Italy: Thorough investigation required after arson attack on car…

Italy: Thorough investigation required after arson attack on car of journalist Rossella Puccio

The partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today denounce the arson attack on the family car of Italian freelance journalist Rossella Puccio in the city of Palermo and express solidarity with the reporter as police work to identify the perpetrators and their motive.

The targeted attack happened during the night of April 3, while the journalist’s family car was parked in a public area in the Sferracavallo district of the city. Footage captured by a nearby CCTV camera showed a man approach the vehicle, pour liquid from a bottle over the car and light it on fire.


The car was completely destroyed in the blaze. No one claimed responsibility for the attack and the motive is currently unclear. Puccio is a freelance journalist who collaborates with several news outlets, including Palermo Today and Quotidiano di Sicilia.


Our organisations welcome the swift action of police to open a criminal investigation and urge local law enforcement and judicial authorities, working in tandem with the government’s national Coordination Centre, to treat this case as a matter of urgency. All those responsible for carrying out or planning this clear act of intimidation must be swiftly identified and held accountable.


We have reported this case to the Council of Europe Platform for the safety of journalists, and hope to see a swift response from Italian authorities to provide updates on the details of the criminal investigation. This is the fifth physical attack on journalists in Italy so far in 2023, as recorded on the Mapping Media Freedom platform.


Moreover, we note with concern that this is not the first time that Puccio has faced threats due to her work. In August 2020, she was violently assaulted by a group of people while documenting an intervention by the carabinieri to clear a tent city in the Barcarello area of Palermo. Seven attackers were later identified, and their trial began in January 2023, with the next hearing scheduled for May.


Ten years ago, in 2013, the same car was vandalised and had its wheels damaged, according to media reports. No one claimed responsibility for that incident and no one was arrested or charged. It is unclear whether any of these incidents are connected.


Our organisations join local and national journalist unions and organisations in Italy in expressing our support and solidarity with Puccio, and all journalists in Italy who face physical threats and intimidation due to their work. We will continue to monitor the situation closely in the coming weeks. We also urge relevant authorities to make sure that journalists in Italy are not subject to physical attacks and intimidations, and are free and safe to carry out their work.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • 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. 

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Action needed: The European Commission Safety of Journalists Recommendation

Action needed: The European Commission Safety of Journalists Recommendation

Today, 16 March 2023, marks 18 months since the adoption by the European Commission of its Recommendation to the Member States on ensuring the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists and other media professionals in the European Union. The European Commission is due to perform an evaluation based on key performance indicators, to take stock of the progress achieved by the Member States. In this context, the partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) call on the European Commission and the Member States to develop comprehensive and regular reporting mechanisms that involve all key stakeholders to effectively measure and continually follow up on the Recommendation’s implementation.

We urge the Member States to take action for the safety of journalists without further delay and implement the provisions of the Recommendation.


The European Commission’s Recommendation came at a critical time. As documented by the MFRR on our Mapping Media Freedom platform and analysed in the Monitoring Reports, as well as the Council of Europe’s Platform to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists, the safety of journalists in Europe is in deep crisis. Reporters across the Union face many forms of pressure and attacks. In 2022, the MFRR recorded 415 alerts in EU Member States. Verbal attacks such as intimidation and threats or insults constituted the main type of incident, involving 42% of all alerts, while physical attacks were involved in 20% of cases and attacks to property in 17%. The latest Annual Report by the Council of Europe Platform partners meanwhile characterises the situation as a “context of a continued degradation of press freedom across the continent”.


At the time of its publication, the MFRR partners underlined that the key to the Recommendation’s success will lie in following up on its outcomes and holding the Member States to account. Despite clear international laws and standards for improving journalists’ safety, they did too little to turn the tide on the rising number of attacks on journalists. The Recommendation in this regard explicitly aims to support the implementation of the Council of Europe’s standards, particularly its Recommendation 2016(4).


To help kickstart the conversation on the Recommendation’s implementation, the MFRR is currently surveying EU-based affiliates of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), which are journalists’ unions and professional associations, on the actions and progress achieved so far. Their active involvement, and that of journalists and media workers more broadly, by the Member States and the European Commission in putting the Recommendation into practice is central to ensuring that the measures taken by Member States are effective. The survey focuses, in particular, on those specific recommendations that explicitly call for the involvement of journalists’ representatives. While the MFRR will publish the full results of the survey later this Spring, three key preliminary findings are worth highlighting now:


  • After 18 months, the implementation of the Recommendation is very uneven, with pronounced differences between the Member States and from one recommendation to another.
  • Evaluating the implementation status is a nuanced undertaking, with our research indicating many instances of partial implementation.
  • Obtaining a clear picture of any progress achieved becomes even more challenging when considering the impact. For one, some of the implemented measures and actions may need time to yield results, and it may simply be too early to draw either positive or negative conclusions about their effectiveness. In some other cases, even partial implementation of a recommendation has had a positive impact already, which can provide helpful insight on how to proceed with structuring further reforms for the Member State involved or for others who are lagging behind even further.


