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Italy: Journalists face fresh violence covering ‘green pass’ protests

Italy: Journalists face fresh violence covering ‘green pass’ protests

The undersigned partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) are highly concerned about yet another series of violent attacks and threats to journalists and media workers covering protests against the government’s pandemic-related measures across Italy.

Several incidents of hostility and violence towards media were reported in Rome on 9 October, when journalists and photojournalists were attacked while reporting on a protest by anti-vaccine and far-right groups against government measures to require all workers to carry the EU Digital COVID Certificate.

Photojournalist Francesco Cocco, a contributor to daily newspaper Il Foglio, said he was deliberately kicked in the groin and injured by a uniformed police officer while documenting the street protest near via Largo Chigi in the capital. Video footage captures Cocco being hit off-camera and dropping to the floor, almost dropping the equipment.

That same afternoon, Flavia Amabile, a journalist with daily newspaper La Stampa, was hit with batons by police while covering the protest near the Piazza del Popolo. First, a police officer in riot gear hit her and another photojournalist with a truncheon despite being made aware they were journalists. In a second incident, Amabile was amidst a group of protesters filming on her mobile phone when the police moved forward and began hitting people violently with truncheons.

On the same day, la Repubblica photojournalist Alessandro Serranò was also attacked with a shovel by a protester who had broken into a construction site and armed himself. Video footage shows Serranò holding a makeshift shield as a man violently swings the shovel at him. He was taken to the emergency room with minor injuries. Journalist Sara Giudice and colleagues from La7 Piazzapulita were also attacked by protesters. Police confirmed that a 52-year-old man was charged with causing aggravated injuries. A trial hearing is set for 10 December.

Two days later, on 11 October, a crew from the public broadcaster Tgr Rai in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia was threatened and had their equipment damaged as they were covering anti-green-pass protests near the port in Trieste. Journalist Alessandra Zigaina had a microphone snatched out of her hand and thrown away into the crowd. A camera was also ripped out of the operator’s hand and dropped. The crew were also pushed and insulted. During the protest march, the demonstrators stopped outside the Rai headquarters to chant anti-media slogans and shout insults.

Our organisations join Italian journalists’ rights groups in strongly condemning all these incidents of violence against the media. Concerningly, these kinds of attacks have underscored the consistent threats that journalists in Italy face while reporting on anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine pass protests. During the pandemic, MFRR monitoring organisations have documented dozens of attacks and threats against journalists and media workers by protesters in various parts of the country, both during protests and against journalists investigating or reporting on anti-vaccine and conspiracy theory groups. Abuse of journalists covering demonstrations is becoming the norm rather than an anomaly.

We call on the Italian government to urgently take action to improve the safety of journalists covering protests. There is clearly a need for improving the public’s media literacy, so they better understand the press’ role, while also duly investigating and prosecuting acts of violence and harassment. Furthermore, any acts of police brutality must be swiftly and adequately investigated through an appropriate disciplinary process. This must be paired with improved capacity-building among law enforcement personnel in coordination with representatives of the journalistic profession to generate a better understanding of journalists’ and media workers’ protection needs during demonstrations.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
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Netherlands: IPI condemns arrest of three journalists covering climate…

Netherlands: IPI condemns arrest of three journalists covering climate protest

Dutch police question journalists’ identity despite possession of press cards

The IPI global network today expresses serious concern over the arrest of three Dutch journalists this week who were covering daily Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests in The Hague. IPI urges the police to use extreme caution while interrogating or arresting journalists at protests, especially when they have press identification.

On October 13, two Dutch journalists were arrested for covering an Extinction Rebellion protest in The Hague. One was Hans Nijenhuis, the former editor-in-chief of the national newspaper Algemeen Dagblad (AD), the newspaper reported on its website. The two had been accompanying XR activists that day as part of a story on the protests.

Police intercepted the group as they were travelling in cars to the area where they planned to block a main road and arrested 25 people. Nijenhuis and his colleague, photojournalist Marco de Swart, who were with the group at the time, were taken to the police station for further investigation. De Swart’s camera equipment was confiscated.

