. 

The European Commission has made it clear 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”, as underlined in its recent Recommendation on ensuring the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists and other media professionals in the European Union, “to ensure that fundamental rights are protected and justice is swiftly delivered in particular cases and prevent the emergence of a ‘culture’ of impunity regarding attacks against journalists” (Rec. 4). 

On 8 March, the MFRR partners, together with ActiveWatch, wrote to the Romanian authorities, urging them to ensure that the complaints filed by Șercan in relation to the stolen photos, the leak from the criminal investigation and the earlier threats are swiftly and diligently investigated.  Unfortunately, to date, a substantive response to these asks has not been provided.

Accordingly, we renew today our call for quick and independent investigations. Any criminal acts these investigations reveal must be duly prosecuted, so those responsible are held to account. Particularly as concerns the complaint about the leak from the criminal investigation, sufficient safeguards that effectively guarantee the investigation and prosecution’s independence must be in place.

Sincerely,

Signed by:

  • ActiveWatch
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Center for Independent Journalism Romania
  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

This open letter 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.

Zece organizații europene și internaționale care militează pentru libertatea presei și pentru libertatea de exprimare, membri ai MFRR și partenerii acestora, au reacționat la hărțuirea Emiliei Șercan, exprimând îngrijorări serioase cu privire la acest caz și la implicațiile pe care acesta le aduce pentru libertatea presei în România. Astăzi, cele zece organizații au trimis o scrisoare deschisă către autoritățile române, prin care cer investigații prompte și independente. Scrisoarea amintește faptul că amenințările și hărțuirea la adresa lui Șercan au loc pe un fond de agresiune recentă și presiune nejustificată împotriva jurnaliștilor și a lucrătorilor media din România, venite din partea politicienilor, procurorilor, poliției și a ofițerilor militari.

Scrisoare deschisă, trimisă electronic

14 aprilie 2022

Re: Publicarea fotografiilor personale ale Emiliei Șercan, sustrase ilegal, și scurgerea de informații din ancheta penală trebuie investigate cu promptitudine și independent 

Prim-ministrului României Nicolae Ciucă, 

Ministrului Afacerilor Interne Lucian Bode, 

Inspectorului General al Poliției Române, Chestorul de poliție Benone-Marian Matei, 

Procurorului General al României Gabriela Scutea, 

Noi, organizațiile semnatare ale Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) și partenerii noștri, găsim tulburătoare hărțuirea jurnalistei Emilia Șercan prin publicarea fotografiilor personale sustrase ilegal și prin presupusa scurgere de informații din ancheta penală ce investiga fapta respectivă. Cerem anchetarea promptă și independentă a ambelor situații, precum și a amenințărilor precedente adresate lui Șercan. 

Pe 16 februarie, Șercan a primit un mesaj dezumanizant de la o persoană necunoscută, ce ajunsese în Spam pe Facebook Messenger, mesaj care a alertat-o cu privire la faptul că cinci fotografii personale făcute acum 20 de ani au fost publicate pe 34 de website-uri cu conținut pornografic. Următoarea zi, Șercan a făcut o plângere penală referitoare la infracțiunile comise prin sisteme informatice (cu privire la furtul fotografiilor personale) și la violarea vieții private (cu privire la încărcarea lor pe website-urile cu conținut pornografic). Tot atunci, a pus la dispoziție organelor de cercetare și o captură de ecran cu mesajul primit pe Facebook. 

Pe 18 februarie, Șercan a descoperit faptul că un website din Republica Moldova publicase un articol ce conținea cele cinci fotografii furate, precum și captura de ecran ce suprindea mesajul primit pe Facebook Messenger, pusă la dispoziție doar Poliției Române, alături de un scurt comentariu asupra conduitei sale profesionale. Șercan a constatat faptul că articolul fusese publicat la aproximativ 40 de minute după ce părăsise sediul Serviciului de Investigații Criminale. Link-ul către articolul respectiv fusese postat ulterior de 74 de website-uri, în mare parte din România, și unele din Republica Moldova. 