Although merely preliminary, these findings are nevertheless instructive as to the task ahead for the Member States and the Commission. It is clear that they must develop reporting and evaluation tools and procedures at national and regional levels that result in a meaningful assessment of the measures and actions that have been undertaken to implement the Recommendation. Measuring performance will require a nuanced approach to collecting data and developing indicators to capture the complexity of the challenge at hand. Only then will the Recommendation be able to deliver on its aim of strengthening media freedom and pluralism by promoting joint and coordinated efforts by the Member States. Moreover, given the uneven implementation, the process focusing on the Recommendation’s implementation evidently cannot be a one-off. Sustained engagement will be needed going forward and must involve all relevant stakeholders, including journalists and media workers, their associations and unions, civil society and media owners.


As concerns the design of this process, we believe useful lessons can be drawn from the experience with the Rule of Law reports to ensure its credibility, inclusiveness and impact. The MFRR partners call on the European Commission and Member States to develop a transparent process for collecting and evaluating pertinent data. Core information about all main aspects should be communicated well ahead of time. This should include clear timelines, criteria for selecting stakeholders based on protocols established jointly with non-State actors, and a transparent methodology for processing their input. To ensure the process generates action, it should result in specific recommendations and follow-up questions, guiding governments on the actions needed to address identified shortcomings, enabling civil society to monitor follow-up action and seek accountability, and promoting a transparent and participatory dialogue between all stakeholders.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Press Institute
  • 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.

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MFRR Summit 2023 | Day 1

MFRR Summit 2023 | Day 1

Safety of journalists


Journalist safety in Europe was thrown into the spotlight in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with at least 10 journalists killed since 24 February. Outside of Ukraine, Europe remains an increasingly hostile environment for journalists to report from. From online attacks to physical violence, Day 1 of the Summit will highlight threats to journalists in EU Member States and candidate countries, sparking conversations on initiatives to support journalists in exile, reporting from a conflict zone, surveillance and spyware, and harassment in the newsroom.

Opening message

12:30 – 12:50 CET

The MFRR Summit 2023 will open with a speech from Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency


  • Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency

Keynote: Reporting the war in a democracy

Freedom, security, and responsibility

12:50 – 13:30 CET

The state of the Ukrainian media landscape, the conditions for reporters covering the war, and the safety and protection of journalists in the country will all take centre stage during the first keynote of the MFRR Summit 2023. Ukrainian journalist Nataliya Gumenyuk will discuss the challenges and resilience of Ukrainian media as it faces its greatest threat in modern history. She will draw parallels between covering the war and covering natural disasters, rather than focusing on war correspondence in a political context. During her speech, Gumenyuk will draw links to security, responsibility, and free expression in times of conflict; as well as the dehumanisation caused by propaganda and how this enables war crimes.


  • Natalia Gumenyuk, Director, Founder, The Public Interest Journalism Lab

One year of Russian aggression

How to support Ukrainian journalists’ work

13:45 – 14:30 CET

24 February 2023 marked one year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Some Ukrainian journalists had previous experience with Russian aggression through the occupation of Donbas and Crimea. However, the escalation in this war of aggression –  with the declared goal to extinguish the Ukrainian nation – created new existential threats for Ukrainian media. Many media organisations and journalists had to flee as their homes came under attack or occupation. But while the media market collapsed, many Ukrainian journalists and newsrooms continued to work under extremely difficult circumstances. They became the eyes and ears of both Ukrainian citizens and also people around the world. In the meantime, international correspondents arrived in Ukraine to cover the conflict. In this session the panellists will speak about their work in the war, their achievements, their needs, and the support they have received so far.


  • Vassili Golod, Correspondent, ARD in Kyiv
  • Oksana Romaniuk, Institute of Mass Information
  • Kateryna Sergatskova, Editor in Chief, Zaborona Media, co-founder, 2402 Fund 


  • Rebecca Harms, Executive Board Member, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Former MEP

A view from the outside

Reporting in exile

14:45-15:30 CET

Due to threats to security and wellbeing, journalists, media workers, and even entire newsrooms can be forced to leave their home countries and find ways to continue their profession in exile. Relocation programmes offer temporary shelter for journalists that face harassment, intimidation, and threats as a result of their work. In this session, a journalist who had to leave their country will talk about their experience of being enrolled in the ECPMF Journalists-in-Residence programme; a representative of an exiled newsroom will discuss covering news from abroad; and a manager of the JiR programme will talk about the practicalities of and problems in offering safe shelter to journalists and media workers.


