Georgia: MFRR partners strongly condemn new attempts to introduce…

Georgia: MFRR partners strongly condemn new attempts to introduce a “foreign agent” law

The undersigned media freedom organizations strongly condemn Georgia’s ruling party’s renewed effort to pass a Russian-style “foreign agent” law that would threaten media freedom and civic space in the country, which received EU candidate status last year. We call on the Georgian Dream (GD) party to immediately withdraw this restrictive piece of legislation.

On Wednesday, April 3, the ruling GD party announced it would reintroduce a “foreign agent” bill, which was passed in a first hearing in 2023 but subsequently withdrawn following widespread protests and international criticism. On April 8, the Georgian Parliament’s Bureau formally registered the bill under the title  “Transparency of foreign influence”. This move breaks the assurances given last year by Georgian Dream officials that there would be no reintroduction or reconsideration of the legislation. 


While the government claims that the bill is necessary to increase the transparency of funding of independent media and non-governmental organizations, we are gravely concerned that this law provides the authorities with a powerful tool to discredit and curtail independent voices, threatening press freedom and freedom of expression. “Foreign agent” laws not only affect the media or NGOs directly designated as such; they also produce a chilling effect on the right to seek and receive information and on participation in public affairs.

In comparison to the text proposed by GD in 2023, the new version of the law would only change the way that organizations receiving foreign funds, including media outlets, are labeled, from “agents of foreign influence” to “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power”. Aside from this wording, the law would otherwise maintain the same excessive powers to interfere in the work of such organizations. 

According to the draft law, upon its adoption, foreign-funded organizations would have two months to register themselves as “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power”, and submit annual financial declarations on funds received from foreign sources. Failure to register would be an administrative offence, punishable by fines of up to 25.000 GEL (approximately 8.700 EUR). The law also authorizes the Ministry of Justice to conduct “thorough investigations” of the organizations to ensure their respect of the law.

Overall, the proposal does not withstand scrutiny from the perspective of media freedom, and more broadly, the rights to freedom of association and expression. The vague pretext of financial transparency alone does not constitute a recognized legitimate aim to impose additional labeling, registration, or reporting requirements. Additional responsibilities and bureaucratic demands accompanying the “foreign agent” status disrupt the regular operations of NGOs and the media, counteracting their civic and journalistic functions. Such measures discriminate against certain organizations based on their funding sources and create unjustified restrictions.  

Draft law met with harsh criticism  


The bill has elicited extensive criticism in Georgia, including from President Salome Zourabichvili, who accused the government of ‘sabotaging’ the country’s EU membership bid. 


When Georgia was granted EU candidate status in 2023, it committed to implementing numerous democratic reforms, including creating and enabling an environment for free and independent media. Given the ample criticism of the bill from EU representatives, the current bill would likely jeopardize the country’s prospects to join the EU.  


Georgian online media outlets promptly issued a joint statement condemning the initiative and promising to fight against its adoption. “The main goal of the ‘Russian law’ is to destroy independent public and media organizations, suppress freedom of speech, and establish total control over public opinion,” read the joint statement. Later, on April 8, over 400 Georgia-based media and non-governmental organizations signed a statement condemning the bill. 


“Foreign agent” laws spreading throughout the region


The legislation proposed by Georgian Dream is presented by its critics as inspired by Russia’s “foreign agent” law, which since its adoption in 2012 has evolved into a primary tool for suppressing Russian civil society, and press freedom in particular.


When it was first adopted in 2012, Russia’s “foreign agent” law was also presented as a mere list of entities financed from abroad. However, legislation evolved over the following decade to become a tool excluding journalists, media, and a range of other civil society organizations from playing an active role in society. Today, any organization, media, or private individual can be designated as a “foreign agent” for receiving funding of any amount from abroad, or because they are considered to be “under foreign influence” by Russia’s Ministry of Justice.


Worryingly, Russian-style legislation is increasingly gaining traction in neighbouring countries. On April 2, Kyrgyzstan’s president signed a law on “foreign representatives” obliging non-profit organizations, including media outlets, to designate themselves as “foreign representatives”, and submit regular financial reports and audits. 


In February of this year, the “foreign agent” law was among 43 other bills proposed for voting in the parliament of Abkhazia, a separatist-occupied breakaway region in Georgia, as part of an ongoing effort to ‘harmonize’ Russian and Abkhazian legislation


MFRR partners fear that the proposed legislation by the Parliament of Georgia could severely undermine independent journalism, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and association, in the country. We stand in full solidarity with independent journalists and press freedom defenders in Georgia, and reiterate our call to the authorities to refrain from adopting the proposed legislation. 

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • OBC Transeuropa
  • 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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The scene of Giorgos Karaivaz’s murder Library

Three years later: Still no justice for murdered Greek…

Three years later: Still no justice for murdered Greek journalist Giorgos Karaivaz

Three years have elapsed since the assassination of Giorgos Karaivaz, a veteran Greek crime reporter. Today, the undersigned members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) commemorate his death and renew demands on the Greek authorities to redouble their efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Giorgos Karaivaz was one of Greece’s most prominent investigative journalists specializing in organized crime and police reporting when he was gunned down in broad daylight outside his Athens home on April 9, 2021. The execution was conducted by professional hitmen who escaped on a motorbike and therefore almost certainly worked for organized crime.


Despite the arrest of two suspects in April 2023, shortly before the national elections, there has been no discernible progress in the investigation. Given that Karaivaz also reported on corruption between the police and organized crime, the risk that some parties within the police may be interested in obstructing the investigation cannot be ruled out. For this reason, the lack of transparency over the investigation is particularly troubling.


