Querdenken protest in Leipzig Library

Police and protesters target journalists and media workers in…

Police and protesters target journalists and media workers in Leipzig protest

MFRR partners EFJ and ECPMF condemn the attempts to prevent journalists and media workers from carrying out their work at a recent protest in Leipzig against the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At least, 43 journalists were prevented from carrying out their work by protesters and police officers at the “Querdenken” demonstration in the eastern German city of Leipzig on Saturday, 7 November. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) strongly condemn the violence and call again on the German police to do its utmost to protect journalists covering demonstrations.

The demonstration was attended by around 20,000 protesters according to German media – including people criticising the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as people from far-right parties including extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). Many were not wearing face masks and flaunted social distancing rules. As the protest was stopped by the police due to the unexpected number of participants, a number of protesters clashed with police, which also involved targeting journalists on assignment.

Polish Protest - Photo Credit: Konrad Lembcke Library

As violence escalates in Poland, journalists come under attack

As violence escalates in Poland, journalists come under attack

Journalists and media workers at risk as media caught in the middle of polarized protests following court ruling on abortion

IPI as part of the MFRR condemns recent aggression and violence against journalists covering ongoing protests in Poland and called for both police and demonstrators to ensure the safety of the media covering rallies. Over three nights, incidents of aggression towards journalists have been reported by various media outlets as Poland reels from large scale protests sparked by a controversial ruling by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal restricting abortions.

Attacks on media were documented in Poznań, Wrocław and Warsaw, where a nine-day long nationwide Women’s Strike has grown into wider anti-government demonstrations and been met with increasingly violent counter protests.

At least three journalists have suffered injuries, including one from leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza who was taken to hospital after being assaulted by masked men.

Slovenia Flag - credit: Balkan Photos Library

Photojournalist Borut Živulovič hospitalised covering violent protests in Slovenia

Photojournalist Borut Živulovič hospitalised covering violent protests in Slovenia

As part of the MFRR, IPI condemn acts of violence towards journalists and media workers covering protests in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana and call for thorough police investigations to identify those responsible.

On 5 November 2020, photojournalist Borut Živulovič, who works as a photographer for the agency Bobo and a freelancer for Reuters, was hospitalized after suffering a blow to the head while covering violent clashes with riot police in and around Republic Square.

This was not an isolated case. Several other media outlets reported that their news crews had been aggressively pushed and faced obstruction, threats and intimidation as they reported on the protests. Photojournalist Voranc Vogel was also struck in the shoulder by an object thrown at police but was not injured, according to reports.

The aggression towards journalists came amidst wider clashes as protesters threw flares, stones and concrete blocks at riot police, in a demonstration reportedly organised by Anonymous Slovenija and attended by around 500 people from anti-government, anti-lockdown and conspiracy theory groups

Photo of court building in Valletta Library

Malta: MFRR partners and freedom of expression organisations concerned…

Malta: MFRR partners and freedom of expression organisations concerned about attempt to bribe a journalist

MFRR partners and journalists organisations condemn the alleged attempts to bribe a Times of Malta journalist

Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners and freedom of expression organisations are concerned about the alleged attempt to bribe a journalist by a member of Yorgen Fenech’s legal team. We call on the Maltese authorities and Chamber of Advocates to ensure the matter is thoroughly and impartially investigated.

On Monday 2 November 2020, lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran, in the presence of lawyer Charles Mercieca, allegedly attempted to hand over a wad of cash to Times of Malta journalist Ivan Martin at the end of a twenty-minute meeting. Caruana Curran is a member of the legal team defending businessman Yorgen Fenech, who is charged with complicity in the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Albania flag next to the EU flag Library

Albania: ECPMF condemns bomb attack and calls for effective…

MFRR condemns bomb attack against journalist in Albania and calls for effective investigation

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) condemns the bomb attack on the home of Albanian journalist Elidon Ndreka early in the morning of 30th October.

On 30 October around 1 AM, explosives detonated at the entrance of Elidon Ndreka’s home, which he shares with his wife, children and his parents. The explosion caused only material damage but left the journalist and his family shocked.

We call on the authorities of Albania to ensure that this attack is investigated and prosecuted leading to the perpetrator(s) behind this attack being held to account, with the thoroughness and urgency the situation demands. In this regard, we recall that attacks on journalists and media workers affect not only the victims themselves but also the public’s right to information and the willingness of other journalists to continue their important work.

Photo of a drone Library

Two Hungarian journalists questioned over ‘illicit acquisition of data’…

Two Hungarian journalists questioned over ‘illicit acquisition of data’ from drone footage

IPI as part of the MFRR calls on Hungarian police to stop the judicial harassment of Balázs Gulyás, a journalist at Magyar Hang, and Gabriella Horn, a reporter for Átlátszo.

Authorities in Hungary should immediately halt the investigation into two journalists from independent media outlets Magyar Hang and Átlátszo on suspicion of “illicit acquisition of data” and recognize their reporting was done in the public interest.

The pair were summoned separately on October 22 and 26, respectively, over the publication in both of their media outlets in May 2020 of video footage and images captured by a cameraman working with Átlátszo. The arial shots showed armoured military vehicles parked at the lakeside estate of Lőrinc Mészáros, a billionaire businessman and ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Gulyás and Horn were questioned as witnesses in a criminal investigation into the suspected “illicit acquisition of data”, a crime which carries a maximum prison sentence of three years under Hungarian law. A company owned by Mészáros filed the criminal complaint.