  • Tatsiana Ashurkevich, Political Journalist and Observer, Former Journalist-in-Residence, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
  • Matthew Kasper, Publisher, Meydan TV Co-Director, Vereinigung für die Demokratie e. V.
  • Alina Toropova, Journalists-in-Residence Programme Manager, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom


  • Xhemajl Rexha, Chairperson, Association of Journalists of Kosovo

Surveying the landscape

Initiatives to counter spyware

15:45 – 16:05 CET

This discussion will explore the strengths and weaknesses of the current draft of Article 4 of the EMFA, through a comparative analysis of the existing independent authorities that the article requires member states to designate, in order to deal with complaints about breaches of provisions of the article itself. The lack of judicial ex-ante evaluation mechanisms will also be discussed as a key missing element which has attracted much criticism from media-focused NGOs and civil society organisations which have been called upon to provide feedback by the Commission.


  • Eugenia Siapera, Professor of Information and Communication Studies, Head of the ICS School at University College Dublin
  • Prof. em. Dirk Voorhoof, Professor, Human Rights Centre Ghent University


  • Dimitri Bettoni, Editor and Researcher, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa


Harassment in the Newsroom

16:15 – 16:30 CET

Harassment in the newsroom is an undeniable form of abuse that many journalists experience, yet most incidents do not come to the surface. In 2022, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s (BIRN) flagship website Balkan Insight published the investigation “Code of Silence: Fear, Stigma Surrounding Abuse of Greek Women Journalists,” a report on the abuse and harassment of Greek women journalists in their workplaces. The report covers incidents from 1993 to 2021, revealing that women journalists do not feel safe reporting incidents. In this spotlight interview, BIRN journalist Eleni Stamatoukou will explain the findings of her report and her methods of giving a voice to the women journalists that had to keep silent about the abuse they experienced.


  • Eleni Stamatoukou, Journalist, BIRN


  • Neus Vidal, Monitoring Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

Online Abuse Self-Defense Training


17:00 – 18:30 CET

This session equips writers and journalists, as well as their allies and employers, with practical tools and strategies to defend against online abuse. Taking a holistic approach to digital safety, we’ll talk about how to prepare, respond, take care of yourself, and support others.


Please note that this workshop is a closed event. You must register using the button below, even if you have already registered for the Summit.


  • Gisela Perez de Acha, Digital Safety Trainer & Investigative Reporter, PEN America
  • Viktorya Vilk, Programme Director, Digital Safety & Free Expression, PEN America

Albania: MFRR and Safe Journalist Network condemn attack on…

Albania: MFRR and Safe Journalist Network condemn attack on journalist Elvis Hila and his wife

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and the Safe Journalists Network today condemn the shocking physical attack on Albanian journalist Elvis Hila and his wife in Lezhë and urge state law enforcement authorities to swiftly detain the suspected perpetrators and ensure that all those responsible face justice.

The violent attack took place at around 4.40pm on Wednesday 25 January, one day after Hila had reported for and Report TV about a local court case in Lezhë in which a defendant had been sentenced to a year in prison for forgery of a court document.


Soon after publication, Hila said he received a phone call from an individual connected to the defendant who insulted and threatened him about the report. An hour later, another individual then called Hila and demanded that he meet him outside a bar in the city.


When the journalist arrived in the car with his wife, two men approached and insisted he get out of the vehicle to explain the article. During the incident that followed, the men allegedly punched and kicked Hila and punched his wife in the neck. Both required medical treatment following the assaults.


Speaking to media after being released from hospital, Hila publicly identified his alleged attackers and said the violence would not silence his reporting. Specialists for the Investigation of Crimes in Lezhë opened a criminal investigation and are currently searching for two male suspects.


Our organisations welcome the swift action by police and urge them to now conduct a thorough investigation to confirm the motive and quickly detain the alleged perpetrators. All those responsible for ordering, orchestrating and carrying out this serious attack must face justice.


We also welcome the swift condemnation of the attack by the country’s President, Bajram Begaj, and stress that vocal denunciation by political leaders in cases involving violence against the press should be the standard response in all such incidents, now and in the future.


This attack is a worrying indication of the continued threats that journalists in Albania reporting on the actions of organised crime groups continue to face. Hila was attacked simply for carrying out his public interest mission of covering the verdict of a court case.


As many of our organisations noted following a recent media freedom mission to Albania, while serious physical assaults such as this thankfully remain rare, cases of violence against journalists underscore the dangers and climate of distrust that journalists face due to their work.