Despite repeated calls for greater transparency in accordance with European standards, Greek authorities have failed to disclose the progress of investigations. As the sole EU member with two open cases of impunity for the killings of journalists, Greece’s lack of progress in prosecuting perpetrators underscores the urgency for expedited investigations and the implementation of measures recommended by the European Commission for the Safety of Journalists.


The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners are concerned that the failure to identify and prosecute the responsible parties is having a profound chilling effect on the journalistic community, in addition to being a profound injustice and undermining the rule of law in Greece. We therefore urge the Greek authorities to increase efforts to identify and prosecute all those responsible for this heinous crime.


We reiterate our recommendations made following the MFRR 2023 mission to Greece outlined in the report ‘Stemming the tide of Greek Media Freedom Decline’. These included:

  • The public prosecutor should dedicate additional resources and seek assistance from international bodies such as Europol in Karaivaz’s investigation
  • The government should commit to promoting effective and independent investigations of crimes against journalists
  • The prosecutor of the Supreme Court should commission an independent evaluation of all unresolved cases of attacks against journalists

The report also noted the ongoing failure to prosecute those behind the 2010 murder of journalist Sokratis Giolias, further adding to the climate of impunity.


The government’s failure to secure justice should also be seen in the broader context of an ongoing erosion of press freedom and the rule of law in Greece, which, as highlighted by a recent European Parliament resolution, includes the misuse of spyware against journalists, challenges to media pluralism and intimidation of journalists.


While we note the establishment of the Task Force on Ensuring Protection of Journalists in July 2022, we are yet to see any tangible results for journalists. The Greek government must take decisive action to address these alarming concerns by safeguarding journalists from threats and attacks and ensuring accountability for past injustices.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • The 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, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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EU flags outside the European Commission Library

MFRR highlights threats to media freedom in EU Commission’s…

MFRR highlights threats to media freedom in EU Commission’s Rule of Law report

Updates on some of the biggest developments and threats to media freedom and pluralism across European Union Member States throughout 2023 were submitted to the EU Commission’s annual Rule of Law Report by partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR).

On 15 January 2024, MFRR consortium partners Free Press Unlimited (FPU), International Press Institute (IPI) and the Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) filed detailed submissions to the report on the topic of media freedom and pluralism in Hungary, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and the Czech Republic.


The joint and individual submissions provide information of major developments in the media freedom landscapes in each country and assess progress – or lack of progress – made on the EU Commission’s recommendations to each state in the 2023 report. They are based on advocacy and monitoring work carried out by MFRR partners throughout the year.


Key rule of law issues examined in the information submitted included the passing of the recent Sovereignty Protection Act by the government of Victor Orbán in Hungary, for which MFRR partners have called for infringement proceedings from the EU Commission. The submission on Hungary also detailed the major wave of cyber-attacks on critical and independent media outlets in 2023.


Submissions on Greece examined the ongoing state of total impunity for the 2021 murder of crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, the widow of whom MFRR partners met in Athens during a press freedom mission to the country in September 2023. The submission also examines a previous case of impunity for the assassination of a journalist and addresses the wider landscape for the safety of journalists in Greece, and efforts by the government to address it. The submission reflects especially on the effectiveness of the government Task Force for the safety of journalists – the establishment of which was a key recommendation in previous reports.


The submission on Italy provides details on several attacks on independent journalism by the far-right coalition government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni throughout 2023. Among the indicators identified as deteriorating signals of the rule of law in Italy include a steep increase in vexatious lawsuits filed against the press by leading government ministers; an alarming defamation bill advanced by the ruling coalition which risks producing a chilling effect on press freedom; a bill forbidding transcripts’ publications of pre-trial detention orders, which risks severely restricting court reporting; and escalating political pressure on the public broadcaster RAI.


In the Czech Republic meanwhile, the submission instead detailed positive legal reforms undertaken by the centre-right government of Petr Fiala, including welcome changes which strengthened the system for appointments to the supervisory bodies of the public broadcaster and improved conflicts of interest law that stops politicians from owning media. This latter change forced the former Prime Minister, Andrej Babis, leader of the opposition ANO party, to sell Mafra media, one of the country’s largest media companies. It also sets out the lack of progress in other areas.


In the Netherlands, the submission voiced concern over media pluralism as the Dutch landscape is characterized by a high concentration of foreign media ownership. This became more prevalent with the recent announcement that DPG Media intends to take over RTL Group. Furthermore, the submission also highlighted several threats to press freedom and the safety of journalists, including the recent wiretapping scandal of journalists of de Correspondent by the Public Prosecution Office; transnational repression of both foreign and Dutch journalists; and the rise of SLAPPs and other forms of legal intimidation such as the abusive lawsuit against Het Financieele Dagblad, which MFRR partners deplored. The submission focused on several positive developments too, including increased funding and capacity for the journalist safety initiative Persveilig and the passing of a new law to criminalise doxing.


MFRR partners continue to support the Rule of Law Report as a valuable tool that increases scrutiny of threats to the rule of law and media freedom and empowers civil society and Member State governments to promote and enforce the rule of law in the EU. To strengthen the process further, MFRR partners call for the EU Commission to provide more detailed country-specific recommendations to Member States on all areas of work, including media freedom and pluralism. These should be more targeted and provide concrete reforms and improvements to be undertaken to media regulatory bodies, systems for state support to media, media transparency registers, and the establishment of bodies dedicated to strengthening the protection and security of journalists.