Șercan a făcut o nouă plângere penală, referitoare la posibila scurgere de informații din ancheta penală și la violarea vieții private, la Direcția Control Intern a Inspectoratului General al Poliției Române. Pe 21 februarie, șeful Poliției Române, dl. Matei, i-a prezentat Emiliei Șercan o analiză a modului în care fotografiile s-au răspândit în media, analiza ce ar fi arătat că poliția și subcomisarul atribuit cazului erau în afara oricăror suspiciuni. Șercan a catalogat analiza poliției drept neplauzibilă și „fabricată”. Pe 8 martie, Șercan a descoperit faptul că Direcția Control Intern trimisese plângerea sa către Parchetul de pe lângă Judecătoria Sectorului 4 București, care este o potențială sursă a scurgerii de informații. Ulterior, dosarul a fost transferat la Parchetul de pe lângă Curtea de Apel București. 

Avem serioase motive de îngrijorare cu privire la hărțuirea lui Șercan, în mod special, și, în sens general, la implicațiile asupra libertății presei în România, cu atât mai mult cu cât aceste fapte au loc în următorul context: la 18 ianuarie 2022, Șercan dezvăluise într-un articol faptul că Prim-ministrul României a plagiat în teza de doctorat. A doua zi, a primit amenințări cu privire la siguranța sa personală pe adresa de e-mail profesională, urmate de altele – pe 2 februarie, primite pe Facebook Messenger. Ambele incidente sunt investigate de Serviciul de Investigații Criminale din cadrul Poliției București. 

Mai mult, amenințările și hărțuirea la adresa lui Șercan au loc pe un fond de agresiune recentă și presiune nejustificată împotriva jurnaliștilor și a lucrătorilor media din România, venite din partea politicienilor, procurorilor, poliției și a ofițerilor militari. Aceste incidente includ, printre altele, amenințarea împotriva soției redactorului-șef G4Media Pantazi de către un angajat al Ministerului Apărării Naționale, în martie 2022; un reporter și echipa sa, care lucrează pentru postul public de televiziune italian RAI, ținuți timp de mai multe ore într-o secție de poliție din București, după ce un senator român anti-vaccin i-a închis în biroul ei în timpul unui interviu, în decembrie 2021; atacuri asupra a două jurnaliste la un congres al Partidului Național Liberal, de către membri de partid, în septembrie 2021; și, presiunea judiciară asupra Libertatea și Newsweek România în urma unei plângeri penale și a mai multor acțiuni în instanță și plângeri depuse de un primar al unui sector din București, în mai 2021.

Comisia Europeană face foarte clar faptul că statele membre „ar trebui să investigheze și să urmărească penal toate actele criminale comise împotriva jurnaliştilor, fie ele efectuate online, sau offline, într-o manieră imparțială, independentă, eficientă, transparentă și în timpul corespunzător”, după cum este subliniat și în recenta Recomandare privind asigurarea protecției, siguranței și susținerii jurnaliștilor și a altor profesioniști media din Uniunea Europeană, „pentru a se asigura că drepturile fundamentale sunt protejate și justiția este făcută prompt în cazuri particulare și pentru a preveni apariția unei „culturi” a impunității în ceea ce privește atacuri împotriva jurnaliştilor” (Rec. 4).

Pe 8 martie, partenerii MFRR, împreună cu ActiveWatch, au scris autorităților române, îndemnându-le să se asigure că plângerile depuse de Șercan în legătură cu fotografiile furate, scurgerea de informații din ancheta penală și amenințările anterioare sunt investigate cu promptitudine și diligență. Din păcate, până în prezent, nu am primit un răspuns substanțial la aceste cereri. 

În consecință, reluăm astăzi apelul nostru pentru investigații rapide și independente. Acele fapte penale care reies în urma investigațiilor trebuie urmărite în mod corespunzător, astfel încât cei responsabili să fie trași la răspundere. În mod particular în ceea ce privește plângerea cu privire la scurgerea de informații dintr-o anchetă penală, trebuie să existe suficiente garanții care să asigure eficient independența anchetei și a demersului urmăririi penale.

Cu stimă,

Semnat:

  • ActiveWatch
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Center for Independent Journalism Romania
  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

This open letter 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.

