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Greece: Full scale of surveillance on journalists must be…

Greece: Full scale of surveillance on journalists must be unearthed

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today back calls for the testing of mobile devices belonging to journalists in Greece who suspect they may have been targets of intrusive spyware or other advanced surveillance.

The recent scandals regarding spyware attacks and wiretapping of journalists require full transparency and accountability, and have underscored deepening concerns about the erosion  of media freedom under the New Democracy government.

 

So far it has been revealed that in summer 2021 financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis had his phone hacked using a spyware tool called Predator. He was also separately wiretapped by the Greek security services under obscure “national security” grounds. There is also evidence that Stavros Malichudis, an investigative journalist for Solomon covering refugees and migration, was also surveilled by intelligence bodies in 2021.

 

Both cases represent major violations of journalists’ privacy, journalistic source protection and press freedom. In neither case has accountability been reached or the full truth revealed. Our organisations share concerns that these cases could potentially represent the tip of the iceberg of deeper surveillance of Greek journalists by state and private actors.

 

In late September, Greek journalists and foreign correspondents issued an appeal to the European Parliament for funding and facilities to test their mobile devices for traces of surveillance. Currently, the EU’s internal cyber-security mechanisms only have a mandate for testing the devices of MEPs and other EU officials.

 

As spyware and other advanced surveillance technologies become more prevalent across Europe in the coming years, the threat to democracy and civil rights will likewise increase. Already, multiple EU Member States – including Hungary – have abused these technologies to target journalists, activists and other members of civil society. In addition to tougher regulation, mechanisms must urgently be put in place to ensure that flagrant abuses of these cyber weapons against the media and others are swiftly identified and addressed.

 

Our organisations therefore support calls for the provision of funding from the European Union to help facilitate the testing of devices of journalists and other members of civil society in EU states where private forensic testing facilities are not available domestically, or where national authorities are unable or unwilling to help. This would give citizens and journalists, including those in Greece, a powerful tool to seek redress, help identify abusers of the technology and understand how deep the iceberg goes.

 

In addition to increased testing, additional steps must also be taken at the EU level to ensure that others do not join Greek journalists as victims of illegal surveillance. The European Commission’s recently launched European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) correctly recognises the recent evolution of surveillance threats and includes specific rules about the use of spyware against media, journalists and their families.

 

However, under the EMFA, Member States would retain exemptions that permit the surveillance of journalists using spyware without the need for prior judicial review in cases which involve threats to national security or other serious crimes investigations. This complete lack of legal oversight for use of military-grade spyware is highly problematic and leaves the door wide open to further abuses.

 

The fact that Thanasis Koukakis, a financial and banking journalist, and Stavros Malichudis, who was writing about a Syrian boy’s art prize at the time, were both wiretapped under “national security” justifications, offers worrying examples of how these exemptions are open to abuse by governments and intelligence agencies to spy on legitimate journalistic work. Article 4 of the EMFA must therefore be significantly strengthened if it wants to achieve real protection for journalists and their sources.

 

Moving forward, we also urge the European Parliament’s PEGA Committee of Inquiry to propose strong recommendations for tougher regulation on the sale, trade and use of these kinds of intrusive surveillance weapons inside and outside the European Union, and for far greater transparency from state institutions.

 

If and when additional infections are identified, both the surveillance-for-hire companies that market these tools, and any actors, including state intelligence or law enforcement bodies, who unjustifiably deploy them against journalists must be held accountable for these grave violations of fundamental rights.

 

Our organisations will continue to closely monitor the situation regarding media freedom in Greece and document all future attacks on journalists.

Signed by:

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

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

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Slovakia: Deputy PM’s attacks undermined government’s broader efforts to…

Slovakia: Deputy PM’s attacks undermined government’s broader efforts to strengthen press freedom

The undersigned international media freedom and journalists organisations today express dismay over the recent attempts by deputy Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič to denigrate the country’s media and warn they were undermining wider efforts by the government to improve the landscape for media freedom.

In recent weeks, Matovič, the former prime minister and current finance minister, launched numerous verbal attacks on the media, including insulting posts on Facebook which personally attacked the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Denník N, Matúš Kostolný, over a critical opinion piece.

 

Speaking in parliament, Matovič, who is also leader of the largest party in government, then accused unspecified media of being corrupt and during a speech on 29 September again accused the the country’s media of “spreading lies” and likened their journalism to Nazi propaganda.