Our organisations remain committed to documenting, reporting and raising awareness about all threats and attacks on media freedom, media pluralism and independent journalism across the bloc on our Mapping Media Freedom platform and look forward to continuing the consortium’s monitoring, advocacy and support work in 2024.

Signed by:

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

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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Greece: Ahead of court hearing, SLAPP lawsuit against media…

Greece: Ahead of court hearing, SLAPP lawsuit against media and journalists must be dropped

The undersigned international freedom of expression and media freedom organisations today renew our condemnation of a groundless defamation lawsuit filed against Greek journalists and media by Grigoris Dimitriadis, the nephew of the Prime Minister, and urge the plaintiff to urgently withdraw the lawsuit ahead of an upcoming hearing.

With the first hearing due at an Athens court of First Instance on 25 January, 2024 after a year-and-a-half delay, our organisations restate our shared characterisation of this lawsuit as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) – a vexatious effort to muzzle investigative reporting on Dimitriadis’ links to the Greek spyware scandal.

The claim by Dimitriadis – who belongs to the powerful Mitsotakis family – was filed on 5 August 2022 against newspaper EFSYN and online investigative portal Reporters United and their reporters Nikolas Leontopoulos and Thodoris Chondrogiannos, plus freelance journalist Thanasis Koukakis. It demands compensation of €250,000 from EFSYN, €150,000 from Reporters United and its journalists. Dimitriadis also demanded that Koukakis, a journalist targeted with spyware, take down his sharing of Reporters United’s investigation on social media which referred to Dimitriadis and the wiretapping scandal and pay damages of €150,000. The total amount claimed is €550,000.

The defamation lawsuit was filed on the day Dimitriadis resigned from his position as the general secretary of Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, his uncle. The previous day, EFSYN and Reporters United made revelations about Dimitriadis’ connection to the surveillance scandal at a time when he oversaw the National Intelligence Agency. On June 3, another joint report had provided evidence Dimitriadis was connected to a network of businesspeople and companies linked directly or indirectly with businessman Felix Bitzios, former deputy administrator and shareholder of the spyware firm Intellexa, which at the time marketed the Predator spyware, which was revealed to have been used by unconfirmed actors to surveil multiple high-profile political and media figures.

After the lawsuit was filed, many of our organisations branded the lawsuit as a startling example of a SLAPP and an attempt to muzzle investigative reporting on a matter of significant public interest. This assessment was supported by the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE). One-and-a-half years on, the frivolous nature of this lawsuit remains, and recent revelations have only further supported the reporting. Rather than being targeted by financially and psychologically draining lawsuits, both Reporters United and EFSYN instead deserve credit for their watchdog reporting.

Our organisations met with journalists from Reporters United during a recent international press freedom mission to Athens in September 2023 to discuss the lawsuit and its impact further. Through the Media Freedom Rapid Response, our organisations are proud to have helped provide support to cover the legal fees of the targeted media outlets and journalists in this court case.

Concerningly, we note that on 24 November 2023, Dimitriadis filed a second lawsuit against many of the same plaintiffs: EFSYN, three executives from the newspaper, as well as three journalists from Reporters United and Thanasis Koukakis. This second lawsuit – totalling €3.3 million for all the defendants – also stems from their reporting on Dimitriadis’ alleged links to the spyware scandal. Another lawsuit was filed against Alter Ego Media, as well as other threats of legal action.

Our organisations stress an alarming pattern of legal efforts to smother journalistic reporting on Dimitriadis’ connections to the spyware scandal. Ahead of the first-instance hearing, we urge Mr. Dimitriadis to withdraw the lawsuit and retract demands for the removal of the article and financial compensation. If the claim is not withdrawn, we urge the court to dismiss the complaint and to recognise the vexatious nature of this lawsuit, the accuracy and public interest of the report, and the pattern of legal intimidation by Mr Dimitriadis against independent journalistic reporting. We ask the judge to carefully assess international freedom of expression standards when making any decision.

Our organisations will continue to monitor the situation closely and report further attacks on the freedom of the press in Greece to international organisations and the European Union. We will also continue to raise SLAPP cases as a matter of concern with the Greek government and its Task Force for journalists’ safety. As the European institutions move to formally approve the EU anti-SLAPP Directive and the Council of Europe anti-SLAPP recommendation, the Greek authorities should take all national measures to ensure that journalists are not silenced by these vexatious lawsuits, in line with European standards. Our organisations remain committed to defending free and independent journalism in Greece and hope for a positive outcome in this case.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • ARTICLE 19 Europe (A19)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

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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Poland: MFRR reasserts recommendations for democratic reform for press…

Poland: MFRR reasserts recommendations for democratic reform for press freedom and public media

The undersigned partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today renew their call for democratic and comprehensive reform to Poland’s public broadcasters which creates systematic safeguards to limit the ability of all governments, future and present, to meddle in editorial or institutional independence of the country’s public media.

The MFRR coalition also reaffirms the set of recommendations for steps that can be taken by the new coalition government to improve the wider situation for media freedom and independent journalism in Poland. These recommendations were jointly developed following a recent mission of the MFRR to Warsaw ahead of the election.


Our organisations jointly urge the new Civic Platform-led government to heed the concerns and recommendations of media freedom organisations. We call on political leaders to ensure that all reforms to the media space in Poland – both underway and planned – adhere to democratic values and follow the rule of law.