Library

Lithuania: State Data Protection Inspectorate (SDPI) must not obstruct…

Lithuania: State Data Protection Inspectorate (SDPI) must not obstruct journalistic activity in the country

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and partner organisations have written to Director Raimondas Andrijauskas and Deputy Director Danguolė Morkūnienė of the Lithuanian State Data Protection Inspectorate (SDPI)’s to express concern at their attempted obstruction of investigative project “Karštos Pėdos” (“Hot Feet”)’s journalistic activity.

Dear Director Andrijauskas,

Dear Deputy Director Morkūnienė,

We, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and partner organisations, are writing to denounce the administrative harassment of “Karštos Pėdos” (“Hot Feet”). We call on the State Data Protection Inspectorate (SDPI) to stop pressuring and obstructing the journalistic project’s activities, to abide by the limits to its authority as defined in domestic law and to respect the letter and spirit of EU Regulation 2016/679 (General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR).

Karštos Pėdos is a platform launched in autumn 2020 that is part of a transparency initiative co-funded by the European Commission and implemented by Media4Change in collaboration with Investigative Journalism Centre Siena. It visualises links between politically exposed persons in Lithuania and government spending, making use of datasets comprising declarations of interest of public persons, public procurement statistics and EU funding data, which are all publicly available.

Since late 2020, the SDPI has been attempting to inspect Karštos Pėdos. The investigation was initiated through a series of correspondence, in which the SDPI has been requesting a host of information to show that the project is not violating GDPR and the Law on Legal Protection of Personal Data. The SDPI ordered to provide data protection impact assessment, records of processing activities and documentation that data subjects of concern have been notified of their data processing, among other things.

From the outset, the team behind Karštos Pėdos have been arguing that the GDPR does not apply to journalists to the full extent. We share their view that in line with the derogations provided under the Regulation, Karštos Pėdos is not obliged to provide all the requested information as the information in their platform complies with the journalistic exemption Lithuania’s framework should provide according to the GDPR. Moreover, pursuant to Article 7 of the Law on Legal Protection of Personal Data, the SDPI lacks the authority to monitor the application of data protection laws to the processing of personal data for journalistic purposes, which instead lies with the Inspector of Journalistic Ethics. In June 2021, following a request by Media4Change, the Office of the Inspector of Journalistic Ethics confirmed in a letter that Karštos Pėdos is considered a journalistic activity. It is our understanding that despite being informed of the Office of the Inspector of Journalistic Ethics’ position, the SDPI has ignored it and has not involved the Office. In November 2021, moreover, the SDPI escalated the proceedings by proposing the imposition of an administrative fine for failing to provide the requested information in violation of data protection laws.

We concur with the Office of the Inspector of Journalistic Ethics and with the project team that Karštos Pėdos’s activities and content available are in line with journalist purposes serving the public interest. Therefore, pursuant to the Law on Legal Protection of Personal Data, the SDPI is not authorised to inspect or to impose fines on Karštos Pėdos. We further recall that the GDPR obliges the Member States to reconcile the right to protection of personal data with the right to freedom of expression and information. Accordingly, we call on the SDPI to stop pressuring and attempting to obstruct the activities of Karštos Pėdos.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

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.

LEX TVN Library

Poland: Media freedom groups urge President Duda to veto…

Poland: Media freedom groups urge President Duda to veto ‘Lex-TVN’

The undersigned international media freedom and journalists groups are writing to urge you to apply a presidential veto to the so-called “Lex-TVN” amendment passed by the Sejm on December 17, which we believe poses a fundamental threat to media freedom and pluralism in Poland. This bill represents a direct attack on the independence of the country’s biggest private broadcaster, U.S-owned TVN, and its news channel TVN24.

Dear Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland,

 

The undersigned international media freedom and journalists groups are writing to urge you to apply a presidential veto to the so-called “Lex-TVN” amendment passed by the Sejm on December 17, which we believe poses a fundamental threat to media freedom and pluralism in Poland. This bill represents a direct attack on the independence of the country’s biggest private broadcaster, U.S-owned TVN, and its news channel TVN24.

Rather than a sincere effort to protect Poland against hostile foreign media takeovers, our organisations are convinced that this media ownership law has always been about one goal: slicing through TVN’s ownership structure and forcing Discovery to sell a controlling 51% stake, opening the door for government-allied entities to potentially acquire stakes and ultimately engineer a shift in editorial position to one more favourable to the ruling party. Far from a secret, the Law and Justice (PiS) MP responsible for drafting the amendment, Marek Suski, has publicly stated the true intention of the law: obtaining greater influence over TVN’s programming.

