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Slovakia: Independence of Slovakia’s leading TV news channel must…

Slovakia: Independence of Slovakia’s leading TV news channel must be protected

The undersigned members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response are deeply alarmed by the actions of the Slovak government towards Slovakia’s leading commercial broadcaster, TV Markíza, aimed at silencing its critical journalism. We call on Markíza’s owners, the Central European Media Enterprises (CME), to resist the pressure and guarantee the editorial independence of the newsroom.

TV Markiza has been under pressure from the moment the new government was formed in September 2023. Prime Minister Róbert Fico accused it last November of being part of the “enemy media” and quickly threatened to cut contracts for state advertising, which Markíza broadcasts.

 

In December, Markíza’s owners, the Prague-based Central European Media Enterprises (CME), replaced Markíza’s long-time news director, Henrich Krejča, with Michal Kratochvíl, transferred from CME’s Czech broadcaster, Nova TV.

 

On February 28, Markíza staff appealed to the general director, Peter Gažík, claiming Kratochvil was muzzling the news output to reduce political content and avoid confronting the government.

 

The commercial media outlet, TV Markíza was launched in 1996 and quickly became a key player in the country’s media landscape. Its news programming has been particularly influential, with its coverage often setting the agenda for public discourse. In the summer 2023, SMER, the ruling party, announced that its politicians would not take part in pre-election debates on this TV station, due to “disinformation.” Many politicians of the current Fico-led government boycott the channel and threatened it with cuts to state advertisement, increasing the pressure on the newsroom. Meanwhile, there is growing speculation that CEM is under pressure to sell Markíza.

 

The internal crisis at TV Markíza is taking place at the same time as the government attempts to take control over public service media by dissolving Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) and replacing it with Slovak Television and Radio (STaR).

 

MFRR partners previously expressed profound concerns over these developments, emphasizing the need to uphold democratic values and protect press freedom in Slovakia. Our previous calls for the withdrawal of the repressive broadcast law and opposition to government interference in public media underscore the gravity of the situation.

 

We call upon Prime Minister Róbert Fico and his government to cease all attacks, threats, and pressure on independent media, including TV Markíza. Critical media are not the “enemy”. They are a pillar of a democratic society and must be allowed to carry out their watchdog role free from retaliation in any form.

 

In this critical moment, the organizations of the MFRR stand in solidarity with TV Markíza journalists in their calls to defend the outlet’s independent journalism. We urge TV Markíza’s owners (the Central European Media Enterprises – CME) and management to resist external pressures and guarantee editorial independence in the newsroom. They must act decisively to uphold the public’s right to access diverse and independent sources of information.

 

Additionally, we call upon Slovak authorities, regulators, and the country’s newly elected president Peter Pellegrini to uphold media freedom, media pluralism, and allow the media to work free from political pressure. The integrity of the upcoming European elections and the credibility of Slovak democracy depend on it. 

Signed by:

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

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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Georgia: MFRR partners denounce smear campaign against journalist by…

Georgia: MFRR partners denounce smear campaign against journalist by speaker of the Parliament

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today express concern at the discrediting of a prominent Georgian journalist by Shalva Papuashvili, Speaker of the Georgian Parliament. The comments come amid a broader wave of smear campaigns against independent media in Georgia by Papuashvili and others.

On 20 February 2024, Georgian media reported that Papuashvili had publicly discredited Gela Mtivlishvili, the editor of online news site Mtis Ambebi, by questioning his credentials as a journalist in the course of an interview. In remarks to journalists, Papuashvili mentioned an investigation by Mtivlishvili into a natural disaster in the mountain locality of Shovi in August 2023, in which 33 people were killed.

 

During a lengthy comment on the article, the Speaker of Georgia’s Parliament claimed that the piece was “full of lies” and part of a “disinformation campaign”. He also questioned the basis on which Mtivlishvili was shortlisted for The EU Prize for Journalism 2023, a prize awarded annually by the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), demanding to know the identities of the jury members who selected the winners. The comments reflect an effort by the Speaker to undermine trust in Mtis Ambebi, Gela Mtivlishvili, and the wider independent media scene in Georgia. 

 

This is not the first incident of its kind involving Papuashvili. In September 2023, the Speaker wrote a letter of complaint to at least one donor organisation that supports the media outlet OC Media, following their refusal to publish an opinion piece that he had written. A representative of the Speaker of Parliament had earlier refused to send the text to OC Media until the outlet confirmed that they would publish it.

 

Papuashvili described OC Media’s decision on his letter as “an illustrative case of why and how the self-styled ‘critical media’ in Georgia discredits itself beyond repair, losing trust of the public and ending up mostly speaking to each other or their own closed bubble.” By reacting in such a way to OC Media’s refusal to publish his piece, Papuashvili discredited a legitimate media outlet and contributed to increasing distrust in the media. 

 

The MFRR partners condemn such efforts, by Papuashvili or any other public officials.The comments against Mtivlishvili are unacceptable, especially given the high-ranking position of Papuashvili within the Georgian parliament.

 

Sadly, disinformation and discrediting campaigns against journalists have been a notable threat to media freedom in Georgia prior to this, with Georgia’s Media Advocacy Coalition expressing concern that these were becoming “systematic” following Papuashvili’s most recent comments. 

 

In January, the ruling party Georgian Dream reacted to a request for public information sent to parliament by journalist Tea Giligashvili by posting a copy of her letter on the party’s Facebook page and questioning the legitimacy of her request.

 

At the time, Georgia’s Media Freedom Coalition denounced these actions, claiming that Georgian Dream “systematically uses [its] Facebook page to discredit political opponents, civil society organizations, critical media and journalists”.

 

In another incident, Vladimer Mgaloblishvili, a member of the parliament of the region of Ajara, posted a similar letter sent to the local assembly by journalist Tedo Jorbenadze. In his discrediting post, Mgaloblishvili accused the journalist of “lying” and made no efforts to conceal his personal data. Local authorities later claimed that they “could not remember” how the letter came into Mgaloblishvili’s possession, the Media Freedom Coalition wrote.

 

MFRR partners call on Georgian authorities to ensure that the country’s media are allowed to function freely, without receiving derogatory or insulting comments from politicians. This applies especially to those in powerful positions who have a significant role in society, such as Papuashvili, who have an additional responsibility to restrain from personal attacks on journalists. 