The call comes amidst an ongoing battle over the future of public broadcaster TVP and Polish Radio. Since coming to power, the new government abruptly dismissed the supervisory bodies of TVP and national news agency PAP and put the public media into liquidation, an unprecedented move which uses a legal loophole to allow the government to continue financing the broadcaster while also making internal changes.


While the new administration has defended the moves as necessary to dismantle the propaganda output of TVP, the former ruling party has criticized the changes as undemocratic and aimed at cementing a new form of political control over the channels.


While the MFRR continues to support much needed reforms by the new coalition government to restore the impartiality, reliability and professionalism of public media in Poland, the means used to do so must be democratic, legal and truly aimed at increasing pluralistic and balanced coverage, prioritizing the public interest over any one political interest.


With a new law on public service media reportedly being developed by the coalition parties, our organizations also call on the new government to conduct a thorough consultative process on any proposed legislative changes, urge that that the concerns of the media community are heeded, and stress that reforms are fully in line with the principles outlined in the European Commission’s European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), particularly regarding guarantees for political independence.


Crucially, any reforms by the new government must not perpetuate the cycle of capture and control that was taken to extremes by the Law and Justice (PiS) party during its years in power and ensure that deep structural changes to the management and regulation of TVP and Polish Radio are undertaken which will put an end to repeated periods of politicization after elections.


Given the importance of regulation of public media in Poland, the new administration must address the National Media Council (NMC), which has been identified as a key instrument created by PiS to wield greater control over TVP. The NMC remains an unconstitutional body dominated by PiS appointees and should be addressed under relevant law.


Democratic changes to address the ongoing crisis at public media in Poland are possible, but must be made with restraint and the utmost respect for the rule of law and democracy. The MFRR therefore reasserts the recommendations regarding the future of the public media that were made jointly by our organisations in September 2023 ahead of the election and calls on the new government to carefully consider and implement them. The full MFRR mission report can be read here.



Public service media

  • Public broadcasting requires a root and branch reform of both the governance structures and financing mechanism to guarantee political independence and the fulfilling of the public service remit. In particular:
  • The appointment process for management and governing bodies must be depoliticised with candidates appointed through transparent, open, and non-discriminatory procedures on the basis of their professional skills and experience with guarantees of political neutrality.
  • PSM funding must be conducted through arms-length decision making ideally through a form of TV licensing to ensure that the funds are free of political interference. Any government supplementary allocation should be taken in transparent decision making, that guarantees stable long-term financing, adequate to fulfil the public service mission.


The MFRR mission made further recommendations on wider improvements to the press freedom landscape in Poland.

Media regulation

Media regulators must be able to operate fully independent of government in line with Article 30 of the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive that demands regulators are legally distinct from government and functionally independent of their respective government. Reform of KRRiT should include:

  • Depoliticising the appointments process to ensure candidates are appointed through transparent, open, and non-discriminatory procedures on the basis of their professional skills and experience with explicit guarantees of political neutrality.
  • Ensuring all processes with respect to licensing and investigations into breaches of the code are subject to clear and transparent procedures and collegiate decision making. Failure to meet those procedures, such as undue delays in licensing decisions, or manifestly politicized investigations, must have clear consequences for those responsible with commensurate compensation provided to the broadcaster affected.
  • All decisions must be duly justified in line with the regulatory powers of the office and broadcast code.
  • All investigations into alleged breaches of the broadcast code must be conducted by the full board and not placed in the hands of the Chair alone. Investigations should follow due process allowing the accused to present its arguments. Decisions should be accompanied by detailed justifications. There should be an appeals process for condemned media including the option to revisit rulings in the courts in line with European standards of free expression.
  • Information should be publicly available on the handling of all complaints received with detailed reports issued at least annually on all decisions with due justification.


Media pluralism

Media pluralism must be ensured through a diverse range of media and owners that operate independently of the state with strong guarantees of editorial independence. Recommended measures include:

  • PKN Orlen should be required to immediately divest its media investments and state-controlled companies, outside of the public media framework, should be barred from owning media.
  • A media plurality test should be developed to measure the impact of transfers of ownership in the media market on pluralism and to guarantee media pluralism.
  • The government must guarantee a level economic playing field for all media and end practices that discriminate against, and create a negative investment climate for, private media operating independent of government.
  • Media should guarantee minimum levels of editorial independence and ethical standards that protect the newsroom from external interference and ensure journalistic integrity.


State support to media

  • The discriminatory use of state resources to manipulate the media market must end.
  • Public funds and state advertising must be distributed according to transparent, objective, proportionate, and non-discriminatory criteria through open, proportionate, and non-discriminatory procedures.
  • Annual reports should be issued on the distribution of all state advertising to media. This should include details of revenue from contracts with state bodies received by companies that belong to the same business grouping as media companies.
  • The awarding of all public contracts to companies whose beneficial owners also own media must be subject to particularly careful scrutiny and safeguards to ensure that the awarding of such contracts are not used to influence editorial content of those media.


Vexatious lawsuits

  • The judicial appointment procedure must be transparent and independent in practice and in line with European norms and standards.
  • The judiciary must be properly trained on the use of strategic lawsuits and mechanisms should be put in place allowing for the early dismissal of evidently vexatious cases and a requirement for claimants to cover the cost of proceedings in such instances.
  • Defamation must be decriminalized and become a matter for civil law only.
  • The government must end the sponsoring of self evidently vexatious lawsuits taken against media or other actors, for legitimate criticism and free expression.