Such a clear effort to enact media legislation that pushes out foreign owners is reminiscent of well-documented tactics used by governments in Hungary and Russia to bring independent channels under control via government-friendly entities. While laws restricting foreign media ownership do exist in EU member states, this bill is not a principled and proportionate effort to protect the Polish information landscape. Rather, it is clearly aimed at undermining one particular outlet and is part of a wider effort to “repolonise” the media. As you have previously outlined, any changes to media ownership must be conducted under market principles rather than via heavy-handed government intervention. Lex-TVN represents a clear and politically-motivated effort to strong-arm such changes through legislation and must therefore be opposed.

In addition to undermining fundamental democratic values, the proposed amendment to article 35 of the Broadcasting Act also raises legitimate doubts about its compliance with EU law and will almost certainly lead to a legal challenge from the European Commission. As the Senate has already identified, it is also inconsistent with the Polish Constitution. It also breaches the U.S-Poland Bilateral Investment Treaty, simultaneously undermining Poland’s reputation as a welcome climate for foreign investment and uprooting relations between Poland and its closest ally. That the bill was unexpectedly approved by the Sejm just before the parliamentary break, without prior announcement, and in violation of rules on adequate debate, is also deeply problematic.

The stakes of this decision for media freedom, democracy and the rule of law in Poland are high. Ultimately, your decision about this bill should not be about whether one agrees or disagrees with TVN’s coverage. It should be about the principle of media pluralism and the ability of citizens to access information from a variety of news sources. It should also be about the fundamental right of the media to fulfil its watchdog role and scrutinise those in power. And it should be about ensuring fair market conditions in a media sector free from government interference.

After the Sejm passed the initial bill in August 2021, you outlined your concerns over the law’s detrimental effect on freedom of speech and diplomatic relations. Despite being firmly rejected by the Senate, the bill awaiting your decision remains unchanged in both its form and its ultimate purpose. We therefore urge you to remain true to your word and use your veto power to outright reject this law and safeguard the freedom of the press in Poland.

Signed by:

  • Archiwum Osiatyńskiego / The Wiktor Osiatyński Archive
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
  • Civic Network Watchdog Poland (Sieć Obywatelska Watchdog Polska)
  • Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Warsaw, Poland)
  • IFEX
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • Public Media Alliance (PMA)
  • Society of Journalists, Warsaw
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

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.

Organizacje na rzecz wolności mediów apelują do Prezydenta Andrzeja Dudy o zawetowanie ustawy Lex TVN

Szanowny Panie Prezydencie Andrzeju Dudo,

 

My, niżej podpisane międzynarodowe organizacje działające na rzecz wolności mediów i dziennikarzy piszą, zwracamy się do Pana Prezydenta z apelem o zastosowanie prezydenckiego weta wobec nowelizacji ustawy medialnej znanej powszechnie jako „lex TVN”, przyjętej przez Sejm 17 grudnia 2021. Naszym zdaniem tworzy ona fundamentalne zagrożenie dla wolności i pluralizmu mediów w Polsce. Ustawa w obecnym kształcie stanowi bezpośredni atak na niezależność TVN największego, należącego do USA prywatnego nadawcy w kraju, i jego kanału informacyjnego TVN24.

 

Nasze organizacje są przekonane, że zmianie ustawy medialnej przyświeca cel zgoła inny niż szczera ochrona polskiego rynku przed wrogimi przejęciami mediów zagranicznych. Mianowicie chodzi o wpłynięcie na strukturę własnościową TVN i wymuszenie na Discovery sprzedaży kontrolnego pakietu 51% udziałów. To stworzyłoby warunki do potencjalnego przejęcia udziałów przez podmioty sprzymierzone z rządem, co w efekcie mogłoby wpłynąć na linię redakcyjną, tak aby była bardziej przychylna władzy. Sam Marek Suski, poseł PiS odpowiedzialny za przygotowanie nowelizacji, w publicznych wypowiedziach nie ukrywał prawdziwej intencji stojącej za zmianą ustawy jaką jest właśnie uzyskanie większego wpływu na przekaz programowy TVN. 