Swift prosecution of those behind this attack by judicial authorities is vital for discouraging potential acts of violence against the media in the future and ensuring justice for the victims. Moving forward, our organisations will continue to closely monitor this case and hope to see positive developments in the coming days and weeks.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Safe Journalist Network

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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Portugal media freedom is high Allgemein

Portugal: Press freedom remains robust even as media face…

Portugal: Press freedom remains robust even as media face resource strains

Strong legal framework and lack of political interference in media create open climate for independent journalism

By IPI contributor Cláudia Marques Santos

Press freedom remains strong in Portugal. The country is democratically stable and the risks of government interference in the media are low. Both the constitution and the national Press Law safeguard journalists in their daily reporting.

But there are some areas of concern: journalists’ deteriorating work conditions and precarity, as well as significant concentration of media groups. The number of cases from Portugal that end up in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding press freedom violations is also high. The ECtHR has convicted Portugal in three major cases this year alone.

Portugal consistently ranks well in international press freedom rankings. In addition, according to the 2022 Digital News Report, 61 percent of Portuguese people have trust in news overall as well as in news they read or listen to. The European University Institute’s 2022 Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM) finds that Portugal presents a stable situation.

“Portugal is not a problematic country”, says Carla Baptista, academic and one of the authors of the 2022 MPM entry on Portugal. “In the case of political independence, the question is whether there are media outlets that are directly controlled by political forces, by parties or others. [In Portugal] Political parties cannot own television or radio stations, they can only own newspapers. There is no direct use of the media [by political parties] as there is in many European countries.”

Besides this low risk concerning political independence, the country has a strong legal framework regarding the practice of journalism and the right to inform, as well as guaranteeing the fundamental right not to reveal sources.

Plus, according to the Media for Democracy Monitor, Portugal scores maximum points concerning pluralism in newsrooms’ rules and practices. “There’s no tradition for news media to endorse publicly a political party or a presidential candidate”, it said in its 2022 report. “All of the main media insist on independence as their supreme value, promising to offer their audience all the relevant perspectives on any issue under debate.”

Some challenges remain, however. In early 2021, controversy erupted when it became known that two Portuguese journalists were subject to a two-month long police surveillance operation, in 2018 April and May, ordered by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, with the purpose of revealing their confidential sources, because of investigations they were doing about corruption and a major football club.

As a result, the European Commission severely criticized Portugal, considering it “unacceptable” that, in a state governed by the rule of law, journalists are subject to police surveillance and harassment when it comes to accessing sources. Just last April, the Lisbon Court of Appeal reverted the investigating judge’s decision not to order a trial of the two journalists for crimes of breach of secrecy of justice.

Legal landscape for press freedom

Though the rights of Portuguese journalists are secured by the Press Law (nr. 2/99, whose Article 1 says “freedom of the press includes the right to inform, to be informed and to be informed without hindrance or discrimination”), the practice of Portuguese courts explains why many cases end up in ECtHR.

Since 2005, the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR) has ruled in more than 20 cases that Portugal violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding freedom of expression. These have included cases involving the television broadcaster SIC, daily newspaper Público and newsmagazine Visão.

In December 2003 SIC reported that the then Azores’ secretary of Agriculture and Fisheries was implicated in a pedophile case in the islands, which was being investigated. Last year the ECtHR found in favour of SIC.

In 2017 the ECtHR found in favour of José Manuel Fernandes, Público’s former director, who had been convicted in court over a 2006 editorial article he wrote about the then newly elected president of the Supreme Court, criticizing his inauguration speech.

In 2016 the ECtHR also found in favour of Visão. Six years earlier, the news magazine had been convicted over an opinion article saying that the then prime minister would have to be on drugs to start a war with a political commentator (who is today the president of Portugal).

And only this year the ECtHR found against Portugal in the case of a satirical newspaper based in Madeira. In 2007, this newspaper had written that “unloading a ship at Caniças is the same thing as unloading a pallet of money at the orange foundation”, referring to the orange-coloured PSD party that ruled the island for decades.

“It’s cultural”, says Ricardo Correia Afonso, a Portuguese lawyer whose career has been built on defending journalists in court. “Until very recently, Portugal was a country where you’d put freedom of expression and the right to inform on one side and the right to honour and good name on the other.” Afonso said that, traditionally, the latter principle prevailed.

Another concern is the horizontal concentration of media companies, with several big media groups controlling the market, as noted in the 2022 Media Pluralism Monitor. In 2015, a new Transparency Law obliged media companies to report every year their financial outcomes and ownership details to Portugal’s media regulator, Entidade Reguladora para a Comunicação Social (ERC). While this has increased transparency in media ownership, concerns remain about some large media companies not sending all the required data. Another concern this study points out is the lack of funding of this institution, which has an ex-judge as president.