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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Leader of Civic Platform (PO) and Poland Prime Minister Donald Tusk speaks during a rally on the 'Nowy Targ' square in Wroclaw, Poland, 24 June 2023. EPA-EFE/Tomasz Golla Library

Poland: Upheaval at Polish public broadcaster must lead to…

Upheaval at Polish public broadcaster must lead to comprehensive reform to restore and safeguard independence

Sudden dismissal of supervisory boards risks setting dangerous precedent. The new Polish government’s abrupt dismissal of the supervisory bodies of the country’s public television broadcaster TVP and national news agency PAP risks setting an alarming precedent that must be urgently rectified by new rules to permanently protect these institutions’ independence, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today.

The previous Law and Justice (PiS) government had shamelessly turned Poland’s public media into instruments of state propaganda. The new coalition’s goal of ending this situation is therefore unquestionably justified. However, these reform efforts must take care not to perpetuate a cycle of politicization or perceived politicization. The new government must now work to pass comprehensive reform that guarantees the right of Poland’s public media to work freely and shields them from future interference by political parties of all stripes.

On Tuesday, December 19, the new parliament passed a resolution calling for the restoration of “impartiality and reliability of the public media.”

On Wednesday, the minister of culture, Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, announced the appointment  of new supervisory boards for public television, public radio and the news agency PAP, as well as the appointment of new management in the three government-owned companies.

Minutes after the dismissal of the supervisory boards, TVP’s 24-hour news channel TVP Info, was taken off air, while TVP’s Channel One aired no news bulletins throughout the day on Wednesday.

The changes provoked a furious reaction from the outgoing party of Law and Justice (PiS) whose members staged an overnight sit-in on Tuesday in the broadcaster’s headquarters, also  joined by PiS  leader, Jaroslaw Kaczyński.

The new government asserted its right to act on two main grounds: firstly that the establishment of the National Media Council, the supervisory body for public TV and Radio set up by PiS in early 2016, had been ruled unconstitutional in December 2016; and secondly that the ministry of culture, as the sole owner of the public radio and TV, must now take on the NMC responsibilities and exercise the authority to restore impartiality to public media.

During their eight years in government (2015 to 2023) PiS converted the public media into an unapologetically hardline propaganda outfit designed not only to promote government policy but also to aggressively delegitimize its critics and the political opposition.

IPI visited Poland in September as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response mission and concluded that the public media had been fully converted into a propaganda arm of the ruling party. Successive reports of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring of Poland’s elections concluded that PiS “enjoyed clear advantage through its undue influence over the use of state resources and public media” during the 2023 October elections; and that the broadcaster was ‘frequently portraying the [party’s] main challenger as a threat to Polish values and national interests’ in the 2020 Presidential elections.

“While there is no question that the TVP and Polish Radio are both in need of drastic reform, IPI is troubled by the approach adopted that appears to be stretching the rule of law,” said IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen. “While the ultimate aim is unquestionably legitimate, such an act may set a dangerous precedent for every incoming government to use legal loopholes to overturn the actions of the previous government.”

“The government must now ensure that what emerges from the changes is a fully independent public broadcaster that represents the voices and views of all of society without discrimination. The Tusk government must work with journalists groups and media experts from across Poland to establish the necessary legal safeguards that can protect public media in the future from all forms of political interference.”

The Media Freedom Rapid Responses mission report from September 2023 outlines the full range of challenges facing media freedom in Poland including media pluralism, vexatious lawsuits and safety of journalists. We urge the Civic Platform-led government to make media independence and journalists rights a central element of their programme.

This statement by IPI is part of 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. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

IPI as part of MFRR

Hungary: Draft Sovereignty Protection Act poses fresh threat to…

Hungary: Draft Sovereignty Protection Act poses fresh threat to independent media

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today alerts the European Union about the chilling impact that the Hungarian ruling party’s proposed Sovereignty Protection Act will have on what remains of the country’s embattled independent media community.

Our organisations stress that while media are not named directly within the text of the draft bill, the intentionally vague language and broad scope for application of the proposed law would effectively open the door to state-sponsored pressure on those media which receive foreign funding and produce journalism critical of the government.


The draft Sovereignty Protection Act is therefore the latest prong of a decade-long campaign by the government of Prime Minister Victor Orbán to harass critics and suppress democratic checks and balances. This has been effected in part through measures that restrict, punish, and stigmatize critical journalism and NGOs that are deemed to be hostile to national interests.


The bill, submitted to parliament on 21 November, would establish a new office headed by an individual appointed directly by the Prime Minister with a six-year mandate. Its main task would be to map and report on perceived threats to Hungary’s national sovereignty and identify bodies or individuals suspected of serving malign foreign interests. All foreign funding of parties’ election campaigns would be criminalised.


This new office would have broad investigatory powers to demand documents, financial records or data of any organisation or body operating in Hungary, including civil society groups, media organisations or journalist associations. It would publish public reports about these bodies’ allegedly negative impact on Hungarian public discourse or politics, with a focus on election periods. Organisations adjudged to be undermining national sovereignty could be unofficially labelled as such by the body in its reports.


While media and media activities are not referenced directly in the text, the vague language of the bill means it could easily be applied to media organisations and individual journalists. Within the current parameters, any media receiving foreign funding could be accused of undermining Hungarian sovereignty by spreading “disinformation”, carrying out activities which are “aimed at influencing the democratic debate” or “aimed at influencing the will of voters”. Domestic media freedom groups registered in Hungary could be included within the scope of the law, while international media freedom organisations carrying out work in the country could also be stigmatised in reports by the proposed Sovereignty Protection Office. Although it will be tasked with preparing recommendations, the body would have no legal powers to issue sanctions.