 

Strategia wprowadzania w życie przepisów medialnych, które wypychają z rynku zagranicznych właścicieli, przypomina dobrze znaną taktykę stosowaną przez władze na Węgrzech i w Rosji. Chodzi o kontrolę niezależnych kanałów za pośrednictwem podmiotów przyjaznych rządowi. Chociaż w państwach członkowskich UE istnieją przepisy ograniczające własność mediów zagranicznych, proponowana przez PiS nowelizacja ustawy medialnej nie spełnia warunków do traktowania jej w kategorii proporcjonalnego środka służącego ochronie krajobrazu medialnego w Polsce. Wręcz przeciwnie – ma wyraźnie na celu osłabienie jednego konkretnego podmiotu i wpisuje się w szerszy plan dążenia do tzw. „repolonizacji” mediów w kraju. Wszelkie zmiany dotyczące własności mediów muszą być przeprowadzane na zasadach rynkowych, a nie poprzez arbitralną interwencję rządu. Lex-TVN jest wyraźnym i umotywowanym politycznie działaniem na rzecz usankcjonowania takich zmian w ustawodawstwie czemu należy się przeciwstawić.

 

Proponowana zmiana art. 35 ustawy o radiofonii i telewizji oprócz podważenia podstawowych wartości demokratycznych budzi również uzasadnione wątpliwości co do jej zgodności z prawem UE i istnieje wysokie prawdopodobieństwo, że zostanie zaskarżona przez Komisję Europejską. Jak już wskazał Senat, jest ona również niezgodna z Konstytucją RP. Ponadto narusza również polsko-amerykański dwustronny traktat inwestycyjny, jednocześnie podważając reputację Polski jako przyjaznego klimatu dla inwestycji zagranicznych i zrywając stosunki między Polską a jej najbliższym sojusznikiem. Głęboko problematyczne jest również to, że ustawa została niespodziewanie uchwalona przez Sejm tuż przed przerwą parlamentarną, bez uprzedniej zapowiedzi i z naruszeniem zasad jakimi powinna cechować się debata sejmowa. 

 

Pańska decyzja dotycząca nowelizacji ustawy medialnej ma ogromne znaczenie zarówno dla wolności mediów, jak i demokracji i rządów prawa w Polsce. Dlatego też niezwykle istotnym jest, aby nie była ona podyktowana osobistym stosunkiem do przekazu jaki reprezentuje TVN i tym, czy zgadza się Pan z treściami tam przedstawionymi. Decyzja powinna być podjęta w duchu zasady pluralizmu mediów i możliwości dostępu obywateli do informacji z różnych źródeł wiadomości. W podjęciu tak ważnej decyzji priorytetem powinno być zabezpieczenie fundamentalnego prawa mediów do pełnienia swojej roli strażnika i kontrolowania rządzących. I wreszcie – decyzja musi być w zgodzie z zasadą zapewnieniem uczciwych warunków rynkowych w sektorze medialnym, wolnym od ingerencji rządu.

 

Już po uchwaleniu przez Sejm wstępnej ustawy w sierpniu 2021 roku  wyraził Pan Panie Prezydencie swoje obawy dotyczące szkodliwego wpływu ustawy na wolność słowa i stosunki dyplomatyczne. Pomimo zdecydowanego odrzucenia projektu przez Senat, projekt, który obecnie oczekuje na Pańską decyzję pozostaje niezmieniony zarówno w swojej formie, jak i jeżeli chodzi o cel, któremu przyświeca. Biorąc pod uwagę wszystkie omówione przez nas zagrożenia i obawy, zwracamy się do Pana Panie prezydencie z apelem, by dotrzymał Pan słowa, wykorzystał swoje prawo weta by odrzucić proponowane zmiany i tym samym jasno opowiedział się po stronie wolności mediów w Polsce.