Working conditions

Job security is another major concern in Portuguese journalism. According to the Media for Democracy Monitor, Portugal scores poorly on this metric. “In the last 10 years, all of the most important Portuguese news media downsized their newsrooms, dismissing dozens of journalists”. Between 2009 and 2020 the number of professional journalists decreased 23 percent, from 6,673 to 5,124.

Resources for Investigative journalism have also dropped, which isn’t a good indicator for democracy. News media are clearly underfunded. Most journalists in newsrooms aren’t given time to investigate- Freelancers cannot afford going to court if someone presses charges against them. All of this raises the risk that important stories may not come to light.

Another matter in discussion in Portugal is the fact that the Press Law, which dates from 1999, hasn’t been updated since. Digital media, for instance, remain unregulated. In Portugal, media matters are under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture. The last government had a secretary of state for cinema, television and media affairs. This specific position no longer exists, although media still remain under the culture ministry.

Disinformation also stands out as a great risk for democracy and news reporting in Portugal. In May 2021 a law (no. 27/2021) was published approving the Portuguese Charter on Human Rights in the Digital Era. “Alongside ensuring basic rights, freedoms, and guarantees for citizens in the online environment, the legislation establishes that the state must protect citizens from people who produce, reproduce, and disseminate misinformation, in line with the European Action Plan against Disinformation”, writes the Digital News Report. On the other hand, according to Media Democracy Monitor, there’s no significant online harassment of Portuguese journalists. There are exceptions, however.

In December 2020 and January 2021, journalists who made an investigation on the broadcaster SIC about the far-right populist party Chega were subjected to a torrent of insults, harassment, and threats online. The same happened earlier this month, with the release in several media of an investigation made by a new consortium of Portuguese investigative journalists about online hate speech made by police forces in private social media groups, powered by movements linked to Chega.

Another concerning phenomenon is the increasing bias displayed in online news platforms. “There is a proliferation of digital news media that are a one person company”, says Carla Baptista. “The law only demands an editorial project and a director which means ERC approves news media almost automatically.” Fake news is a big problem, and Portugal is no exception.

This article is part of IPI’s series “Media freedom in Europe in shadow of Covid”, which comprises news and analysis from IPI’s network of correspondets throughout the EU. Articles do not necessarily reflect the views of IPI. The reporting series is supported by funding from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for FReedom and by the European Commission (DG Connect) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response coalition.

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Memorial photo and candles for Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova are seen in Trnava, Slovakia, on 29th February, 2020. Kuciak, a Slovak investigative journalist, along with his girlfriend, was found shot dead on 25 February 2018 in their home in Slovakia Allgemein

How Slovak politicians did not learn from the murder…

How Slovak politicians did not learn from the murder of a journalist

Recent legal reforms show promise, yet discrediting attacks on journalists continue


By IPI contributor Beata Balogová, editor-in-chief of SME

Igor Matovič, the current finance minister of Slovakia and former prime minister, sailed to power on the wave of public anger and disappointment that in 2018 followed the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová.


“Permanent attacks on journalists, defamations, suggesting that journalists are anti-Slovak prostitutes and enemies of the nation” – Matovič listed the sins of former prime minister Robert Fico against the press in an official press release on the day the public learned about the murders. He blamed Fico for “creating an atmosphere” that resulted in the killing of a journalist.

Robert Fico made journalists who uncovered corruption scandals of his governments targets through his permanent attacks. In less than a month after the murders, he had to resign on the heel of massive anti-corruption protests.

In the following parliamentary elections in 2019, Matovič, who throughout his political career used findings of top investigative journalists to build an image of himself of an anti-corruption activist, defeated Fico and became the next prime minister.

But how did it happen that almost five years later Matovič is not far behind Fico when it comes to verbal attacks against journalists? Most recently Matovič likened critical journalists to propagandists of Adolf Hitler and suggested that journalists can be bought for 500 euros to write favorable stories about their client. On a live radio show he also said he would gradually take down the corrupt journalists.


Promises and reality

The bouquet of political promises over the grave of Jan and Martina included stronger protection for journalists. This should have partially materialized in a constitutional law granting a special status for journalists along with an equal approach of state institutions to private and state-owned or public media. This law would also curb the possibility of state intervention (such as nationalization) against private media, for example.

The draft of this law is still parked at the ministry of culture, and it is unlikely that this government will find enough political will to pass such legislation.

The parliament, however, in June 2022 did adopt a long-due package of media laws to replace the legislation that had been ignoring the existence of digital media. The beginnings were promising, with the process appearing to reflect what one would find in a press-freedom-conscious country. The ministry of culture consulted on the draft with publishers of key media and experts so that it creates equal ground for different types of media (print, digital, broadcast).