Government figures have indicated that the objective of the law is purely to stop domestic political actors from accepting foreign funds. However, when the bill was first announced, a leading Fidesz politician said that among other intended targets were so-called “dollar media” and “Soros media” – pejorative terms used to label media receiving money from the U.S. or European Union.


The bill therefore fits against the backdrop of a campaign of stigmatisation since the 2022 general election, and beyond, against media which receive foreign grants and funding. Last year, an organisation close to the government published a report examining the funding structure of several of the leading independent media, suggesting they were serving foreign interests. If this new body were to become operational, it would hang like a sword over the independent media and NGOs and represent an institutionalised escalation of pressure over acceptance of foreign funds.


Over the past decade, as numerous reports have documented, the Fidesz government has deliberately distorted the media market to weaken the finances of independent media. This has included abusing state advertising, pressuring private advertisers, engaging in smear campaigns against independent media and other tactics that drive readers away, using state funds to bankroll otherwise economically unviable pro-government media, and selectively applying competition law. Numerous independent outlets did not survive this onslaught, either closing or being sold off to pro-government owners. Those independent media that remain have been forced to modify their business models toward subscription systems and grants from foreign donors in order to survive and continue their watchdog work. This bill and the attacks on foreign funding must therefore be seen as the latest effort to undermine the business models and financial sustainability of the independent press.


The dire conditions for media freedom and independent journalism in Hungary have been constructed by the Fidesz government over the past decade under the eyes of the European Union. For too long, nothing was done to challenge the anti-pluralistic consolidation of a pro-government media bubble and the slow eradication of bastions of professional journalism through regulatory abuses and the politically-engineered takeovers of media houses. While the EU’s draft European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) does represent a principled effort to safeguard media pluralism and freedom in Member States, its fate remains uncertain.


As the debate continues in the Hungarian parliament, the EU must not flinch in its opposition to this bill. If the package of amendments is ultimately passed and the constitution and criminal code are changed by the parliament with Fidesz’s two-thirds majority, plans should already be in place for the EU Commission to launch infringement proceedings against Hungary and challenge the law in the EU courts. Even if the bill is never passed, the text and its proposed measures will have a chilling effect in the signal they send. We jointly call on the Hungarian government to scrap the bill and refrain from all forms of pressure on the media and NGOs.


In the coming weeks, our MFRR consortium partner ARTICLE 19 Europe will prepare a thorough legal assessment of the law’s alignment with European law and international media freedom standards. This will outline in detail the severity of the threat posed by the draft Sovereignty Protection Act to media and civil society organisations. Our organisations remain committed to protecting what remains of independent and pluralistic journalism in Hungary.

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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North Macedonia: Ruling against Investigative Reporting Lab and its…

North Macedonia: Ruling against Investigative Reporting Lab and its editor must be overturned

The organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and the SafeJournalists Network (SJN) today express shared dismay at a recent defamation verdict by a judge in North Macedonia which recommends shutting down one of the country’s leading investigative media outlets and expects this damaging ruling to be swiftly overturned on appeal.

Our organisations warn that this ruling – and the alarming recommendation by the judge – represent a clear violation of international standards, a fundamental failure of the recognition of public interest of the journalism in question, and an attack on investigative journalism and media freedom in the country.

On 24 October 2023, a judge at the Basic Civil Court in the capital Skopje ruled against the Investigative Reporting Laboratory (IRL) and its editor-in-chief, Sashka Cvetkovska, and ordered they pay a symbolic €1 in damages to businessman Kocho Angjushev, the former Deputy Prime Minister of North Macedonia, plus thousands of euros for both sides’ legal costs. 

However, in the written justification, published on 10 November, the judge inexplicably ruled that IRL should be classified as “non-media” and that its staff were “members of a group”, rather than professional journalists. She suggested the platform was operating illegally and recommended that the Ministry of Justice examine the operations of the media outlet.

The civil defamation lawsuit stemmed from a documentary IRL aired in May 2021, entitled “Conspiracy Against the Air”. The documentary, part of a joint investigation with the OCCRP,  was broadcasted on public television and revealed how chemical-filled fuel oil used in heating systems throughout the country’s public institutions were causing pollution. It briefly named Angjushev as one of the officials involved in making introductions between buyers and sellers of heating systems, which he denies and claims is defamatory. 

In the first hearing in March 2022, the judge Jovanka Spirovska Paneva ruled in favour of IRL and rejected Angjushev claims. After the verdict was challenged, the Court of Appeal in May 2022 dismissed the verdict and ordered a retrial. In the retrial, the same judge excluded the public from monitoring the trial, sided with Angjushev and found the defendants guilty of defamation. No new evidence was presented by the plaintiff during the retrial.

IRL, a member centre of the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), will appeal the latest ruling to a higher court. It said it also intends to file a complaint with the constitutional court over the alleged violation of the constitutional right to freedom of the press.

The MFRR and SJN organisations stand firmly behind the Investigative Reporting Laboratory, Sashka Cvetkovska, and her staff, and support their principled legal challenge against this ruling and its serious consequences for investigative journalism in North Macedonia. This case bears some characteristics of a SLAPP — a strategic lawsuit against public participation – which are wielded by powerful business or political figures and are aimed at muzzling public interest journalism. It should be noted that the lawsuit by Angjushev comes against a backdrop of years-long attempts to pressure, discredit and verbally attack the media outlet and its staff.