Signed by:

  • Archiwum Osiatyńskiego / The Wiktor Osiatyński Archive
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
  • Civic Network Watchdog Poland (Sieć Obywatelska Watchdog Polska)
  • Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Warsaw, Poland)
  • IFEX
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • Public Media Alliance (PMA)
  • Society of Journalists, Warsaw
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

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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Poland: open letter to the Sejm in ‘lex TVN’…

Poland: open letter to the Sejm in ‘lex TVN’ matter

To: All Members of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland

Dear honourable members of the Sejm:

The undersigned international press freedom and journalism organisations, members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), are writing to ask you to urgently oppose the draft law that would restrict media ownership in Poland by investors based in countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

As you know, this bill has been termed the ‘lex TVN’ because it would directly affect TVN, Poland’s largest private television broadcaster, which is owned by the U.S. company Discovery through a subsidiary. We are extremely concerned that this bill is a targeted effort to force Discovery to sell TVN and thereby achieve a shift in TVN’s editorial line.

The stakes here are high. Our organizations have previously expressed serious concern over the deteriorating condition of media pluralism in Poland, which has already been deeply compromised at the regional level through the sale of Polska Press to PKN Orlen. Still, at the national level, Poland has thus far managed to retain a degree of media pluralism and independence, both of which are essential conditions for democracy and rule of law.

However, the approval of the ‘lex TVN’ would change that. The effort to bring TVN’s nationwide channels under control is a dramatic attack on media pluralism. If successful, it would accelerate media capture conditions similar to those in Hungary or Russia, where the vast majority of mainstream media is controlled by the state, directly or indirectly, and where cronyism is rife. It would also seriously damage foreign investors’ trust in fair market competition and the rule of law in Poland.

Indeed, this proposed law has already generated international alarm. In particular, top U.S. officials, including the heads of the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate, have expressed grave concern over the effort to rein in TVN.

The decision to vote against this bill should not be about whether one agrees or disagrees with TVN’s coverage. It is about the core principles that are the foundation of Polish democracy. It is about the right of Polish citizens to receive information from different and diverse sources. It is about the fundamental right of the media to analyse and scrutinize the actions of those in power. And it is about ensuring fair market conditions in the media sector, in particular to protect Poland’s reputation as a trustworthy country for investment.

Laws restricting foreign ownership of the media are not necessarily problematic, and do exist in other EU member states. This measure, however, does not appear to be a principled effort to protect the Polish information landscape. Rather, it is clearly aimed at one particular media outlet, owned by a company based in the U.S., a long-time Polish ally, and is being rushed through the legislative process.

Your voice is critical in this urgent matter. If Poland is to remain a society where news and policies can be freely debated within the marketplace of ideas, it is essential that the ‘lex TVN’ be stopped. We therefore urge you to oppose this bill in its current form.

Signed by:

  • Article 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
Library

Do not extradite Whistleblower Jonathan Taylor

Urgent letter to Croatian Minister of Justice: Do not extradite Whistleblower Jonathan Taylor

URGENT 

Open Letter sent by email to ministar@mpu.hr

 

Mr. Ivan Malenica

Minister of Justice

Ulica grada Vukovara 49

Maksimirska 63

10 000 Zagreb

Republic of Croatia

 

Tuesday 18 May 2021

 

Dear Minister,

 

Jonathan Taylor is a whistleblower; he is a witness to a crime who has cooperated with law enforcement bodies in seven different jurisdictions and should be protected as such.  He has been in Croatia for nearly 10 months appealing against a request for extradition from Monaco.  Now that the Supreme Court of Croatia has issued its judgment, the final decision on whether or not to extradite Mr. Taylor is up to you, the Minister of Justice.

The Supreme Court of Croatia fully recognises Mr. Taylor’s status as a whistleblower and for the reasons we set out below, we urge you, the Minister of Justice, to refuse Monaco’s abusive request to extradite Mr. Taylor to Monaco and to allow him to return home to the United Kingdom immediately.  

Mr. Taylor is a British national who, during the course of his employment as a lawyer for the Dutch listed oil industry firm SBM Offshore N.V., with its main office in the Principality of Monaco, uncovered one of the largest corruption and bribery scandals in the world that resulted in criminal investigations in the United Kingdom, United States of America, Netherlands, Switzerland and Brazil. His evidence contributed to the company paying fines amounting to over $US800 million and, to date, the imprisonment of three individuals directly involved in the scandal, including the former CEO of SBM Offshore N.V.