 

The undersigned organisations call on the leadership of the ruling Georgian Dream party – of which Papuashvili is a member – to immediately condemn the discreditation campaign launched by the Speaker of Parliament. We also urge the Georgian Dream party to present clear guidelines to its members to ensure no such incidents occur in future.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • 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, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Italy: MFRR partners strongly condemn investigation into Domani journalists

Italy: MFRR partners strongly condemn investigation into Domani journalists

The undersigned media freedom and civil society organisations strongly condemn the investigation of three Domani journalists for allegedly receiving confidential documents from a public official and for alleged breaching of secrets through the publication of information contained in those documents. The charges are connected to their reporting on a conflict of interest involving a member of the current government. The journalists face up to 5 years in prison under Italian criminal law. Our organisations call for the investigation to be dropped immediately. No journalist investigating matters of public interest, or their sources, should fear nor be exposed to intimidation, conviction, or imprisonment.

In October 2022, Defence Minister Guido Crosetto announced that he had instructed a law firm to take legal action against the newspaper Domani over an article authored by Giovanni Tizian and Emiliano Fittipaldi which examined a potential conflict of interest related to his links to the arms industry. The article highlighted Crosetto’s past roles as a lobbyist and adviser for the arms industry in Italy since 2014, following his departure from active politics. Documents obtained by Domani revealed that Crosetto earned 1.8 million euros from defence contractor Leonardo for his consultancy work between 2018 and 2021. The article argued that Crosetto’s extensive ties to the arms industry and his personal relationships with key industry figures represented a conflict of interest.

 

While the lawsuit has never been formalised, Crosetto filed a complaint which led to the Perugia Public Prosecutor’s Office initiating a preliminary investigation of Domani’s journalists Giovanni Tizian, Nello Trocchia, and Stefano Vergine. The three journalists are charged with two accusations: firstly, complicity in a concerted action with a public official regarding unauthorised access to documents from two sets of databases related respectively to tax revenues and preliminary investigation and pending proceedings across a number of  prosecution offices. Secondly, they are charged with revealing secrets through the publication of information contained in those documents. According to the formulated charges against Domani’s journalists, they had allegedly received documents regarding politicians, businessmen, and members of criminal organisations, including files related to Crosetto’s tax return declaration, information which presumably would have allowed Domani to report on the Defense Minister’s revenues in October 2022. Under the Italian criminal code, the three journalists may face up to 5 years in prison for complicity with a public official in unauthorised access to documents from databases and 3 years for breaching confidentiality. Domani’s newsroom fears that the current investigation conducted by the Perugia Prosecutor’s Office represents an attempt at breaching the confidentiality of their sources and silencing their investigative reporting on members of the current government.

 

The MFRR notes that Italian press freedom has fallen under renewed pressure, with Domani being the target of several attempts from the ruling coalition to silence their critical reporting, including the recent accusation of being involved in doxing activities against a number of politicians. Within the broader context, characterised by a steep increase in vexatious lawsuits filed against the press by leading government ministers, alarming bills aimed at reforming defamation and court reporting, as well as political interference in the public broadcaster, the charges brought against Domani’s investigative team represent a further worrying indicator of a rapidly deteriorating environment for Italian press freedom.

 

The undersigned organisations strongly condemn the decision to investigate the three journalists and call for the preliminary investigation to be immediately dropped, in line with international press freedom standards. We further denounce any attempts from the Italian authorities to compromise the confidentiality of journalistic sources. The protection of journalists’ sources is of paramount importance and must be respected by authorities in line with Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Article 4 of the European Media Freedom Act, according to which member states shall not detain, sanction, intercept or inspect media workers or any persons who, because of their relationship with a media service provider or its editorial staff, might have information related to or capable of identifying journalistic sources or confidential communications.

 

We will continue to monitor the Perugia Prosecutor’s Office’s investigations and stand strong in support of Domani’s newsroom.

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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International Media Freedom and Human Rights Organisations Demand Release…

International Media Freedom and Human Rights Organisations Demand Release of Journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu in Upcoming Trial

As the next hearing of journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu approaches on February 29, 2024, we call for immediate attention to her case and her unjust detention. Müftüoğlu, Co-Chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFGD) , has been wrongfully held for over nine months on unsubstantiated terrorism charges in a case that starkly violates international legal standards and media freedom.

 

Turkish translation available here.

Case Overview: A Miscarriage of Justice

Müftüoğlu’s arrest occurred during a broader crackdown on Kurdish activists and politicians by the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office in April 2023. The circumstances of her detention, including her transfer to Ankara and the conditions therein, have raised serious concerns about her treatment and the respect for due process.

In court, the charges against Müftüoğlu have not been substantiated by any credible evidence. Her case is a textbook example of severe legal intimidation used to silence journalists who are critical of the government.

 

Investigative and Legal Irregularities

The investigation into Ms. Müftüoğlu’s activities has been marked by flagrant legal irregularities:

  • Restriction of access to legal counsel and investigation files.
  • Interrogation without legal representation, in clear violation of legal norms.
  • Inhumane treatment during her transfer, including prolonged handcuffing and deprivation of basic needs.

The indictment itself is deeply flawed, dedicating only a small portion to Müftüoğlu and failing to provide any substantial evidence of her involvement in terrorist activities. Instead, it inappropriately conflates her journalistic work with terrorism, using her association with the Mesopotamia News Agency and attendance at public events as supposed evidence of wrongdoing.

As the undersigned organisations we call upon the authorities in Turkey to immediately release Dicle Müftüoğlu and drop all charges against her. We call upon the international community, media freedom, journalism and human rights organisations to join us in condemning this unjust detention and to urge Turkey to uphold its commitments to media freedom and human rights.

Signed by:

  • Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA)
  • FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) 
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS)
  • Danish PEN
  • P24 Platform for Independent Journalism
  • PEN Norway
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • PEN America
  • PEN International 
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • Freedom House
  • Articolo 21
  • Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD)

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. 