Despite the fact that both journalists were both in possession of the press card issued by the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ), and told police they were there in a professional capacity, the police claimed they had to carry out an additional identity check at the station. According to the Dutch police, the two did “present themselves as journalists”. “However we wanted to confirm their identity, which happened at the office”, a police communication officer told IPI. Both were released after two hours.

On Monday, Volkskrant journalist Mac van Dinther was detained and held for four hours for covering a similar XR protest in The Hague, which was part of “The Week of Climate Rebellion’. A police officer had obstructed Van Dinther from reporting on a violent arrest, which the journalist had allegedly called “childish”. The officer then pushed Van Dinther against a police vehicle and forcibly arrested him for allegedly insulting a police officer and refusing to cooperate.

At the time he was wearing a press card around his neck, but the officer did not believe him, reportedly saying “anyone can say they are a journalist”. He was detained The Public Prosecution Service dropped the case against the journalist but continues to justify the arrest. Van Dinther was released that same evening.

“These arrests by Dutch police are a violation of journalists’ right to report on a matter of public interest”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “Police have a responsibility to use extreme caution while interrogating or arresting journalists at protests. All three of these arrests appear to have been unjustified. It is also concerning that officers refused to accept officially licensed press cards and instead hauled two journalists off the street to the police station for additional checks. When it became clear they were journalists, they should have been released immediately. Their arrests resulted in direct interference and obstruction of their reporting.”

“The arrest is very wrong”, Milen van Boldrik, Secretary of the NVJ, said of the arrests on Wednesday. “The journalists called me during the arrest and the police summoned him to end the call, but by that time I knew enough”, she told IPI.

“Journalists should be free to execute their job”, Van Boldrik continued. “They should not be taken to the police office for their identity to be checked. We give out these press cards as a proof of their identity as a journalist. We do a back-up check, and this should be enough. We see that higher officers usually understand this, but local police officers do not always take the press card seriously.” The journalists have been released and will file a complaint against the police together with the NVJ.

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Greece: Justice Ministry must withdraw amendment on ‘false news’

Greece: Justice Ministry must withdraw amendment on ‘false news’

The undersigned partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today urge the Greek government to withdraw proposed amendments which would introduce fines and jail sentences for journalists found guilty of publishing “false news”. We believe the draft law’s vague definition and punitive sanctions would undermine the freedom of the press and have a chilling effect at a time when independent journalism is already under pressure in Greece.

The proposed amendments to Article 191 of the Criminal Code, brought forward by the Ministry of Justice, would include penalties for those found guilty of disseminating “false news that is capable of causing concern or fear to the public or undermining public confidence in the national economy, the country’s defense capacity or public health”. It adds: “If the transaction was performed repeatedly through the press or online, the perpetrator is punished with imprisonment of at least six months and a fine”. The publisher or owner of a media outlet responsible would also face prison and financial penalties.

Our organisations understand the serious threat that misinformation poses to Greek society and other states around the world. Globally, online falsehoods and conspiracy theories are distorting reality, undermining democracy and jeopardising the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Social media companies, individual citizens and governments themselves all have a role to play in countering the spread of harmful misinformation online.

However, the passing of heavy-handed legislation by governments which grants regulators or prosecutors the power to decide true from false and levy punitive fines on the press is not the correct response and would result in more harm than good. As we have seen around the globe, subjective interpretation of such vaguely worded laws can open the door to censorship of legitimate reporting. Media in Greece already face threats from abusive litigation and jail sentences for criminal defamation. Strengthening Article 191 would only create an additional avenue for journalists to face prosecution and jail time. Even when not applied directly, the potential for self-censorship under such legislation is enormous.