 

These comments clearly overstepped the bounds of legitimate criticism and represented unacceptable attacks on independent journalism which were rightly condemned. Our organisations welcome Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s statement defending journalists and the criticism of the minister’s comments by nine MPs from his OĽANO party.

 

We also stand behind the powerful joint statement issued on September 30 by 22 of the country’s leading editors-in-chief, who condemned the minister’s rhetoric and refused to be pressured into silence for carrying out their role as public watchdogs.
While we note the statement of apology addressed by Matovič “to all honest journalists” on October 3, this will only have credibility if followed up by action. We therefore urge the minister to refrain from making any further unjustified accusations of the press and to recognise that public figures holding elected office have a duty to act responsibly and be prepared to accept a higher level of public scrutiny.

 

If repeated, Matovič’s attacks will undermine the coalition government’s broader efforts to improve the landscape for press freedom. The parliament has passed important bills strengthening the protection of the confidentiality of journalistic sources, as well as increasing transparency of media ownership and funding. The Justice Ministry has tabled amendments to widen the scope of the Freedom of Information Act and decrease prison sentences for defamation. While full justice for the 2018 assassination of the journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée has not yet been reached, Slovak law-enforcement authorities are prosecuting corruption reported by journalists. Internationally, Slovakia has worked towards an ambitious European Media Freedom Act.

 

Moving forward, we hope to see the government continue this reform agenda and for an end to all further verbal attacks against the media. Our organisations will continue to closely monitor the situation in Slovakia in the coming weeks and months.

Signed by:

  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • 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, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Turkey disinformation bill Library

International Press Freedom Groups Condemn Turkey Disinformation Bill Placed…

International Press Freedom Groups Condemn Turkey Disinformation Bill Placed before Parliament

Twenty five international media freedom, freedom of expression and journalists’ organisations call on Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote against the bill on “disinformation and fake news,” which was submitted to parliament’s General Assembly on October 4 by the governing alliance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

 

Açıklamanın Türkçesi aşağıdadır. / Turkish translation available below.

The bill, which was first submitted to parliament in June before being postponed after the commission stages due to alleged differences between the two governing parties, has been resubmitted this week without any amendments despite  fierce criticism from across civil society and the journalistic community.

 

The bill provides a framework for extensive censorship of online information and the criminalisation of journalism, which will enable the government to further subdue and control public debate in the leadup to Turkey’s general elections in 2023. 

 

The proposed bill provides for:

  • Up to three years imprisonment for those found guilty of deliberately publishing  “disinformation and fake news” intended to instigate fear or panic, endanger the country’s internal or external security, public order and general health of Turkey’s society.
  • An increase of any sentence by 50 percent where the information has been published from anonymous accounts, by someone concealing their identity, or as part of an organisation’s activities.
  • The expansion of the press law to include online news sites. This will enable the government to use the expanded role of the Press Advertising Agency, Basin Ilan Kurumu (BIK), to fund online propaganda while excluding critical outlets as has been applied in the print media.

 

The bill, with its vaguely formulated definition of disinformation and ‘intent’, overseen by Turkey’s highly politicised judiciary, will put millions of internet users at risk of criminal sanction and could lead to blanket censorship and self-censorship in the run up to the 2023 elections.

 

A consortium of media freedom and human rights organisations will be visiting Turkey 12 to 14 October to discuss the consequences of the disinformation bill with politicians and media stakeholders, as well as the challenges facing independent journalists in reporting public affairs in accordance with the principles of free and fair elections.  

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • Articolo 21
  • Association of European Journalists
  • Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Foreign Media Association (of Turkey) FMA
  • Freedom House
  • IFEX
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Media Research Association (MEDAR)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • P24 Platform for Independent Journalism
  • PEN America
  • PEN International
  • PEN Norway
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN
  • The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

Uluslararası Basın Özgürlüğü Grupları Türkiye’de Meclise Sunulan Dezenformasyon Yasa Tasarısını Kınadı

Serbest bilgi akışını suç haline getirmek için tasarlanmış bir yasa 

 

Yirmi beş uluslararası medya özgürlüğü, ifade özgürlüğü ve gazeteci örgütü, milletvekillerine Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) ve Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (MHP) iktidar ittifakı tarafından 4 Ekim’de TBMM Genel Kurulu’na sunulan “dezenformasyon ve yalan haber” yasa tasarısına karşı oy kullanmaları çağrısında bulundu.