The ambition is to bring more transparency to media ownership by creating a register for media. The state can remove any media from the register if it is financed by someone from the UN sanction list. Media companies must report their sponsors and all financial donations over 1,200 euros annually to the state. The legislation also introduces regulation for video-sharing platforms.

However, in parliament the law became a victim of political bargaining. In a last-minute move, part of the ruling coalition conditioned the adoption of the law packages on the insertion of a “right of reply” for public officials who feel that a media report affects their privacy, honour or dignity into the legislation. This applies also to opinions if these rise from false information.

It was either with a right to statement or no legislation passed at all. Journalists felt that the right of statement was an act of revenge from the ruling coalition in response to journalists’ critical approach to the government and the way they fulfilled their watchdog role during the pandemic.


Inspiration from Orbán

In September 2022, the Ordinary People, the party of Matovič, unexpectedly and without any previous discussion submitted to the parliament a proposal to impose a levy on the largest private broadcasters. The public broadcaster would not pay such a levy under this proposed legislation. If adopted, the levy would be a discriminatory measure that directly threatens independent media and allows the state to make interventions into their operation, media lawyers and press freedom advocates have warned.

Many see behind the move an inspiration from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has been trying to suffocate the last television station that still broadcasts critical news, RTL Klub. Earlier this year Orbán announced the reintroduction of a tailor-made tax for broadcasters, like the one he had to kill four years ago after massive criticism from European institutions. Since the announcement, the government provided no further details, thus the broadcaster did not know what to expect. However, on October 19 the Orbán government said it will not collect the advertisement tax next year.

Matovič did not discuss this law with experts or the independent broadcasters.


Ján and Martina

It was clear from the day of the murder that some politicians would abuse the memory of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová, using them for their own benefit. Matovič would often refer to Jan Kuciak when lashing out at independent media for criticizing his political performance.

When marking the anniversary of the murder in 2022, in a rather ambiguous statement, he said he wished that journalists become like Ján Kuciak. He publicly lashed out at Kuciak’s editor at Aktuality, Peter Bárdy, and said that he does not come anywhere close to Kuciak and only pretends to be his mentor. He called Bardy a shame.

Matovič had a chance to change the approach of politicians towards the media in Slovakia –  not only in the sense of improving the legal environment but also cleaning the atmosphere of hate and verbal attacks. Instead, he sees himself as a victim of the media and compared his situation to those of Holocaust victims. The fact that he is now finance minister, and therefore wields signficiant influence in government, represents a challenge to the independent media as well: having to ponder when to react and when to ignore his attacks against the press.

Orbán succeeded in building elected autocracy in Hungary because he completely captured the press and significantly complicated the functioning of the independent media. Therefore, people in Slovakia should be disturbed by similar tendencies, including politicians describing the press as an organized criminal group or enemies of the nation.

This article is part of IPI’s reporting series “Media freedom in Europe in the shadow of Covid”, which comprises news and analysis from IPI’s network of correspondents throughout the EU. Articles do not necessarily reflect the views of IPI. This reporting series is supported by funding from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and by the European Commisson (DG Connect) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response coalition.

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The EC Recommendation on journalists’ safety: A view from…

The EC Recommendation on journalists’ safety:

A view from the field one year on

21 September, 14:00 CEST.

On 16 September 2021, the European Commission published their Recommendation on the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists. The Recommendation illustrated the European Commission’s commitment to the safety of journalists and set out a range of measures that – if implemented – would see a marked improvement to journalist safety in EU member states.


One year on, journalists in Europe still face major threats to their safety and security. In this webinar, we will hear from a range of journalists about their experiences with the aim of creating a view from the media field, one year after the publication of the Recommendation.


Guusje Somer

Policy & Advocacy Officer, Free Press Unlimited


Emilia Sercan

Romanian investigative journalist, author and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Science within the University of Bucharest

Maja Sever

Journalist and President of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Feindbild-6 Library

Feindbild Journalist 6 – Hatred on the Doorstep

Feindbild Journalist 6 – Hatred on the Doorstep

(Leipzig, 14/06/2022) — The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response, (MFRR) has published the English translation of the 2021 iteration of “Feindbild”, an annual study into politically-motivated violence against journalists in Germany. “Feindbild 6 – Hatred on the Doorstep” was first published in German in April 2022.

Key findings: A new negative record

As part of the study, ECPMF recorded a record number of 83 physical attacks on journalists and media workers, an increase of 14 from the previous year. These attacks affected 124 media workers or teams, although the researchers assume that the number of unreported cases is high. Co-author of the report, Martin Hoffmann said:


Since we started recording cases in 2015, we have never verified so many violent attacks against media professionals as in 2021. Serious threats and physical attacks are part of the everyday work of more and more journalists. This does not remain without consequences. A growing number of journalists are therefore withdrawing from covering demonstrations.