Like other similar legislative proposals around the world, the amendment contains no clear definition of “false news”. The term is ambiguously defined, broadly applicable and open to misuse. Particularly problematic is the sanctioning of reports “capable of causing concern” or which “undermines public confidence” in state authorities. Journalism which holds power to account naturally shakes the public’s trust in government, just as investigative reporting causes legitimate public concern or anger. Under such a vaguely worded law, this kind of vital watchdog journalism could be targeted by political leaders intent on limiting criticism of their policies. Journalistic unions in Greece have rightly criticised the amendment, warning it could lead to journalists being jailed or fined for reporting on issues such as the pandemic.

Rather than improving the existing Article 191 of the Criminal Code, which is already problematic, the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis would take a major step backwards if this law were eventually passed and send a worrying signal about the administration’s commitment to media freedom. Within the European Union, similar knee-jerk reactions to tackling misinformation during the pandemic were attempted in Romania and Bulgaria: both were either vetoed or withdrawn after staunch criticism from EU institutions. The only country to press ahead was Hungary, which criminalised the spread of misinformation deemed to undermine the authorities’ fight against Covid-19 with fines and prison sentences.

We urge the Greek Ministry of Justice to withdraw the amendment immediately and, should the government decide to press ahead, call on lawmakers to reject the proposal. In an era where politicians increasingly accuse critical journalism of being “fake news”, in the wrong hands such a law would be extremely dangerous. The Ministry of Justice should meet with Greece’s journalist unions and international media freedom organisations to listen to their concerns. Ultimately, the best way to address misinformation is not through government regulation. Rather, what is needed is a strong, professional, pluralist and independent press which can provide the public with reliable sources of information. If the Greek government is serious about tackling the spread of false information, initiatives to protect the safety of (investigative) journalists, develop media literacy and ensure a strong and vibrant media market with a high degree of pluralism are far better places to start.

 

Correction: This statement was changed to reflect that the proposed amendments pertain to the Criminal Code and not the Civil Code

Signed by:

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

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Albania: MFRR urges government to scrap new Media and…

Albania: MFRR urges government to scrap new Media and Information Agency

The undersigned partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response today express serious concern over a new Media and Information Agency (MIA) established by the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama in Albania and urge the ruling Socialist Party to immediately cancel its establishment to ensure it will not be used to further solidify control over the flow of public information. We also urge the European Union to immediately engage with the Albanian government to raise these concerns as a matter of priority in future accession talks.

Plans for the new agency, announced during the first session of the new parliament on September 18, would centralise control over the government’s public relations within a single entity. Under new rules, spokespersons at ministries and government departments will be prohibited from talking to the media directly and public information or comment will have to be approved by the MIA’s director general, who will be appointed directly by the Prime Minister and hold a status equal to that of a government minister.

The director general will have the power to appoint and dismiss spokespersons in every ministry, as well as approve their public appearances or interviews. The MIA will also decide on journalists’ requests for interviews and organise the press conferences of the Prime Minister and other ministers. In addition, the MIA will conduct monitoring of both the press and social media to track public opinion of government activities.

The government has said the new agency, which will be financed from the state budget and unspecified “donations”, will increase transparency and unify messaging across different ministries. However, our organisations share the concerns expressed by various leading editors-in-chief, civil society groups and media unions in Albania that rather than improve journalists’ access to public information, the establishment of the MIA may result in the exact opposite.

Context is vital here. Journalists in Albania currently work in an extremely difficult climate for accessing information from government sources. The government communicates with journalists via WhatsApp groups instead of using official channels. Reporters working for independent media are regularly discriminated against when seeking information or comment from ministers. Journalists viewed as representing “opposition” outlets are denied accreditation or barred from asking questions at press conferences. Those who seek comment from officials in person sometimes face hostility and obstruction. Official Freedom of Information requests regularly go unanswered and appeals through the Information Commissioner can be lengthy, with rulings often ignored outright.

At the same time, the Prime Minister shuns press conferences and instead relies on his own TV station ERTV to create and distribute sound bites and pre-edited video clips to the press. Interviews are given to selected journalists, shielding the PM and other ministers from facing challenging questions. Under the Socialist Party, other state institutions have emulated this model and now send out pre-prepared news packages to private TV stations and newspapers. The result is that across all levels of government, journalists face significant barriers in posing questions or properly scrutinising ministries. Against this backdrop, further solidification of government control over the flow of information by a single entity risks turning what is already a drip feed of information to journalists into a desert.