The MFRR calls on the investigation to be dropped immediately to ensure journalists are free to carry out their work

Images of journalists arrested Library

Turkey: Arrested for reporting torture

Turkey: Arrested for reporting torture

As part of the MFRR, ECPMF calls for the release of four journalists of pro-Kurdish news agency Mezopotamya Ajansı after a police raid in the Turkish province of Van

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), is highly concerned by the arrest of four journalists during a raid on the offices of the pro-Kurdish news agency Mezopotamya Ajansı (MA) in the Turkish province of Van. This was in response to their role in reporting on allegations that Turkish soldiers tortured two civilians, Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut, and threw them out of a helicopter. Turgut later died in hospital.

The arrest and detention of journalists and media workers based on their reporting on a matter that is so evidently of public interest violate not only the rights to liberty and freedom of expression of the reporters themselves and also the right to information of the general public. Accordingly, ECPMF calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala. The authorities’ assertion that they are not journalists because they do not have a press card issued by the Presidency is not valid. We recall that holding a press card or official authorisation is not compulsory for the exercise of the profession of journalism. We also demand that all journalistic materials and equipment are returned to the journalists and the authorities commit to deleting all copies of data they have extracted from these devices.

Picture of Jonathan Taylor Library

MFRR welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of…

MFRR welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia to revoke the decision to extradite whistleblower, Jonathan Taylor to Monaco

Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners, whistleblowing, human rights and transparency organisations, and international jurists welcome the decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia to revoke the first-instance court decision, which allowed for the extradition of whistleblower, Jonathan Taylor to Monaco. While the case must now return to the Dubrovnik Court, we call on the Court to do the right thing and allow Jonathan Taylor to return home to the United Kingdom without delay.

In 2014, Mr Taylor blew the whistle on a $275 million international network of bribes paid by his former employer, the oil platform company SBM Offshore, to secure oil contracts around the world. The evidence he provided to the UK Serious Fraud Office, and investigators in Brazil and the Netherlands as well as the FBI and the Department of Justice in the United States, helped ensure SBM Offshore was fined over $800 million.

As result of his whistleblowing, the Monegasque authorities have continued for six years to pursue a criminal complaint filed in 2014 against Jonathan Taylor by SBM Offshore accusing him of bribery and corruption. Despite the case being rejected by a Monegasque court two years ago it was resurrected, and earlier this year, Monaco requested an Interpol Red Notice which resulted in Jonathan Taylor’s arrest at Dubrovnik Airport on 31 July 2020 just as he arrived for a short holiday with his family.  Released on bail five days later, Mr. Taylor has now spent over 80 days in limbo unable to leave the country, forced to fight for his freedom through the Croatian legal system.  Jonathan Taylor’s life is on hold, and his ability to work and provide for his family is in jeopardy.

We continue to call on the Dubrovnik court to ensure that Jonathan Taylor and his family are free to return home. However, this is not enough; we demand that SBM Offshore officially drop their criminal complaint against Jonathan Taylor and for the Monaco authorities to formally withdraw their extradition request and all charges against him.

Image of union representatives condemning the arrest Library

Sweden: two journalists prosecuted for investigative documentary about ‘MS…

Sweden: two journalists prosecuted for investigative documentary about ‘MS Estonia’

As part of the MFRR, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliates in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia and Denmark in condemning the decision of the Swedish authorities to prosecute the journalists carrying out their reporting.

Photo Credit: Swedish Journalists’ Union

Journalist Henrik Evertsson and camera operator Linus Andersson have produced a new documentary series entitled “Estonia: The Discovery that Changes Everything”, which investigates the sinking of the cruise ferry the “MS Estonia” en route from Tallinn to Stockholm in September 1994. It is known as one of Europe’s greatest maritime disasters, killing 852 people. Survivors had long been calling for further investigation.

Evertsson and Andersson are charged with “violating a burial site” and are facing a two-year prison sentence. The trial is due to begin in Gothenburg in January. The Swedish authorities also tried to confiscate the film.

The reason for the prosecution is the criminalisation after the tragedy of diving and other underwater activities in and around Estonia through the so-called Estonia Act. The wreck is on international waters and it is unclear whether the Estonia Act is compatible with international law.

photo of Jovo Martinovic Library

MFRR partners and media freedom organisations condemn conviction of…

Montenegro: journalism is not a crime

The ​Media Freedom Rapid Response​ partners and media freedom organisations strongly condemn the decision by the High Court of Montenegro to sentence investigative journalist Jovo Martinovic​ to one year in prison for participating in drug trafficking.

Jovo Martinovic’s conviction is a gross injustice, following almost five years of judicial persecution merely for doing his job. Beyond the violation of Martinovic’s human rights, his prosecution and conviction moreover contribute to a chilling effect on media freedom in Montenegro and raise serious concerns about the effectiveness of the rule of law in the country, a key condition for accession to the European Union. Questions remain as to the court’s readiness to take into consideration evidence from the defence or establish an understanding of the journalistic practices that readily explain Martinovic’s actions.