Uluslararası Basın Özgürlüğü ve İnsan Hakları Örgütleri Gazeteci Dicle Müftüoğlu’nun Bugünkü Duruşmasında Serbest Bırakılmasını Talep Ediyor

Gazeteci Dicle Müftüoğlu’nun 29 Şubat 2024 tarihinde görülecek duruşması öncesi, gazeteciye yönelik davaya  ve haksız tutukluluğuna derhal dikkat çekilmesi çağrısında bulunuyoruz. Dicle Fırat Gazeteciler Derneği (DFGD) Eş Başkanı Müftüoğlu, uluslararası hukuk standartlarını ve basın özgürlüğünü açıkça ihlal eden bir davada, temelsiz terör suçlamalarıyla dokuz ayı aşkın bir süredir haksız yere tutuklu bulunuyor. 

Davaya Genel Bakış: Bir Adalet Hatası

Müftüoğlu’nun tutuklanması, Nisan 2023’te Ankara Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı tarafından Kürt aktivistlere ve siyasetçilere yönelik geniş çaplı operasyonlar sırasında gerçekleşti. Ankara’ya naki ve gözaltına alınma koşulları, kendisine uygulanan muameleye dair ve adil yargılama sürecine saygı konusunda ciddi endişelere yol açmıştır.

Mahkemede Müftüoğlu’na yöneltilen suçlamalar hiçbir inandırıcı kanıtla desteklenmemiştir. Müftüoğlu’nun davası, hükümeti eleştiren gazetecileri susturmak için kullanılan ağır yargısal gözdağının ders kitabı niteliğinde bir örneğidir.

Soruşturma ve Kovuşturma Sırasında Yaşanan Hukuka Aykırılıklar

Sayın Müftüoğlu’nun faaliyetlerine ilişkin soruşturmada bariz hukuki usulsüzlükler söz konusudur:

  • Avukata ve soruşturma dosyalarına erişimin kısıtlanması.
  • Yasal normları açıkça ihlal ederek yasal temsil olmadan sorgulama.
  • Nakli sırasında uzun süreli kelepçeleme ve temel ihtiyaçlardan mahrum bırakma da dahil olmak üzere insanlık dışı muamele.

İddianamenin kendisi son derece kusurludur. Müftüoğlu’na sadece küçük bir bölüm ayırmış ve terörist faaliyetlere karıştığına dair önemli bir kanıt sunmamıştır. Bunun yerine, iddianame, gazetecinin Mezopotamya Haber Ajansı ile olan ilişkisini ve kamuya açık etkinliklere katılımını sözde suç kanıtı olarak kullanarak, gazetecilik faaliyetlerini uygunsuz bir biçimde terörizmle ilişkilendiriyor.

Aşağıda imzası bulunan örgütler olarak Türkiye’deki yetkilileri Dicle Müftüoğlu’nu derhal serbest bırakmaya ve hakkındaki tüm suçlamaları düşürmeye çağırıyoruz. Uluslararası toplumu, medya özgürlüğü, gazetecilik ve insan hakları örgütlerini bu haksız tutukluluğu kınamada bize katılmaya ve Türkiye’yi medya özgürlüğü ve insan hakları konusundaki taahhütlerini yerine getirmeye çağırıyoruz.

İmzacılar

  • Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) 
  • FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders 
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU) 
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) 
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)  
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) 
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) 
  • International Press Institute (IPI) 
  • Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) 
  • Danish PEN 
  • P24 Platform for Independent Journalism 
  • PEN Norway 
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of
  • Human Rights Defenders 
  • PEN America 
  • PEN International  
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 
  • Freedom House 
  • Articolo 21 
  • Özgürlük İçin Hukukçular Derneği (Öhd) 
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Ukraine 6 month anniversary Library

2 years on, Ukrainian journalists still pay a heavy…

2 years on, Ukrainian journalists still pay a heavy price for the war

February 24 marks two years since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Today, the organizations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) reaffirm our solidarity with Ukrainian journalists and call for their safety to be ensured, full freedom to report, and a renewed effort to provide the necessary financial, technical support to continue their work.

Over the past two years Ukraine’s journalists have demonstrated incredible courage and resilience in covering the horrors of this war for their communities and the outside world, often at great personal sacrifice.

We call for continued international support for Ukrainian media to address the safety threats from Russia’s military as well as the economic crisis wrought by the war.

We repeat our demand for Russia to comply with international humanitarian law and refrain from all attacks on journalists as well as to investigate the numerous cases in which its forces are implicated in such attacks.

To date, at least 11 media workers have been killed in the line of duty while 34 more have suffered injuries covering the invasion. 

While the number of direct attacks on journalists covering the war dropped in 2023 as military activity became centered around fixed lines, journalists on the front lines continue to face great risks. At least 12 journalists were injured in 2023 covering the war.

The Ukraine War Press Freedom Tracker kept by the International Press Institute (IPI), an MFRR partner, has recorded 404 instances of attacks on media in Ukraine, the vast majority of which have been perpetrated by Russian forces or Russian occupying authorities.

Ukrainian media outlets also frequently face cyber attacks which prevent them from reporting on the war. While it is impossible to identify the sources of these attacks, Russia is frequently accused of having orchestrated them, with multiple instances recorded in which leading Ukrainian websites were hacked in order to publish pro-Russian content.

Meanwhile, at least 17 journalists who worked in occupied Ukrainian territory remain jailed by Russia as Russian authorities seek to stamp out any dissenting voices in occupied regions.

Standing up to the obvious security challenges, as well as to the tremendous economic pressure facing the media sector of a country at war, Ukrainian journalists continue not only to shed light on the war crimes committed by invading Russian forces, but also to hold their own government accountable.

 

Internal issues multiply in parallel to the war

While Russian authorities are is responsible for the majority of safety threats facing Ukrainian journalists, MFRR monitoring also shows that Ukrainian journalists increasingly face obstacles created by domestic actors as they continue their watchdog work at home.

In 2023, MFRR recorded 31 incidents in which Ukrainian authorities refused to provide information or otherwise hindered the work of journalists, in most cases using the war as an excuse.

Journalists are also being increasingly harassed and intimidated by other actors for their ‘lack of patriotism’. The leading investigative reporter, Yuri Nikolov, was recently harassed at his home by unknown persons, who then posted a video of their visit, accusing Nikolov of evading military service.