The level of influence the government and the Prime Minister himself will wield over the agency is a key concern. Media reports have already suggested that Endri Fuga, a close ally of the PM who spearheaded his public relations for the last eight years, has already secured the role of director general. His appointment would mirror that of another key ally, Ermela Krasniqi, to head the country’s Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA). This selective placement of two loyalists to lead institutions overseeing the regulation of media raises serious questions over their independence and impartiality and violates international standards.

Meanwhile, the oversized ability of the director general to hire and fire spokespersons – previously the responsibility of individual ministries – also poses questions over accountability and transparency. We are concerned that the MIA’s bilateral agreement with the public broadcaster Albanian Radio-Television (RTSH), which has operated without a director general for more than seven months now, may open the door to increased influence over its coverage. Likewise, plans for the MIA to distribute its own content about government activities in the manner of a state press agency raises additional concern over political influence and lack of impartiality. Following major revelations about the collection of citizen’s data by political parties via state institutions, the notion of tax-payer money being used to fund the monitoring of the press and social media by a government agency also sets alarm bells ringing.

In the longer term, this agency ultimately risks being a powerful tool for any government current or future to control the flow of public information to the media and to influence what citizens read, hear and watch. The role of journalists is to act as a filter between government and citizens. Limiting their ability to do so by constraining opportunities to question officials and side-lining critical journalists severely limits the ability of the press to do its job and hold power to account.

With the freedom of the media a cornerstone of Albania’s accession to the EU, it is vital that the EU mission in Tirana and the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi immediately respond to this latest development and address the concerns raised by our organisations and others. Until greater safeguards can be established to ensure the MIA operates in a fair and transparent manner, we urge the government to cancel its establishment pending consultation with national and international journalist groups.

Signed by:

  • Article 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
Peter R. de Vries (Photo: DWDD) Library

Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries dies after shooting

Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries dies after shooting

Update (15/07/2021) Peter R. de Vries passed away on 15 July 2021, RTL announced on Twitter. 

Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries is fighting for his life in hospital after being shot five times in Lange Leidsedwars street in Amsterdam yesterday evening at around 7.30. The police has arrested three suspects. The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ/IFJ) condemned the murder attempt as another tragic blow to press freedom in Europe.

On Tuesday evening, Peter R. de Vries was a guest on daily television programme RTL Boulevard. After leaving the building, he was shot several times at close range, including in the head, in a side street of the studio. Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema told a press conference that the investigative journalist was “fighting for his life.” The police have arrested three suspects.

Peter R. de Vries (64) is a well-known Dutch investigative journalist who covered high-profile criminal investigation. He worked for De Telegraaf, Panorama magazine, Algemeen Dagblad and ran his own crime programme on television. He won an international Emmy Award in 2008 for his work investigating the 2006 disappearance of teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba.

According to media reports, De Vries has been threatened in the past and was granted police protection. In 2019, he said on Twitter  that he would be on a death list. He has been acting as a counselor to a state witness testifying in the case against Ridouan Taghi, suspected of murder and drug trafficking.

The General Secretary of the Dutch Journalists’ Association (NVJ) Thomas Bruning said: “This hits journalism right in the heart. Of course, it remains to be seen what De Vries’ activities are related to, but the attack took place outside RTL Boulevard. De Vries is a fierce crimefighter, persistent and courageous. We can only hope he survives.”

EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregard said: “I send my thoughts to Peter and expect an immediate investigation bringing the masterminds of this awful attack to justice. Enabling and protecting the crucial work of (investigative) journalists to deal with crime and other essential issues is key for any democracy.”

The EFJ had recently alerted over the escalation of violence against media professionals with an increase in attacks since last year and repeatedly called on the Dutch authorities to do the utmost to protect journalists and investigate all attacks.

