Event

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.

Moderator

Guusje Somer

Policy & Advocacy Officer, Free Press Unlimited

Speakers

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.

MFRR 3 consortium logos
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.

MFRR 3 consortium logos
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.