Meanwhile, persons linked to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) tried to discredit journalists at the investigative outlet Bihus.info after conducting systematic surveillance  against them. In a powerful demonstration of solidarity, Ukraine’s journalists rallied around their colleagues forcing the eventual dismissal of the senior civil servant allegedly responsible for the surveillance.  

 

The struggle continues, in Ukraine and abroad

Despite these successes, Ukrainian media remain in a dire position. The country’s advertising market has dropped by two-thirds since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, which has led to a tremendous loss of revenue.

Until stable business models again become viable, MFRR partners call on the international community and European stakeholders in particular to renew and expand its commitment to long term financial support for Ukrainian’s media.

Without ongoing support, Ukraine’s media may cease to be able to continue to inform the world about the state of the war and the sacrifices made by so many journalists will have been in vain.

Signed by:

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

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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Serb Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik Library

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Recommendations to national and entity level…

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Recommendations to national and entity level authorities to improve media freedom standards

Following a fact-finding mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 2023, the partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) published a report assessing the state of media freedom in three key areas: the legislative initiatives, the safety of journalists, and the public service media.

The report includes a set of recommendations to national and entity level authorities and the international community, which we believe are vital for the country’s democratic development and accession process to the European Union. We invite other media freedom and journalists’ organisations to support by adding their signatures using the button below.

Recommendations

Specific recommendations to Republika Srpska authorities

  • Immediately repeal the legislative provisions that re-criminalised defamation in Republika Srpska;
  • Discontinue all criminal cases that have been initiated on the basis of the criminal defamation law;
  • Prioritise media self-regulation in addressing defamation concerns, particularly the right of reply and correction, and ensure that civil defamation laws contain safeguards against SLAPPs and other abuses;
  • End all intimidating practices against journalists and media actors by public officials, including verbal attacks, smears, harassment and threats
  • Publicly condemn, investigate and effectively prosecute all criminal attacks on journalists and media outlets;
  • Immediately and definitively withdraw the “foreign agent” draft legislation and refrain from imposing any discriminatory regulatory requirements for civil society organisations or media based on the origin of the funding that they receive;
  • Ensure an inclusive, transparent and human rights rooted process in the drafting of the pending media law
  • End all interference with the RTRS’s editorial policy, so that journalists and editors are free to work in the interest of the public in the Republic of Srpska and apply the recommendations of the Council of Europe on the obligations of public broadcasting and the availability of accurate, objective, plural and balanced information;
  • In line with existing legislation on the Public Broadcasting System to Bosnia and Herzegovina, take appropriate steps to ensure that RTRS pays its fair and legally mandated contribution to the public broadcaster at state level BHRT.

 

Recommendations to state, entity and district authorities

  • Immediately and definitively revoke any kind of regulation of journalistic reporting or other expressions based on their perceived veracity, including ‘fake news’ regulations, at any level of government in Bosnia;
  • Ensure an inclusive, transparent, and human rights based approach in the development of any legislative initiatives that concern the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of information at any level of government in Bosnia;
  • Promote proactive disclosure of government-held information and ensure a viable system of requests for information of public interest with narrowly construed exceptions and an effective appeal mechanism;
  • Refrain from promulgating regulations that obstruct media and NGO work by creating excessive administrative requirements such as onerous reporting, registration, or public disclosure rules;
  • Develop a national-level safety plan to advance media freedoms and protection of journalists, involving police and prosecutorial authorities, in cooperation with journalist associations, media groups and international organisations
  • Publicly condemn, investigate, and prosecute any and all serious physical and verbal attacks on journalists and media outlets;
  • Ensure an effective system of remedy and reparation for journalists who become victims of attacks;
  • Uphold the fundamental principle that any regulation of the media should only be undertaken by bodies which are independent of the government, which are publicly accountable, and which operate transparently;
  • Restore public trust in the media through providing support for professional and ethical reporting, especially with the introduction of media and information literacy in formal education and providing opportunities for training journalists on access to information, digital security or physical safety.
  • Guarantee long-term and sustainable financing for the national and entity level public service broadcasters under the media law and provide professional support to journalists working within public media to cope with workplace stress;
  • Guarantee editorial and institutional independence of public service media
  • Ensure adequate financing for the Communication Regulatory Agency and strengthen the body’s independence by guaranteeing independent and fair elections of its board members based on strict professional criteria and relevant experience, rather than political considerations;
  • Work with the BH Journalists Association to develop and pass national law on media ownership, including stronger regulations on the transparency beneficial ownership and the prevention of undue media concentration;
  • Implement a new law overseeing the allocation of public advertising and all other forms of state subsidies to public service, commercial, and community media on strict criteria, to ensure transparent and equitable distribution based on clear market principles rather than political affiliation;
  • Bolster independent and watchdog journalism and local media, establish a public fund for pluralistic journalism, administered on an annual basis by an independent body on a grant-basis, with a public database detailing the allocation of funding for journalistic projects on the basis of transparent, fair and neutral criteria.

 

Recommendations to the international community

  • Closely coordinate and unify positions and strategies among international organisations based in Bosnia and Herzegovina to improve media freedom and journalists’ safety;
  • Systematically stand in solidarity with attacked journalists and media outlets and support remedy and reparation options for the victims of attacks;
  • Provide deeper support to independent quality journalism in Bosnia, including through grants, training, and media literacy programmes;
  • Robustly use diplomatic leverage to uphold media freedom and freedom of expression in the country;
  • Make media freedom and freedom of expression a top priority in the EU accession negotiations.

Signed:

ARTICLE 19 Europe 

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

International Press Institute (IPI)

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

Trade Union of Croatian Journalists

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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Serb Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik Library

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Republika Srpska president Dodik verbally attacks…

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Republika Srpska president Dodik verbally attacks journalist

The undersigned partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today condemn the insulting and threatening behaviour of the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, towards journalist Snezana Mitrović and her employer N1 television. We call on the politician to publicly apologise and end all intimidating practices against all media in the future.

Our organisations further warn that this aggressive rhetoric towards a member of the media, and indications of state monitoring of media, are the latest examples in a decades-long list of pressure by Dodik against journalists and independent media in the Republika Srpska, one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As outlined following a recent mission to the country organised by the MFRR, this hostility towards critical journalism in Republika Srpska – particularly from Dodik himself – poses a threat to media freedom and is contributing to insecurity amongst the journalistic community.