IFJ President Younes MJahed said: “We are shocked by this attack against a journalist who has reported extensively on matters of public concerns and has taken huge risks to tell the truth. This is an attack on press freedom and we urge authorities to swiftly investigate this case. Our thoughts are with Peter, his family and friends.”
Erk Acarer - photo: Twitter upload (https://twitter.com/eacarer) Library

Germany: Exiled Turkish journalist attacked outside his apartment in…

Germany: Exiled Turkish journalist attacked outside his apartment in Berlin

On 7 July, exiled Turkish journalist Erk Acarer was attacked with “fists and knives” outside his apartment in Berlin. Acarer has lived in German exile since 2017 because of his critical reporting of the Turkish government. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its German affiliates, the German Journalists Association (DJV) and the German Journalists Union (dju in ver.di), as well as its Turkish affiliates in strongly condemning this aggression.

The attack took place on Wednesday night in the Berlin district of Neukölln, where three assailants beat him with their fists and knives in his yard. The journalists reported the attack on Twitter, where he shared photos of his injuries and described what had happened. In a video, Acarer said that one of the attackers shouted “You will not write!” . “I know the perpetrators. I will never surrender to fascism,” the journalist reacted. Acarer said that security told him not to disclose names.

The journalist was treated in a hospital for his head injury, which was reportedly not severe. He and his family have been placed under police protection. On Thursday, Berlin police confirmed the attack but did not share details of the suspects.

Facing threats in Turkey because of his critical reporting on the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Acarer and his family came to Germany in 2017. He was also charged for publishing classified information on state security and intelligence activities.

Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, also living in exile in Germany, called it a “direct message” from the Turkish head of state that Turkey could attack a journalist critical of the regime – even in Berlin.

The DJV called the attack “shocking” and drew comparisons with the Skripal case, saying that “the Turkish president is apparently learning from his colleague in Moscow”.

Monique Hofmann, dju in ver.di General Secretary, said: “Only by systematically investigating the motives behind the crime and prosecuting the perpetrators can we prevent the threats to media workers, which they have fled to their home countries, from continuing here.”

“We are appalled by this attack and call on the German authorities to thoroughly and swiftly investigate this cruel aggression. We need governments to do everything to protect all journalists, be they journalists in exile, freelancers or staff journalists,” stated Renate Schroeder, Director of the EFJ.
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UK whistleblower Jonathan Taylor released from extradition hell

UK whistleblower Jonathan Taylor released from extradition hell

We are delighted to announce that on Wednesday 7 July 2021, Croatian Justice Minister Ivan Malenica formally rejected the request by Monaco to extradite UK whistleblower Jonathan Taylor. Jonathan Taylor’s Support Group extends its gratitude to the Minister for taking the right decision.

The move comes following sustained calls for the past 11 months from human rights and civil liberties campaigners across Europe – and UK MPs –  for his immediate release and safe return home. Legal experts backing the release of Jonathan Taylor said there was no proper legal basis for Monaco to seek Mr. Taylor’s extradition and the process was retaliatory in nature. Lawyers acting on behalf of Jonathan Taylor argued that it constituted an abuse of process.

Jonathan Taylor was arrested whilst on a family holiday in Croatia last July, and has been restrained there since. He has been isolated, away from his family, and unable to support himself or his family, all of which have taken an extreme toll on his mental wellbeing.

A former in-house lawyer for oil firm SBM Offshore based in Monaco, Jonathan Taylor blew the whistle in 2013 on a massive bribery scheme. Jonathan’s whistleblowing disclosures led to SBM Offshore paying over $800 million in fines in the US, Netherlands and Brazil and investigations which led to successful prosecutions of two former CEOs for fraud-related offences.

Yet nine years later, he was arrested on a questionable Interpol Red Notice  whilst on holiday, and wanted for questioning in Monaco over allegations made by his former employer over his settlement. The Red Notice was withdrawn by Monaco last December on the eve of Interpol making a determination on its validity. Jonathan denies wrongdoing and his lawyers have long argued there is no legal basis for extraditing him for questioning as he is neither charged nor convicted of any offences.