Monaco to date has failed to initiate a single criminal investigation into highly credible and well documented allegations of bribery and corruption on the part of SBM Offshore.  Instead, it has targeted the one person who blew the whistle and brought public scrutiny to such widespread financial crimes.

On 30 July 2020, over eight years after blowing the whistle on corruption, Jonathan travelled to Dubrovnik, Republic of Croatia for a family holiday.  He was arrested at the airport on the basis of a communication issued by Monaco on what was originally stated to be allegations of bribery and corruption. Not only do these allegations have no proper basis in law or fact and constitute an abuse of process but crucially, Mr. Taylor, his lawyers and the Croatian Courts have since been informed in writing that Mr. Taylor is wanted for questioning to determine whether or not to charge him.

At no stage did the law enforcement or judicial authorities in Monaco seek his extradition from the United Kingdom, where Mr. Taylor has lived since 2013, until he was apprehended in Dubrovnik, for the very reason that they knew it would not succeed.

Mr. Taylor has made it clear since 2017, when he first became aware that his former employer, the Dutch listed SBM Offshore N.V. had lodged a criminal complaint in Monaco three years earlier, that he would answer any questions the authorities had of him from the United Kingdom, either remotely or in person.  And since his unlawful detention in Croatia, the offer to answer questions there has been repeated on the agreement that he is able to return home to the United Kingdom.

For Jonathan to be returned to Monaco to face questioning in order to determine whether charges should be laid amounts to a clear act of retaliation for his having disclosed the corrupt practices of a major offshore oil firm and one of the largest private sector employers in the small principality.

In March 2021, after the Supreme Court of Croatia partially upheld a second appeal against extradition, the Dubrovnik court was ordered to seek further clarification from the Monegasque authorities regarding the status of the criminal proceedings for which Mr. Taylor was allegedly charged.  A letter from the Director of Judicial Services in Monaco sent on 1 March 2021 confirmed there Mr. Taylor is not charged with anything as there are no criminal proceedings, nor is there any execution of a judgement for which he is wanted – which are the only two valid legal bases for seeking extradition.  In fact, Interpol confirmed yet again on the 23rd March 2021 that Mr. Taylor is no longer subject to Interpol Red Notice. This after Monaco withdrew the arrest warrant in December 2020.

 

Further, now that Mr. Taylor’s status as a whistleblower has been confirmed by the Supreme Court of Croatia, even if the Minister accepts that conditions for extradition have been met, in light of Croatia’s duties and obligations under the EU Directive on the protection of whistleblowers and the clearly retaliatory nature of the Monegasque request to extradite Mr. Taylor for questioning, we humbly submit that the decision by the Minister should be to reject it.

Croatia is part of the European Union and one of the 27 Member States which must transpose the EU Directive on the protection of whistleblowers into its national legal system by December 2021. The Directive seeks to harmonise protections for those who report wrongdoing and corruption across Europe. It is crucial that Croatia upholds both the spirit and obligations of the Directive to ensure that whistleblowers are protected by law and this includes ensuring they are immune from civil and criminal liability for having blown the whistle. In a case of such serious corruption like this one, it is essential that vital anti-corruption whistleblower protections do not fall down between borders. To do otherwise, allows those involved in corruption to send a chilling warning to whistleblowers and investigative journalists across the globe that undermines all the efforts of the European Union and the Croatian Government to prevent and root out the corruption that undermines the fabric of its societies and the well-being of its people.

For these very important reasons, and because of his protected status as a whistleblower, we, the undersigned, urge you, the Minister of Justice, to uphold the Rule of Law, reject the extradition order and allow Jonathan Taylor to return home immediately.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Myers, Executive Director, Whistleblowing International Network

on behalf of the Jonathan Taylor Support Committee

With support from:

  • Access Info Europe (Spain/Europe)
  • African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (Nigeria)
  • ARTICLE 19 (United Kingdom)
  • Blueprint for Free Speech (Australia)
  • Campax, Switzerland
  • Center for Whistleblowers Protection (Slovenia)
  • Centre for Free Expression (Canada)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • FIND – Financial Investigations (UK)
  • Free Press Unlimited (Netherlands)
  • General Workers Union Portugal (UGT-P)
  • GlobaLeaks (Italy)
  • Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers (United Kingdom)
  • Human Rights House Zagreb (Croatia)
  • Le Réseau Panafricain de Lutte contre la Corruption (UNIS)
  • Maison des Lanceurs d’Alerte (France)
  • OBC Transeuropa
  • Parrhesia Inc (UK)
  • Pištaljka (Serbia)
  • Protect (United Kingdom)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), (Austria)
  • SpeakOut SpeakUp Ltd (United Kingdom)
  • Terra Cypria-the Cyprus Conservation Foundation (Cyprus)
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation (Malta)
  • The Signals Network (USA/France)
  • Transparency International (Secretariat, Germany)
  • Transparency International Bulgaria
  • Transparency International EU
  • Transparency International Ireland
  • Transparency International Italia
  • Transparency International Slovenia
  • Vanja Jurić, Attorney at law (Croatia)
  • WBN – Whistleblower Netzwerk (Germany)
  • Whistleblowers UK

 

 

  • Baroness Kramer, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing
  • Dr John O’Connor Physician and Whistleblower (Canada)
  • Martin Bright, Editor, Index on Censorship (United Kingdom)
  • Peter Matjašič, Senior Program Officer, Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE)
  • Professor David Lewis, Middlesex University. (United Kingdom)
  • Professor Wim Vandekerckhove, University of Greenwich (United Kingdom)
  • Susan Hawley, Executive Director, Spotlight on Corruption (UK)
  • Thomas Devine, Legal Director, Government Accountability Project (USA)
Flags of Greece and the EU in black and white Library

Greek authorities must thoroughly investigate the shooting of Giorgos…

Greek authorities must thoroughly investigate the shooting of Giorgos Karaivaz

Following the murder of Giorgos Karaivaz in Greece, MFRR partners sent a letter to Greek authorities, European institutions and the United Nations reiterating the importance of a robust, timely and meaningful investigation into the murder

The Media Freedom Rapid Response is gravely concerned about reports that veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz was fatally shot outside his home in Athens today in what appears to be a planned attack. We urge you to ensure a swift and thorough investigation that results in all those responsible for the murder being brought to justice.

On 9 April, Karaivaz reportedly returned home from work on a show on Star TV when unidentified assailants ambushed him. He was found dead outside his car, parked beside a small park near his home. At the time of writing, police had launched a search for the suspected perpetrators, who remain at large. Neighbours did not report hearing gunfire, which would suggest the use of a silenced weapon. This and the nature of the attack suggests a coordinated and planned assassination.

The Media Freedom Rapid Response call for a swift and thorough investigation, which examines any links between the assassination and Karaivaz’s journalistic work as a veteran crime reporter and results in all perpetrators, go-betweens and masterminds being brought to justice. Swift and robust action is needed to protect against a culture of impunity taking root and encouraging others to target and attack journalists and media workers.

Photo of refugees on a beat in the Mediterranean Library

Italy: Wiretapping of journalists reporting on migration must be…

Italy: Wiretapping of journalists reporting on migration must be investigated

The Media Freedom Rapid Response and partner organisations welcome the launch of an investigation into the wiretapping of journalists and their sources in Sicily. However, a robust, swift and systematic investigation will be essential for rebuilding trust and ensuring that all journalists, sources and legal professionals in Italy are protected.

The undersigned Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and partner organisations are deeply alarmed by the reports that prosecutors in Trapani wiretapped hundreds of phone conversations involving at least 15 journalists who report on migration in the central Mediterranean. This included conversations with confidential sources and legal representatives. Few conversations are more sensitive and important than those between journalists, their sources or their lawyers. This is a direct and significant threat to media freedom; you cannot protect journalism without protecting journalistic sources.

The use of surveillance technology to intercept and record journalists’ telephone calls is a serious attack on press freedom with worrying implications. It could discourage sources or whistleblowers from coming forward and open up journalists to judicial persecution and intimidation. Further to this, within a framework of inadequate oversight of these tools, the transcripts of the tapped conversations held by state authorities could be used to target the sources and journalists, modify the state’s engagement with legitimate journalistic requests, or be leaked to intimidate journalists or open them up to threats of violence or harassment.