The outburst against Mitrović, a reporter with channel N1 television, stemmed from a press conference on November 16 in which she had asked Dodik a question about his connections to a number of individuals recently arrested in a drug trafficking operation by police.

At the press conference, Dodik reacted aggressively and accused her television station N1 of lying, pursuing an “anti-Serbian narrative” and actively seeking to “destroy” Republika Srpska. He then grabbed the microphone out of her hand in an inappropriate manner and threatened the N1 team by telling them: “Do you think we don’t have a service that follows what you are doing?”.

After the event, Mitrović received a personal phone call from Dodik in which he shouted at her again and insulted her using curse words, N1 reported. Dodik told her he was unhappy at the news report which N1 had published about the press conference.

Our organisations condemn the threatening and dangerous language used by Dodik at both the press conference and that used during the phone call, which represents an unacceptable verbal attack on a professional journalist.

Unfortunately, this type of behaviour has continued with impunity for years. Dodik has repeatedly labelled critical journalists as traitors and enemies of the state, and made threats against them, including multiple verbal attacks on female journalists. When questioned about this rhetoric, government officials play down the matter. In reality, this language is aimed at isolating and discrediting those who continue to ask sensitive questions and hold power to account. It also normalises wider attacks on members of the press by citizens in Republika Srpska and beyond.

Our organisations support the BH Journalists Association in its consideration of legal options, including the possible filing of a criminal report. The suggestion that government entities are monitoring the work of N1 and potentially other independent media in the country must also be addressed with the utmost seriousness and a potential investigation.

The MFRR and SEEMO welcome the swift response of domestic and regional media associations in condemning the verbal attack against Mitrović and offering support. Our organisations stand behind Snezana Mitrović, her media outlet N1, and all those journalists in Republika Srpska who continue to carry out her public service mission and ask tough questions in an increasingly hostile climate.

We jointly call on Milorad Dodik to apologise publicly for his behaviour and to publicly commit to ensuring that all future communication with and about journalists will be conducted in a professional manner befitting the stature of the public office he holds.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • 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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Italy: MFRR partners condemn summons of RAI presenter Sigfrido…

Italy: MFRR partners condemn summons of RAI presenter Sigfrido Ranucci

In a collective statement released today, the partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) condemn the summoning of Sigfrido Ranucci, a prominent presenter at Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), by the Parliamentary Committee responsible for the oversight of radio and TV broadcasting. This development is viewed as a clear act of intimidation, specifically aimed at an independent investigative TV programme that has consistently produced critical reports on various members of the current government.

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today condemn the summoning of Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) presenter Sigfrido Ranucci by the Parliamentary Committee for the general direction and supervision of radio and TV broadcasting. We see this summons as another intimidation practice targeting an independent investigative TV programme, whose reporting has been critical of a number of members of the current government. 

Our organisations also urge the Italian Parliament to guarantee the independence of the Italian public service broadcaster (RAI) and halt unjustified political interference on its journalistic output.

On 25 October 2023, representatives of the hard-right government coalition voted to  summon Ranucci in his capacity as deputy director of RAI In-Depth Broadcast Directorate (Direzione Approfondimento). The Committee is chaired by the opposition party Five Star Movement and consists of a group of 40 senators and deputies, its composition reflecting the parliamentary configuration. 

Ranucci appeared before the committee on 7 November alongside Paolo Corsini, who chairs the Directorate. This was the first time that the Parliamentary Committee has singled out the authors of a particular TV show for summons and questioning. On paper, the hearing was called to discuss the general criteria regarding RAI’s investigative broadcasting.  However, the parliamentary questioning ended up focusing exclusively on Ranucci’s investigative show, Report and its finances. 

Throughout the past 27 years, Report has investigated numerous important public interest matters ranging from politics to corruption to the environment. The previous month, two investigative episodes broadcasted by Report sparked hostile reactions among members of the ruling coalition: one episode was about the president of the senate Ignazio La Russa and the other on the late president of coalition partner Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi

During the hearing, Ranucci defended the program’s independence and presented data on audience shares, providing evidence of Reports’ consistent viewers’ trends and budget allocation. He reminded the Committee how Report’s journalists have been brought to court 178 times and never found guilty. 

The tone of the parliamentary interaction and the circumstances in which the hearing was called signal an increasing risk of political interference to independent public service broadcasting and media freedom in Italy. 

The MFRR acknowledges that RAI’s independence is under renewed pressure, after the announcement of significant budget cuts, and the previous resignation of its CEO and other major politically-influenced internal management changes. 

We condemn this summons as an act of unjustified pressure and intimidation against Report’s independent investigative work, and we are alarmed by the threatening signal it sends to the Italian media community. We also express our deep concern for the mocking behaviour shown by some members of the governing coalition during the summons.

Along with Italian civil society and the Italian trade union of journalists Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (FNSI), we  stand strong in support of Ranucci and Report. We renew our call to the Italian Parliament to enact a legislation aimed at safeguarding public service media from unwarranted interference and ensuring its financial support, in line with the European Media Freedom Act’s proposal.

Signed by:

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

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.

Italia: i partner MFRR condannano la convocazione del conduttore RAI Sigfrido Ranucci

 

Le organizzazioni partner del consorzio Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) condannano oggi la convocazione del conduttore della Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) Sigfrido Ranucci da parte della Commissione parlamentare per la direzione generale e la vigilanza sulle trasmissioni radiofoniche e televisive. Consideriamo questa convocazione come un altro atto intimidatorio nei confronti di un programma di giornalismo investigativo indipendente i cui servizi sono stati critici nei confronti di numerosi membri dell’attuale governo.

Le nostre organizzazioni sollecitano inoltre il Parlamento italiano a garantire l’indipendenza del servizio pubblico televisivo (RAI) e a porre fine alle ingiustificate ingerenze politiche sulla sua produzione giornalistica.