“I am of course elated that justice has finally prevailed and I am appreciative that Minister of Justice Ivan Malenica was able to pay regard to the salient legal arguments of my lawyers that were seemingly overlooked by the Courts in making his decision to reject Monaco’s flawed attempt at extraditing me,” states Jonathan Taylor.

“Special thanks go to all my supporters in Europe, overseas and in Croatia who somehow kept me sane in my year of need! Be assured that I remain resolute and proud of exposing serious wrongdoing at SBM Offshore and I will never be intimidated by the corrupt and those that shamefully seek retaliation against me for exposing them. I continue to stand ready to assist the Monaco Prosecutor in the event that a decision is made to pursue those responsible for SBM Offshore’s illicit business practices instead of me.”

We agree with Jonathan. The Minister of Justice of Croatia, Ivan Malenica, carefully considered the position of Jonathan Taylor as a whistleblower and a protected witness. His decision in this case has wider implications for the rule of law in Europe: it is a victory for the public’s right to know about wrongdoing by protecting the messengers of that information. Whistleblowers play a vital role in Europe’s fight against global corruption. Croatia has demonstrated its commitment to the rule of law and to the protection of whistleblowers.

We now call on Monaco to drop any further proceedings against Jonathan Taylor and to focus on the actions of SBM Offshore as a proper target for their investigations.

We wish Jonathan a safe return to the UK where he can begin to rebuild his life.

Signed by:

  • Access Info Europe
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Baroness Kramer, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing (UK)
  • Blueprint for Free Speech (Germany and Australia)
  • Centre for Free Expression (Canada)
  • Eurocadres – Council of European Professional & Managerial Staff
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • European Organisation of Military Associations and Trade Unions (EUROMIL)
  • Free Press Unlimited
  • GlobaLeaks
  • Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers (United Kingdom)
  • Martin Bright, Editor, Index on Censorship (United Kingdom)
  • Mary Robinson MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Whistleblowing (UK)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Pištaljka (Serbia)
  • Professor David Lewis, Middlesex University (UK)
  • Protect (United Kingdom)
  • Sherpa (France)
  • SpeakOut SpeakUp Ltd
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation (Malta)
  • The Government Accountability Project (USA)
  • The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF)
  • The Signals Network (USA/France)
  • Transparency International – Bulgaria
  • Transparency International EU
  • Transparency International Italy
  • Transparency International Secretariat
  • WhistleblowersUK (UK)
  • Whistleblowing International Network (WIN)
Peter R de Vries (composition + photo: DWDD) Library

Netherlands: Shocking attack on veteran crime reporter requires swift…

Netherlands: Shocking attack on veteran crime reporter requires swift action

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) is appalled by the attack on veteran Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries.

We call on the Dutch authorities to swiftly investigate and establish whether de Vries was targeted for his work as a journalist. The perpetrator(s) and mastermind(s) behind this horrific crime must be brought to justice without delay.

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) is appalled by the attack on veteran Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries.

We call on the Dutch authorities to swiftly investigate and establish whether de Vries was targeted for his work as a journalist. The perpetrator(s) and mastermind(s) behind this horrific crime must be brought to justice without delay.

De Vries is well-known for his investigative reporting on the Dutch underworld and has repeatedly received serious threats as a consequence of his work. On Tuesday evening, de Vries was gunned down on the street in Amsterdam by an unidentified attacker after appearing as a guest on TV show RTL Boulevard. He was taken to hospital in critical condition. As reported on national broadcaster NOS, five shots were fired and de Vries was shot in the head. 

Regardless of the motive, the attack on de Vries is a tragic event for Europe’s journalistic community. Without safety for journalists, there can be no free press. 