While the demands for compensation and damages ordered by the judge were symbolic, the payment of the legal fees of both sides will represent a financial hit for the investigative media platform. The penalising nature of the verdict also carries a censorious chilling effect on the journalistic community in North Macedonia. As outlined in a recent report following a mission to Skopje by multiple international press freedom organisations, abusive lawsuits of this kind risk undermining the fragile press freedom progress achieved in recent years.

Furthermore, the judge’s verdict inaccurately claims that the IRL is not a media outlet and that its staff are not journalists. In fact, like many investigative media across the region, IRL is legally registered as a civil society organisation and has a specific mandate to report on issues such crime, corruption and good governance. It is clear that the verdict does not take into account the functional definition of journalism: an activity that can be exercised by everyone, as highlighted by the UN Human Rights Committee and by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. 

IRL has been responsible for much of the most high-quality investigative journalism in North Macedonia in the last half decade and has published award-winning investigations. Its reporters are highly professional journalists who, along with other investigative mediums, fulfil a vital watchdog role which is lacking in the wider media landscape.

The recommendation by the judge that the Ministry of Justice shut down IRL therefore represents both an incorrect and dangerous attack on investigative journalism in North Macedonia. This ruling should be overturned as quickly as possible on appeal and legal rulings involving matters of journalistic freedoms should be assessed with full respect for international standards and jurisprudence.

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) submitted a complaint to the Judicial Council about Judge Spirovska Paneva for a disciplinary violation over unprofessional and negligent performance of the judicial function. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) publicly reacted to the court verdict from October 24 and expressed support to the IRL and Cvetkovska.

The MFRR stands ready to offer financial support to cover the legal costs of challenging its ruling in the higher court and calls for increased international attention and solidarity over this worrying attempt to shut down one of North Macedonia’s finest independent media platforms.

Signed by:

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

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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Turkey: Repeal the “disinformation offence” and overreaching legal amendments

Turkey: Repeal the “disinformation offence” and overreaching legal amendments

As the Turkish Constitutional Court reviews the constitutionality of the “disinformation offence”, today on 8 November, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partner organisations reiterate their call for the annulment of Article 217/A of the Turkish Penal Code and related legal amendments passed in October 2022 that undermine international standards on the right to freedom of expression and of the press.


Turkish translation available here

Since its introduction a year ago, the offence of “publicly disseminating misleading information” under Article 217/A, known as the “disinformation offence”, has been weaponized to silence dissent. The broad and vague language of Article 217/A has resulted in at least 33 journalists confronting legal consequences, indicating the article’s potential to stifle legitimate dialogue and critical thought under the guise of curbing “false information.”

Any restrictions to the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Article 26 of the Turkish Constitution, must be prescribed by law, must pursue a legitimate aim, be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and necessary in a democratic society. The Venice Commission’s urgent opinion on the offence highlighted that the ambiguous manner with which Art. 217/A is worded jeopardises the legality criterion and that it is doubtful the offence is proportionate or necessary in a democratic society considering the chilling effect it would create; making the law incompatible with international standards on the freedom of expression.

The review by the Constitutional Court presents a critical opportunity for Turkey to reestablish adherence to the principles of international human rights law and democratic values. We call upon the Turkish Constitutional Court to acknowledge the incompatibility of Article 217/A with international human rights conventions and to annul this and other restrictive amendments from October 2022. 

In solidarity with those who champion free expression and media freedom in Turkey, we will be closely monitoring the Turkish Constitutional Court’s forthcoming hearing today, on 8 November, on the annulment of the “publicly disseminating misleading information” offence.


Background on the October 2022 amendments

In October 2022, the Turkish parliament passed a series of legislative amendments to several laws, including the Turkish Penal Code, the Internet Law and the Press Law. This new “censorship” or “disinformation law” criminalised “spreading false information” while additional provisions have imposed heavy obligations on social media platforms and over-the-top service providers.


Before the October 2022 amendments, Turkish legislation was already placing tight constraints on online platforms, mandating swift compliance with content takedown requests under the threat of substantial penalties. Since the October 2022 changes, social media platforms (SMPs) risk advertising bans, hefty fines that could be as high as 3 percent of their global income, and significant reductions in their bandwidth, or ‘throttling’, if they do not follow government orders. Not adhering to even a single demand for content removal or user information can lead to up to 90 percent throttling of their services and a six-month ban on advertisements.

Signed by:

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

Türkiye: “Dezenformasyon suçu” ve diğer kısıtlayıcı yasal değişiklikler yürürlükten kaldırılsın


ARTICLE 19 Europe ve Medya Özgürlüğü Acil Müdahale (MFRR) paydaşları; Anayasa Mahkemesi’nin “dezenformasyon suçunun” anayasaya uygunluğunu incelediği bugün (8 Kasım), Türk Ceza Kanunu’nun 217/A maddesinin ve Ekim 2022’de kabul edilen ve ifade hürriyeti hakkına ilişkin uluslararası standartları hiçe sayan yasal değişikliklerin iptali çağrısını yinelemektedir.

Bir yıl önce yürürlüğe girmesinden bu yana, “dezenformasyon suçu” olarak bilinen 217/A maddesi kapsamındaki “halkı yanıltıcı bilgiyi alenen yayma” suçu, muhalefeti susturmak için silah olarak kullanılıyor. Madde 217/A’nın geniş ve muğlak dili, en az 33 gazeteciye soruşturma açılmasına neden oldu. Bu durum, maddenin “gerçeğe aykırı bilginin yayılmasını” engelleme kisvesi altında meşru diyaloğu ve eleştirel düşünceyi boğma potansiyeline işaret ediyor.

Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Anayasası’nın 26. maddesi ile düzenlenen ifade hürriyeti hakkına getirilecek her türlü kısıtlama kanunla öngörülmeli, meşru bir amaç gütmeli, güdülen meşru amaçla orantılı olmalı ve demokratik bir toplumda gerekli olmalıdır. Venedik Komisyonu’nun suçla ilgili acil görüşünde, 217/A maddesinin muğlak ifadesinin yasallık kriterini tehlikeye attığı belirtilmiş, fiilin suç olarak düzenlenmesinin yaratacağı caydırıcı etkinin bu düzenlemenin demokratik bir toplumun gereklerine uygun veya güdülen amaçla orantılı olduğunu şüpheye düşürdüğü vurgulanmıştır. Komisyon, bu durumun yasayı ifade hürriyetine ilişkin uluslararası standartlarla bağdaşmaz hale getirdiği kanaatine varmıştır. 

Anayasa Mahkemesi tarafından yapılacak inceleme, Türkiye’nin uluslararası insan hakları hukuku ilkelerine ve demokratik değerlere bağlılığını yeniden tesis etmesi için kritik bir fırsat sunmaktadır. Anayasa Mahkemesi’ni 217/A maddesinin uluslararası insan hakları sözleşmeleriyle uyumsuzluğunu kabul etmeye, Ekim 2022’de mevzuata eklenen bu ve diğer kısıtlayıcı değişiklikleri iptal etmeye çağırıyoruz

Türkiye’de ifade hürriyetini ve medya özgürlüğünü savunanlarla dayanışma içinde, Anayasa Mahkemesi’nde “halkı yanıltıcı bilgiyi alenen yayma” suçunu düzenleyen hükmün iptaline ilişkin bugün (8 Kasım) yapılacak incelemeyi yakından takip edeceğiz.


Ekim 2022’de yapılan yasa değişikliklerinin arka planı

Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi; Ekim 2022’de Türk Ceza Kanunu, İnternet Kanunu ve Basın Kanunu da dâhil olmak üzere çeşitli kanunlarda bir dizi değişiklik yaptı. Bu yeni “sansür” veya “dezenformasyon yasası”, “gerçeğe aykırı bilgi yaymayı” suç olarak düzenlerken, sosyal medya mecralarına ve internet servis sağlayıcılarına da ağır yükümlülükler getirdi.


Ekim 2022 değişikliklerinden önce Türkiye’deki mevzuat halihazırda dijital mecralar için ağır kısıtlamalar öngörüyor ve önemli ceza tehditleri altında içerik kaldırma emirlerine hızlı bir şekilde uyulmasını zorunlu kılıyordu. Bu değişikliklerin yürürlüğe girmesinden bu yana, sosyal medya mecraları (SMM’ler), iktidarın emirlerine uymadıkları takdirde reklam yasakları, küresel gelirlerinin yüzde 3’üne kadar çıkabilecek ağır para cezaları ve bant genişliklerinde önemli düşüşler veya “daraltma” riskiyle karşı karşıya bulunmaktadır. Mevcut düzenlemeye göre içerik kaldırılması ya da kullanıcı bilgilerine ilişkin tek bir talebe dahi uyulmaması, bant genişliklerinin yüzde 90’a varan oranda daraltılmasına ve altı aya kadar reklam yasağı almalarına neden olabilmektedir.


Ekim 2022 değişiklikleri hakkında daha fazla bilgi için aşağıdaki kaynakları ziyaret edebilirsiniz:


  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
  • Avrupa Gazeteciler Federasyonu (EFJ)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI)

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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Emilia Șercan Library

Media freedom groups dismayed at the abrupt closure of…

Media freedom groups dismayed at the abrupt closure of investigation into smear campaign against Romanian journalist

Journalists and media freedom groups today expressed dismay at the decision of Romania’s Prosecutor Office at the Bucharest Court of Appeal to close the investigation into the smear campaign against journalist Emilia Șercan. To do so the Prosecutor made the extraordinary ruling that ‘the offences’, including the publication of stolen private photos and the presumed disclosure of evidence held by the police, ‘were not provided for by the criminal law’.

This decision comes twenty months after Șercan first filed a complaint to the police about stolen personal photos posted on adult sites in February 2022. Within hours of filing the complaint, evidence provided by Șercan to the police was then posted on a Moldovan media web-site strongly suggesting that someone within the police had leaked the information.  

On 26 October, in anticipation of the probable closure of the investigation, media freedom groups appealed to the Prosecutor General, Alex Florin Florența, demanding the investigation be kept open and transferred to a new team supervised by himself. 

The letter noted the litany of failures and clear breaches of procedure in the original investigation, that suggest a deliberate attempt to scupper the investigation and to protect the perpetrators of the crime.

The smear campaign against Emilia Șercan began after she published, in January 2022, revelations that Nicolae Ciucă, President of the Romanian Senate who was at the time Prime Minister, had plagiarized his doctoral dissertation. 

This decision fails both Emilia Șercan and all Romanian journalists who seek to hold political power to account. 

We support Emilia Șercan’s search for justice and back her appeal to overturn this unjust decision. 

Signed by:

  • ActiveWatch
  • Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited
  • International Press Institute
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

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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