Demonstrations and protests were the context in which attacks against the press happened most frequently in Germany. 75% took place at demonstrations of pandemic-related protest networks such as Querdenken.


As in previous years, Saxony remains the largest offender when it comes to politically-motivated violence against journalists, with 23 recorded incidents in 2021. However, this year marked an increase in the number of attacks taking place in western Germany.


The political background of the attackers in 2021 was highly varied. 39% of attackers came from right-wing perpetrators, 1% from the left, and 39% could not be attributed to any particular political stance.


Attacks increased towards the end of 2021, with 19 recorded in December and 18 in January 2022 — the highest number recorded in any two months since the start of the research in 2015.


Support from BDZV

For the first time, the German Federal Association of Digital Publishers and Newspaper Publishers (BDZV) supported the production of the Feindbild study. Speaking of the report’s findings, Mr. Sigrun Albert, General Manager of BDZV said:


Unfortunately, the new Feindbild study confirms our assumption that local journalists are increasingly being targeted by violent attacks because of their work. Hateful attacks and massive digital threats are also at least as disturbing.


BDZV will partner with and support ECPMF to implement long-term monitoring of attacks facing journalists in Germany and to develop counter-measures in response. Dr. Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director of ECPMF, said:


What we need is more protection for media professionals, more consistent punishment of criminal offences, and more media literacy education. The partnership with BDZV enables us to explore and analyse the problems in the local space more intensively in the future. We are looking forward to the collaboration.

This report 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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Peter R. De Vries Library

Killing of Peter R. de Vries highlights press freedom…

Killing of Peter R. de Vries highlights press freedom challenges in Netherlands

By IPI Contributor Tan Tunali

The line in front of the Royal Theatre Carré in Amsterdam was almost a kilometer long, and the waiting time was over two hours for mourners who had come to pay tribute to renowned Dutch crime reporter Peter R de Vries. The 64-year-old journalist had been shot in the evening of July 6, only moments after leaving a TV studio where he had participated in a talk show. He died in hospital nine days later.

The details behind the murder are still unknown, but the office of public prosecution has suggested a link to de Vries’ role in the so-called Marengo trial, a criminal case against leading members of a criminal organization involved in drug trafficking. De Vries had been acting as advisor to Nabil B., a former member who is testifying against Ridouan Taghi, the principal suspect in the trial.

Following the deadly attack on De Vries and threats made against the TV program, the studio moved its broadcasting to a different location outside of Amsterdam. In recent years, organized crime has been linked to threats made against other media outlets and crime reporters in the Netherlands.

In June 2018, the Amsterdam offices of leading Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf was attacked when a van repeatedly rammed the paper’s entrance before been set on fire by the driver. In the same month, the editorial offices of weekly Panorama were attacked with an anti-tank weapon. Perpetrators were convicted to prison sentences, but the exact background of the attacks remains unclear.

The killing of de Vries comes at a time when the media in the Netherlands are under increasing pressure. For the moment, the country still ranks high on international freedom of expression lists. However, the Netherlands witnessed a clear drop on the World Press Freedom Index last year.

Last year, Dutch public broadcaster NOS decided to scrub its well-known logo from satellite busses and other equipment amidst a rise in attacks on the station’s journalists reporting from anti-government demonstrations, often related to protests against the Dutch government’s Covid-19 measures. The decision came as a shock to large parts of the Dutch public.

However, many of the county’s journalists were less surprised because they had experienced the increasingly hostile environment themselves. NOS editor-in-chief Marcel Gelauff warned in a statement after the decision to forego the station logo: “Journalism is under attack of people who only want to see their own world[view], trying to impede other perspectives, hence harming press freedom.”

Increasing attacks on journalists

The global Covid-19 pandemic has also put the issue of rising violence against journalists in stark relief. Hate speech and attacks on journalists are increasing. During nationwide riots following the government’s announcement of evening curfews, stones were thrown at photographers, and camera crews were violently attacked. At a Covid-19 testing facility in the town of Urk, a NOS reporter and his bodyguard were attacked with pepper spray.

The recent outburst of physical violence towards journalists is unprecedented, but attacks have already become the norm online. Clarice Gargard, a columnist for daily NRC and founder of the feminist platform Lilith Magazine, received thousands of hate messages during the live registration of an anti-Black Pete demonstration in 2018. Gargard reported the messages to the police which eventually led to the convictions of several of the people behind the threats, who were fined or were sentenced to several hours of community service.

Several politicians in the rightwing opposition have joined the fray and publicly lashed out against the media. Leader of the far-right Freedom Party (PVV) Geert Wilders called journalists ‘riffraff’ (‘Tuig van de Richel”) in a Tweet. Thierry Baudet, leader of the far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) repeatedly attacked the media as well, for example by repeatedly calling broadcaster NOS ‘fake news’.

