Bulgarian National Assembly in the former headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Library

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.

North Macedonian flag Library

MFRR expresses concern over recent attacks on journalists and…

MFRR partners express concern over recent attacks on journalists and media workers in North Macedonia

MFRR partners send a letter to Prime Minister Zaev highlighting a number of threats to journalists and media workers that need to be addressed to ensure that media freedom is protected across the country

At the start of Zoran Zaev’s new term as Prime Minister of North Macedonia, the MFRR highlights six cases of harassment, intimidation and physical attacks aimed at journalists and media workers that require immediate and urgent attention by the state to ensure North Macedonia lives up to its commitments to press freedom.

UPDATE: On 29 September the Cabinet of the Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia responded to the letter reiterating the government’s commitment to press freedom. Read the response below

Refugees on Lesbos after the fire at Moria camp Library

The MFRR voices concern over restricted access for media…

ECPMF and MFRR partners write letter to the Greek authorities voicing concern over restricted access for media workers to Moria refugee camp

The Greek authorities are undermining press freedom and threatening the public’s right to know by restricting access for media workers to sites where refugees and asylum seekers are held following the fire that destroyed the Moria camp

Since 9 September 2020, a number of journalists and photographers on the island of Lesbos have been  intermittently restricted from reporting from an area where thousands of refugees and asylum seekers are being held without accommodation or sanitation after fires destroyed large areas of the Moria Registration and Identification Centre.

MFRR partners and other media freedom organisations wrote to Minister for Civil Protection, Michalis Chrisochoidis and Police Lieutenant General Karamalakis calling for all journalists to safely access the relevant sites on Lesbos, in line with Greece’s obligations under international law

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MFRR partners write letter of concern to Albanian government…

MFRR partners write letter of concern to Albanian government regarding the plan to amend the country’s audio visual laws

Proposed amendments to Albania’s audio visual laws threaten to centralise power and ignore recommendations from the Venice Commission and Albanian civil society

MFRR partners, alongside leading media freedom organisations wrote to Chairperson of the Albanian Parliament, Gramoz Ruçi and Albanian parliamentarians to reiterate their serious concern that the amendments fall short of international law and standards.

As noted also by the Venice Commission, the legislative proposals suffer from vagueness and have a number of fundamental flaws that risk causing a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression online and restricting Albanian citizens’ right to access to information.

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Investigative news outlet Declassified UK excluded by Ministry of…

Investigative news outlet Declassified UK excluded by Ministry of Defence

MFRR partner, IPI raises concerns to the UK Government that the exclusion of Declassified UK in apparent retaliation for critical reporting is a significant threat to media freedom

The International Press Institute (IPI) wrote to the UK Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State for Defence about a recent decision by its press office to refuse comment to investigative news outlet Declassified UK.

IPI expressed concern that the sudden decision to exclude the publication from a MOD comment, and the subsequent lack of communication on the matter, appeared to have been taken in retaliation for its previous critical reporting and editorial stance, raising issues for press freedom.

The letter, signed by IPI’s Deputy Director Scott Griffen, sought clarification over whether Declassified UK had been placed on a list of outlets barred for receiving official communications and clarification over MOD policy on excluding certain outlets.

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EU must act on Hungary media market distortion

EU must act on Hungary media market distortion

16 groups, including MFRR partners, urge EC Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to respond to state aid complaints on abuse of state advertising and aid to public broadcaster

A coalition of 16 press freedom, freedom of expression and journalists‘ organisations have urged EU Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager to act on complaints that the Hungarian government has violated EU state aid rules to undermine media pluralism.

Over the past 10 years, the Hungarian government has dismantled media freedom and pluralism largely by manipulating the media market, weaponizing state resources to punish critical media and reward government mouthpieces.

The European Commission has not responded to specific complaints – filed in 2016 and 2018, respectively – alleging the abuse of state aid in Hungary to distort the media landscape, despite the fact that protecting free market competition and ensuring fair use of state aid are core EU values.

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MFRR calls for a robust and transparent investigation into…

MFRR calls for a robust and transparent investigation into threats made against Nello Scavo

Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners and freedom of expression organisations call on the Maltese and Italian governments to ensure a robust, thorough and transparent investigation into Neville Gafà for threats made against journalist, Nello Scavo

On 27 June 2020, Neville Gafà, a former person of trust in the Office of the Maltese Prime Minister, issued a threat against Italian journalist, Nello Scavo of the national newspaper, Avvenire. In response to a tweet posted by AlarmPhone, an independent support organisation for people crossing the Mediterranean, Gafà called on the organisation to “stop your dirty business”. When Scavo responded questioning the former official’s record, Gafà called for him to “stop your dirty business. If not, we will be stopping you.” 

On 7th August, MFRR partners and free expression organisations sent a letter to Maltese and Italian authorities calling for robust, thorough and transparent investigation into Neville Gafà.

On 19th August, Neville Gafà confirmed he was being investigated: “I am being investigated by Malta’s police after a complaint was filed against me by a foreign journalist. A magisterial inquiry has been requested by the foreign ministry – the Maltese ministry, not a foreign one. No such complaints will stop me from fighting or broadcast what is happening in the Mediterranean. I haven’t even started. There are no compromises on Malta.”

However, we have not received a response from either Maltese or Italian authorities.

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MFRR partners are profoundly concerned about media freedom attacks…

MFRR partners are profoundly concerned about media freedom attacks in Hungary, following EU Summit

Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners are profoundly concerned about the latest media freedom attacks in Hungary, which take place only days after the EU Summit, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán praised the rule of law situation in his country.

On 22 July 2020, László Bodolai, the head of Magyar Fejlődésért Alapítvány (Foundation for Hungarian Progress, owner of Index Zrt.), fired the Index.hu editor-In-Chief, Szabolcs Dull. After a letter to the owners signed by the outlet’s journalistic team was refused calling for Dull to be reinstated, the editorial board, made up of Attila Tóth-Szenesi, Veronika Munk, and János Haász, alongside 70 journalists tendered their resignation from Index.  

This is the latest attack on media freedom in Hungary and represents a further reduction of the space within which free and independent media outlets can operate.

Update: On 18 September Vera Jourova, Vice-President of the European Commission responded to this letter on behalf of the President Ursula von der Leyen

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Serbia: MFRR calls for all journalists and media workers…

Serbia: MFRR calls for all journalists and media workers to be protected

Between 7th and 11th July, 28 journalists and media workers have been attacked by demonstrators and police officers during demonstrations across Serbia

MFRR partners and leading free expression, journalist and media freedom organisations have come together to call for all attacks and threats to journalists to be investigated fully to ensure that perpetrators of violence, including police officers and other state entities, are held to account.

This open letter has been sent to the Minister of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, Dr Nebojša Stefanović

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MFRR call on the UK Government to act in…

Declining media freedom in the UK

MFRR partners sent this letter to UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson raising their concerns regarding the decline in press freedom in the UK and attempts of the UK Government to restrict media scrutiny of its policies and discredit critical reporting.

An independent media is vital to hold governments to account, inform the public and share information that strengthens civic debate and the recent actions to restrict access, discredit critical journalism and isolate journalists and media workers highlights a number of distinct threats to the state of press freedom in the UK

UPDATE: On 27th July, the MFRR received a letter from the Direct Communications Unit at 10 Downing Street in relation to the open letter sent on 29th May. Read the UK Government’s response below