Il 25 ottobre 2023, i rappresentanti della coalizione di governo di estrema destra hanno votato per convocare Ranucci in qualità di vicedirettore della Direzione Approfondimento della RAI. La Commissione è presieduta dal partito di opposizione Movimento Cinque Stelle ed è composta da 40 senatori e deputati scelti in modo da riflettere la configurazione parlamentare.

Ranucci è comparso davanti alla Commissione il 7 novembre insieme a Paolo Corsini, che presiede il Direttivo. È la prima volta che la Commissione parlamentare convoca e interroga gli autori di un programma televisivo. Sulla carta l’udienza era convocata per discutere i criteri generali riguardanti l’attività investigativa della Rai, ma l’interrogazione parlamentare si è concentrata esclusivamente sul programma d’inchiesta di Ranucci, Report, e sulle sue finanze.

Nel corso degli ultimi 27 anni, Report ha indagato su numerose importanti questioni di interesse pubblico che vanno dalla politica alla corruzione all’ambiente. Il mese precedente, due inchieste avevano suscitato reazioni ostili tra i membri della coalizione di governo: una riguardava il presidente del Senato Ignazio La Russa e l’altra il defunto presidente del partito partner di coalizione Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi.

Durante l’udienza, Ranucci ha ribadito l’indipendenza del programma e ha presentato i dati sugli ascolti, fornendo prove dell’andamento stabile del programma e dell’allocazione del budget. Ha inoltre ricordato alla Commissione come i giornalisti di Report siano stati portati in tribunale 178 volte e mai trovati colpevoli.

Il tono dell’udienza parlamentare e le circostanze in cui è stata convocata l’udienza segnalano un crescente rischio di ingerenza politica nel servizio pubblico indipendente e nella libertà dei media in Italia.

MFRR nota che l’indipendenza della RAI è sotto rinnovata pressione dopo l’annuncio di significativi tagli al budget, le precedenti dimissioni del suo amministratore delegato e altri importanti cambiamenti al management interno dettati da influenze politiche.

Condanniamo questa convocazione come un atto ingiustificato di pressione e intimidazione contro il lavoro investigativo indipendente di Report e siamo allarmati dal segnale minaccioso che invia alla comunità dei media italiani. Esprimiamo inoltre la nostra profonda preoccupazione per l’atteggiamento beffardo mostrato da alcuni membri della coalizione di governo nel corso della convocazione.

Insieme alla società civile italiana e al sindacato italiano dei giornalisti Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (FNSI), ribadiamo il nostro sostegno a Ranucci ed a Report. Rinnoviamo il nostro appello al Parlamento italiano affinché promulghi una legislazione volta a salvaguardare i media di servizio pubblico da interferenze ingiustificate e ad assicurarne il sostegno economico in linea con la proposta dell’European Media Freedom Act.

Signed by:

  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) 
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Free Press Unlimited
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
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Tolga Şardan Library

Turkey: International groups condemn arrest of journalist Tolga Şardan

Turkey: International groups condemn arrest of journalist Tolga Şardan

The undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression, human rights and journalists’ organizsations strongly condemn the arrest of seasoned journalist Tolga Şardan in Ankara.

 

Turkish translation available here

On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI), the undersigned groups demand that instead of punishing journalists for informing the public, Turkey’s judiciary should hold accountable those violating press freedom in the country.

On November 1, Tolga Şardan, a journalist for the independent T24 news website, was detained in connection with his October 31, T24 article titled “What is in the ‘judicial report’ submitted by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) to the Presidency?” which discusses a report on corruption in the justice system allegedly commissioned from Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) by the President’s office. The Center for Combating Disinformation under the Presidency’s Communications Directorate refuted the existence of the MİT report on November 1 in a post on the X platform. Şardan’s article was blocked on November 2.

Şardan’s news article was the latest in a series of investigative reports of hard-hitting allegations of corruption in Turkey’s justice system which fall squarely within the frame of legitimate public concern. All of these reports were blocked online by court orders.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement stating that Şardan was under investigation on the charge of “publicly disseminating misleading information” under Article 217/A of Law No. 5237. This article is regulated under the so-called “disinformation law” introduced in October 2022 and those convicted face a prison sentence of up to three years for the offense.

After being detained, Şardan was brought to the Ankara courthouse where he testified before a prosecutor. “My article constitutes journalistic work carried out with the sole purpose of informing the public”, said Şardan, denying the allegations and demanded his immediate release. Şardan’s legal counsel added that the prosecutor should have started an investigation into the allegations raised in Şardan’s article instead of arresting his client.

Following his statement, the prosecutor transferred Şardan to the court on duty, with a request for his arrest. The court arrested Şardan and transferred the journalist to a prison in Ankara’s Sincan district. As the basis for its arrest decision, the court incorrectly cited Şardan’s alleged offense as one falling under the category of so-called “catalogue crimes” provided in Article 100/3 of the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code, which includes a list of offenses that call for immediate arrest of the suspect. However, Article 217/A of Law No. 5237 does not fall under the scope of this article.

Since its passing, the Disinformation Law has been used at least 12 times to target journalists for their news reporting. On the day of the passing of the law, Hakan Çavuşoğlu, the governing party’s representative and former head of the Parliament’s Human Rights Investigative Committee told a visiting international press freedom delegation to Turkey that  the law would not be used against journalists but had been passed only to deter people from sharing false information in times of upheaval and during emergency situations such as acute disasters. Earlier this year, journalist Sinan Aygül became the first journalist to be convicted under the Disinformation Law. Şardan’s arrest marks the 13th alert on Mapping Media Freedom concerning Disinformation Law cases reported in Turkey over the past year.

We therefore call on the Turkish authorities to immediately release Tolga Şardan from pretrial detention, and drop all charges against him. Authorities must end the systematic judicial harassment against him and other journalists, including the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in the country. We reiterate our solidarity with  all the  journalists arbitrarily detained in Turkey. Journalism is not a crime and every minute a journalist spends behind bars for their legitimate reporting and journalistic work is a violation of freedom of expression and media freedom. This must stop.