In reaction to the increasing difficulties Dutch journalists are facing, the local journalist’s union NVJ, the Institute of editors-in-chief, in cooperation with the public prosecutor and the Dutch police established a joint initiative called PersVeilig (“Safe Press”) in 2019. One of the main goals of the initiative is to train and advise journalists on how to react to threats and, if necessary, to prioritize court cases against perpetrators. In the first seven months of this year, PersVeilig received 176 cases resulting in 41 reports to the police, versus 121 over the entire last year.

While the Dutch government often stresses the importance of a free press, it has been accused of playing an active role in the stifling the work of the media by preventing access to crucial state documents, something public authorities are legally bound to facilitate under the freedom of information act (Dutch: Wet Openbaarheid Bestuur, WOB). Often documents which are released arrive late and are incomplete. Sometimes they are not released at all.

Earlier this year, the government was forced to resign over a childcare subsidies scandal, in which the government withheld crucial information to press and parliament, allowing state misconduct to continue, at great human cost to the victims who in some cases lost their livelihoods.

In the cabinet’s resignation, prime-minister Mark Rutte, promised ‘a new governance culture’, and ‘more transparency’. But old habits die hard. Recently, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) lost a court case against current affairs program Nieuwsuur. The journalists had demanded access to state documents regarding the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, instead of putting the caretaker prime minister’s promise of more transparency into practice, the ministry defied the court and refused to provide the requested documents, appealing the court order instead.

Compared to their colleagues in many other countries of the world, journalists in the Netherlands are able to freely investigate and work. However, as the events of the past few years have shown, a sense of deteriorating safety for the media is a slippery slope even in a country that until recently led international press freedom rankings.

This article is part of IPI’s reporting series “Media freedom in Europe in the shadow of Covid”, which comprises news and analysis from IPI’s network of correspondents throughout the EU. Articles do not necessarily reflect the views of IPI or MFRR. This reporting series is supported by funding from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and by the European Commission (DG Connect) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response, 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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Greece Flag Library

Greece: Little progress on Karaivaz murder investigation six months…

Greece: Little progress on Karaivaz murder investigation six months on

After six-month anniversary of assassination, IPI urges fresh impetus in police probe

To mark the six-month anniversary of the assassination of veteran Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, the IPI global network urges Greek law enforcement authorities to redouble efforts to bring those responsible for the targeted assassination to justice. We call on authorities not to let Karaivaz’s murder become another long-running and damaging case of impunity for the killing of a journalist within the European Union.

On April 9, 2021, Karaivaz, an experienced reporter who worked for the TV channel STAR and ran a news website focusing on crime and policing, was ambushed by two men on a scooter and gunned down outside his home in broad daylight with a silenced weapon. Police said the “professional” style of the hit indicted the involvement of organised crime groups, which have carried out a number of targeted killings in recent years and which Karaivaz was known to have investigated.

Immediately after the murder, IPI and our partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) wrote to authorities including the prime minister and the minister of citizen protection urging them to ensure the probe by the Hellenic Police was conducted swiftly, thoroughly and professionally. We received no response. However, the government responded to an alert on the Council of Europe’s platform for the safety of journalists, stressing that investigations are continuing as a matter of priority and that authorities “have spared no effort in their search to identify the perpetrators and motives”.

However, despite the collection of substantial amounts of data, security camera footage and forensic analysis, since then no suspects have been publicly identified and no arrests have been made. Public information about the status of the investigation remains scarce, as details of the preliminary investigation have been kept secret under the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure. While we welcome the individual efforts of those involved in the investigation, the lack of communication from police and the Ministry of Citizen Protection means that every month that passes dents hope that those behind the killing – including potential perpetrators, facilitators, go-between and masterminds – will ever be held accountable for the crime.

This is deeply concerning, as impunity for fatal attacks on journalists remains one of the biggest issues for media freedom in the EU. In Greece, the 2010 shooting of radio manager, blogger and investigative journalist Socratis Giolias remains mired in impunity. The longer that these kinds of attacks go unpunished, the more it encourages others thinking about silencing journalists to act. The recent recommendation by the European Commission on the safety of journalists is clear: states must act swiftly to prevent the emergence of a culture of impunity regarding attacks against journalists. We urge Greek authorities to implement the recommendation.

After the six-month anniversary of the murder, and ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2, we renew our call for all those responsible to be identified and prosecuted. IPI and its partners in the MFRR intend to hold a media freedom mission to Greece in the coming months to assess the main challenges facing independent journalism. The safety of journalists and impunity will be two central themes we hope to discuss with government representatives. We hope that during this time meaningful progress can be made. In the meantime, we will continue to honour Karaivaz’s memory and push for justice for both him and his family.