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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.

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.

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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

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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.