Signed by:

  • Article 19
  • Amnesty International
  • Association of Journalists (GC)
  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Foreign Media Association (FMA)
  • Freedom House
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • KulturForum TürkeiDeutschland
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBC Transeuropa)
  • PEN Norway
  • Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
  • Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

Türkiye: Uluslararası kuruluşlar gazeteci Tolga Şardan’ın tutuklanmasını kınadı

 

Yetkilileri Tolga Şardan’ı derhal serbest bırakmaya çağırıyoruz

Aşağıda imzası bulunan basın özgürlüğü, ifade hürriyeti, insan hakları ve gazeteci örgütleri, deneyimli gazeteci Tolga Şardan’ın Ankara’da tutuklanmasını şiddetle kınamaktadır. 2 Kasım Uluslararası Gazetecilere Karşı İşlenen Suçlarda Cezasızlıkla Mücadele Günü vesilesiyle aşağıda imzası bulunan gruplar, Türkiye’de yargının, kamuoyunu bilgilendirdikleri için gazetecileri cezalandırmak yerine, ülkede basın özgürlüğünü ihlal edenlerden hesap sormasını talep etmektedir.

Bağımsız T24 haber sitesi muhabiri Tolga Şardan, 31 Ekim tarihli “MİT’in Cumhurbaşkanlığı’na sunduğu ‘yargı raporunda ne var?başlıklı yazısında, Cumhurbaşkanlığı tarafından MİT’e hazırlatıldığı iddia edilen yargıdaki yolsuzluklara ilişkin raporu ele aldığı gerekçesiyle 1 Kasım’da gözaltına alındı. Cumhurbaşkanlığı İletişim Başkanlığı’na bağlı Dezenformasyonla Mücadele Merkezi ayrıca 1 Kasım tarihinde paylaşım ile MİT raporunun varlığını yalanladı.  2 Kasım’da Şardan’ın yazısına erişim engeli getirildi. 

Şardan’ın haberi, Türkiye’nin adalet sistemindeki yolsuzluk iddialarını içeren ve kamuoyunun meşru kaygıları çerçevesine giren bir dizi araştırma raporunun sonuncusuydu. Bu haberlerin tamamına mahkeme kararıyla erişim engellendi.

İstanbul Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı tarafından yapılan açıklamada, Şardan hakkında 5237 sayılı Kanunun 217/A maddesi uyarınca “kamuoyunu yanıltıcı bilgi yaymak” suçundan soruşturma yürütüldüğü belirtildi. Bu madde, Ekim 2022′de yürürlüğe giren ve “dezenformasyon yasası” olarak adlandırılan yasa kapsamında düzenleniyor.  Suçlu bulunanlar üç yıla kadar hapis cezasına çarptırılabiliyor.

 

Gözaltına alındıktan sonra Ankara Adliyesi’ne getirilen Şardan, burada savcıya ifade verdi. “Altını çizerek söylüyorum sadece halkı bilgilendirmek çerçevesinde gazetecilik yaptım” diyen Şardan suçlamaları reddetti ve derhal serbest bırakılmayı talep etti. Şardan’ın avukatı, savcının müvekkilini tutuklamak yerine Şardan’ın yazısında yer alan iddialarla ilgili soruşturma başlatması gerektiğini de sözlerine ekledi.

İfadesinin ardından savcı, Şardan’ı tutuklanması talebiyle nöbetçi mahkemeye sevk etti. Mahkeme Şardan’ı tutukladı ve gazeteciyi Ankara, Sincan Cezaevi’ne nakletti. Mahkeme, tutuklama kararına dayanak olarak, Şardan’ın işlediği iddia edilen suçun, şüphelinin derhal tutuklanmasını gerektiren suçların bir listesini içeren Türk Ceza Muhakemesi Kanunu’nun 100/3 maddesinde belirtilen “katalog suçlar” kategorisine girdiğini yanlış bir şekilde gösterdi. Ancak 5237 sayılı Kanun’un 217/A maddesi bu madde kapsamına girmemektedir.

Dezenformasyon Yasası, kabul edildiği günden bu yana en az 12 kez gazetecileri yaptıkları haberler nedeniyle hedef almak için kullanıldı. Yasanın kabul edildiği gün, iktidar partisi temsilcisi ve TBMM İnsan Haklarını İnceleme Komisyonu eski başkanı Hakan Çavuşoğlu, Türkiye’yi ziyaret eden uluslararası basın özgürlüğü heyetine, yasanın gazetecilere karşı kullanılmayacağını, sadece kargaşa dönemlerinde ve akut afetler gibi acil durumlarda insanları yanlış bilgi paylaşmaktan caydırmak için çıkarıldığını söyledi. Bu yılın başlarında gazeteci Sinan Aygül, Dezenformasyon Yasası kapsamında mahkum edilen ilk gazeteci oldu. Şardan’ın tutuklanması, geçtiğimiz yıl Türkiye’de tespit edilen Dezenformasyon Yasası vakalarına ilişkin 13. Medya Özgürlüğü Haritalama veritabanı uyarısı oldu.

Bu nedenle Türkiye makamlarına Tolga Şardan’ı derhal tutuksuz yargılanmak üzere serbest bırakmaları ve hakkındaki tüm suçlamaları düşürmeleri çağrısında bulunuyoruz. Yetkililer, ülkedeki ifade hürriyeti ve medya özgürlüğü hakkı da dahil olmak üzere, Şardan’a ve diğer gazetecilere yönelik sistematik hukuki tacize son vermelidir. Türkiye’de keyfi olarak gözaltına alınan tüm gazetecilerle dayanışma içinde olduğumuzu yineliyoruz. Gazetecilik suç değildir ve bir gazetecinin meşru habercilik ve gazetecilik faaliyetleri nedeniyle parmaklıklar ardında geçirdiği her dakika ifade ve basın özgürlüğünün ihlalidir. Buna bir son verilmelidir.