“We are shocked by the attempted murder of investigative crime reporter Peter de Vries in the Netherlands. The manner in which he was attacked reminds us of the murders of Ján Kuciak, Daphne Caruana Galizia and Giorgos Karaivaz. We have to face the fact that investigative journalists exposing the actions of organised crime are in constant danger. The state must protect them”,

says Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director of ECPMF.

“The King and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands rightly called this an attack on journalism, press freedom and the rule of law. Now we ask them to follow through with conducting a thorough investigation of the case. The Netherlands are a role model regarding press freedom. But the horrible attack on de Vries also makes clear that the protection of journalists must be improved.”

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Italy: Defamation law must be reformed

Italy: Defamation law must be reformed

A year after the Constitutional Court ruled on the unconstitutionality of prison sentences in cases of defamation through the press, on 22 June 2021 the Court issued a follow-up decision declaring art. 13 of Law 47/1948 (Press Law) not compliant with the Constitution. The Court has however declared art. 595(3) of the Penal Code, which provides for a sentence between one and six years of prison or the payment of a fine, compliant with the Constitution, but applicable only in cases of “exceptional severity”.

In June 2020, the Constitutional Court invited the Italian Parliament to remove specific provisions declared unconstitutional and promote a wider reform of the defamation framework. However, the Parliament did not meet the deadline set by the Court and failed to legislate on this matter, returning the decision to the judiciary. In its decision on 22 June 2021, in light of the lack of such initiative, the Court renewed its call on Parliament urging the promotion of a reform that could adequately balance the “freedom of expressing one’s own thought and (the) protection of individual reputation”. The lack of parliamentary initiative in pushing for comprehensive reform of the defamation framework in Italy is a long-standing issue that contributes to the erosion of a free and independent press and an increase in SLAPPs against journalists.

Data from Istat (Italian National Statistics Institute) shows that, in 2017 alone, a total of 9,479 proceedings for defamation were initiated against journalists, of which 60% were dismissed after preliminary investigation and 6.6% went to trial. Plaintiffs are often public figures – politicians, businessmen, or individuals involved in organized crime – who start legal proceedings against journalists with an aim to silence them and bury articles that often contain information on  corruption, tax evasion, or mafia collusion.

A reform of defamation laws is urgently needed to stop SLAPPs against journalists, which often lead to self-censorship and discourage newspapers and editors from publishing sensitive or controversial information for fear of incurring lengthy and expensive legal proceedings. The European Commission – aware of the need to counter this phenomenon within the EU – committed itself to promoting measures to counter SLAPPs within the EU block, following a request of an Anti-SLAPPs Coalition composed of 60 organizations in Europe, including the members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response. The European Parliament also recently took action against SLAPPs by promoting an “own-initiative report (INI)”, to be discussed on 28 June 2021, with an aim to push the Commission to adopt legislative measures to address SLAPPs.

The undersigned organisations urge the Italian Parliament to begin comprehensive reform of defamation laws in line with international freedom of expression standards as soon as possible. Such reform should center on the decriminalisation of defamation and set limits within civil law on the amount in damages that can be sought to avoid creating undue obstacles to the journalistic profession. Furthermore, this reform should address specific challenges posed by SLAPPs against journalists within the Italian framework. While the Italian Civil Code includes some provisions aimed at countering SLAPPs – art. 96 provides that those plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in “bad faith” must compensate the defendant – judges rarely recur to this provision in practice.

We call on the Italian Parliament to prioritise the reform of both criminal and civil defamation laws, drive discussions that will lead to the identification of measures that address Italian issue areas, and establish a framework that will protect journalists from indiscriminate use of the law to silence or discredit.

Cases of criminal defamation and civil lawsuits, such as SLAPPs, can be reported to mappingmediafreedom.org. The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) also provides financial legal support for journalists, media workers, and media outlets. For further information on legal aid, please visit https://www.mfrr.eu/support/legal-support or contact Flutura Kusari on kusari@ecpmf.eu.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (FNSI)
  • Sindacato Unitario Giornalisti Campania (SUGC)
  • Articolo 21
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)

This statement was first published by Article 19 on 23 June 2021