İmzalayanlar:

  • Article 19
  • Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
  • Avrupa Gazeteciler Federasyonu (EFJ)
  • Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği (ÇGD)
  • Gazeteciler Cemiyeti (GC)
  • Gazetecilikte Kadın Koalisyonu (CFWIJ)
  • Gazetecileri Koruma Komitesi (CPJ)
  • Güney Doğu Avrupa Medya Örgütü (SEEMO)
  • İnsan Hakları İzleme Örgütü
  • Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA)
  • Norveç PEN
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBC Transeuropa)
  • Punto24 Bağımsız Gazetecilik Derneği (P24)
  • Türk Alman Kültür Forumu
  • Yabancı Medya Derneği (FMA)
  • Özgürlük Evi (Freedom House)
  • Uluslararası Af Örgütü
  • Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI)

This statement was coordinated by IPI as part of its #FreeTurkeyJournalists campaign and members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) consortium, 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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Candles are placed during a march in memory of murdered Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova. Library

End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

Access to reliable information that journalists provide civil society is the lifeblood of a resilient democracy, where a robust system of checks and balances thrives. Impunity for the killings of journalists diminishes the rule of law and press freedom. As today we mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, we want to pay a special tribute to those reporters in Europe whose families still await justice for their murders. They were threatened, targeted and murdered for challenging the powerful and corrupt. We call on the states to redouble their political will to tackle impunity.

When Greek veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz was shot dead in Athens in 2021, the authorities committed to prioritising the case and bringing all perpetrators to justice. Yet, for two long years, there was no significant progress. While the arrest in April 2023 of two suspects marks an important step towards accountability, the case remains in a state of impunity as potential middlemen and masterminds have not been apprehended and no convictions have been delivered. Justice can only be served when all those directly and indirectly involved in planning and executing the assassination are held responsible for their actions, without exceptions. 

Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, who was killed outside his home in Athens on Friday 9 April, 2021

Karaivaz was gunned down in front of his house in broad daylight sending a clear and chilling message to all reporters in Greece who hold power to account by exposing inconvenient truths. The abhorrent murder and the repeated failure to conduct a swift and thorough investigation is in part a consequence of inaction in the case of the 2010 murder of journalist Sokratis Giolias and came amidst numerous unresolved cases of threats and attacks against journalists. This worrying pattern ultimately underscores that despite declarations, the state continues to fall short of ensuring the safety of journalists with no concrete measures taken to improve the situation let alone secure justice. The recent MFRR mission to Greece, during which the delegation met with both journalists and public officials, further confirmed the stark erosion of media freedom in the country. We renewed our call for the authorities to dedicate additional resources and staff to the cases of violence against journalists and recognise their special nature to finally guarantee prompt, independent and efficient investigations. 

picture alliance/EPA-EFE | MATEJ KALINA

The murder of investigative reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová in 2018 sparked the biggest nationwide protest since the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The public’s rage subsequently translated into a vibrant quest for change and eventually toppled Robert Fico’s government. Kuciak, who was ruthlessly shot in his own home, reported on corruption, tax fraud and shady connections between businesses and oligarchs close to Fico’s SMER party. Five years on, Fico is back as Prime Minister for the 4th time, while the families of Kuciak and Kušnírová still await full justice. 

From the start, the process has been marked by allegations of political meddling in the police investigation. While the culprits who executed and facilitated the murder have since been prosecuted and sentenced to 25 years in prison, the suspected mastermind has continued to evade accountability. Businessman Marian Kočner was acquitted in a retrial in May 2023, a decision that the MFRR strongly condemned at the time stressing the massive setback for the protracted fight against impunity for Kuciak and Kušnírová’s murder. The verdict arrived amidst a resurgence of verbal attacks on Slovakian journalists, with top politicians launching smear campaigns that continue to go unaddressed. Before the September election, the SMER party disseminated at least 174 posts targeting journalists on social media which raises further concerns about whether the newly appointed government will rise to the occasion to tackle the climate of impunity and hostility against journalists. The MFRR delegation visited Bratislava in February 2023 to commemorate Kuciak and Kušnírová on the fifth anniversary of their murder and to reaffirm our steadfast support for the victims’ families. We reiterated the call for the authorities to provide law enforcement with all necessary means to bring justice for the crimes against journalists and to strengthen punishment for attacks against journalists targeted for their work.

picture alliance/AP Photo | Rene Rossignaud

The glaring illustration of how a total absence of political will perpetuates ongoing impunity has been bluntly demonstrated in the case of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was killed in a car bomb in October 2016. Incessant pressure from Daphne’s family and civil society groups resulted in the creation of an independent public inquiry to establish the circumstances that led to the journalist’s death. The final report published in 2021 found the state had to ‘shoulder responsibility’ for Caruana Galizia’s murder as it had created an ‘atmosphere of impunity’ and failed to take effective measures to protect her. The key findings included detailed recommendations on how to enhance the safety of journalists and restore the rule of law so that assassinations like that of Daphne could never happen again. Though in 2022, the hitmen were handed down harsh prison sentences, the masterminds still remain free. 

Though the report provided a historic opportunity for the Maltese government to create an enabling environment for independent journalists, and despite the repeated calls from the international community, the authorities remain reluctant to implement these vital safeguards. Civil society was not consulted in the production of draft media laws which resemble token gestures that do not offer robust and systemic reforms that are urgently needed. In addition, Malta consistently fails to address corruption and crime exposed by Caruana Galizia and other investigative journalists who operate in a high-risk environment. Daphne Caruana Galizia’s hard-hitting investigations into dirty money scandals, organized crime, and high-level government corruption earned her the nickname a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks’ – and in turn put a target on her back. Daphne was vilified, harassed and singled out as a public enemy. At the time of her death, she was facing 48 SLAPP cases. 

While the EU is still perceived as one of the safest places for journalists, year by year the various attacks are on the rise, with the most tragic examples being the assassinations of journalists. The vicious cycle of impunity tarnishes the press freedom and rule of law reputation of the authorities responsible. EU member states must genuinely engage in fulfilling their international obligations to safeguard media freedom including by redoubling their efforts and strengthening the political will to tackle impunity. In addition, they should fully implement the European Commission’s recommendation on journalists’ safety and report on their progress transparently. 

It is imperative to confront impunity for crimes committed against journalists to uphold the principles of free expression and support resilient civil society. Daphne Caruana Galizia, Giorgos Karaivaz and Jan Kuciak were brutally killed for their dedication to investigating and exposing crime, corruption, and other abuses of power that affect our communities. The assassination of a journalist seldom occurs in isolation. Instead, it is often preceded by consistent attempts to denigrate journalists and paint them as traitors to turn the public hostile towards them. We must collectively try harder to neuter and challenge vicious narratives aimed at decreasing trust in independent journalism. 

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • 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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