 

İlk olarak Haziran ayında meclise sunulan ancak iki iktidar partisi arasındaki görüş ayrılıkları nedeniyle komisyon aşamasından sonra ertelenen tasarı, sivil toplum ve gazetecilik camiasından gelen sert eleştirilere rağmen bu hafta hiçbir değişiklik yapılmadan yeniden meclis genel kuruluna sunuldu.

 

Tasarı, Türkiye’de 2023 yılında yapılacak genel seçimler öncesinde hükümetin kamusal tartışmayı daha da bastırmasına ve kontrol etmesine olanak sağlayacak şekilde, çevrimiçi bilginin kapsamlı bir şekilde sansürlenmesi ve habercilik faaliyetlerinin kriminalize edilmesi için bir çerçeve sunuyor. 

 

Tasarı şunları öngörmektedir

  • Korku veya panik yaratmak, ülkenin iç veya dış güvenliğini, kamu düzenini ve toplumun genel sağlığını tehlikeye atmak amacıyla kasıtlı olarak “dezenformasyon ve yalan haber” yayınlamaktan suçlu bulunan kişiler için üç yıla kadar hapis cezası.
  • Bilginin anonim hesaplardan, kimliğini gizleyen bir kişi tarafından ya da bir örgütün faaliyetlerinin bir parçası olarak yayınlanması durumunda cezanın yüzde 50 oranında artırılması.
  • Basın kanununun internet haber sitelerini de kapsayacak şekilde genişletilmesi. Bu sayede hükümet, Basın İlan Kurumu’nun (BİK) genişletilmiş rolünü kullanarak, yazılı basında olduğu gibi eleştirel yayın organlarını dışlarken, internet üzerinden propagandayı finanse edebilecek.

 

Muğlak bir ifade ile oluşturulmuş olan dezenformasyon ve ‘kasıt’ tanımlarıyla, Türkiye’nin son derece siyasallaşmış yargısı tarafından denetlenen tasarı, milyonlarca internet kullanıcısını da cezai yaptırım riskiyle karşı karşıya bırakacak ve 2023 seçimleri öncesinde kapsamlı bir sansüre ve otosansüre yol açabilecektir. 

 

Medya özgürlüğü ve insan hakları örgütlerinden oluşan bir konsorsiyum, dezenformasyon yasa tasarısının sonuçlarını siyasetçiler ve medya paydaşlarıyla tartışmak ve bağımsız gazetecilerin özgür ve adil seçim ilkelerine uygun olarak kamu meselelerini haberleştirmede karşılaştıkları zorlukları ele almak üzere 12-14 Ekim tarihleri arasında Türkiye’yi ziyaret edecek.  

 

İmzalayanlar:

  • Amerika PEN
  • Article 19
  • Articolo 21
  • Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
  • Avrupa Gazeteciler Derneği (AEJ)
  • Avrupa Gazeteciler Federasyonu (EFJ)
  • Bağımsız Gazetecilik Platformu P24
  • Danimarka PEN
  • Gazetecileri Koruma Komitesi (CPJ)
  • Gazetecilikte Kadınlar Koalisyonu (CFWIJ)
  • Güneydoğu Avrupa Medya Kurumu (SEEMO)
  • İngiltere PEN
  • İsveç PEN
  • Medya Araştırmaları Derneği (MEDAR)
  • Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA)
  • Norveç PEN
  • Özgürlük Evi (FH)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Sınır Tanımayan Gazeteciler (RSF)
  • Uluslararası Gazeteciler Federasyonu (IFJ)
  • Uluslararası Karikatürist Hakları Ağı (CRNI)
  • Uluslararası PEN
  • Uluslararası İfade Hürriyeti (IFEX)
  • Yabancı Medya Derneği (FMA)

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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Albania: Media must not face criminal prosecution for public…

Albania: Media must not face criminal prosecution for public interest reporting

The undersigned media freedom and journalist associations today express our shared concern over the blanket publication ban issued by Albanian prosecutorial authorities regarding a trove of hacked data, and stress that no journalist or media outlet should face criminal sanctions for publishing information in the public interest.

While our organisations recognise the sensitive nature of these leaks and urge all media in Albania to handle the material in a strictly ethical and responsible manner, it is vital that Albanian authorities proceed with caution and full consideration for journalistic freedoms protected under both domestic and international law.

 

On 19 September 2022, the Prosecutor’s Office of Tirana issued an “order” which banned all media in Albania from publishing data or information from a cache of files which had been hacked from Albanian servers and computer systems and then leaked online. The high-profile leaks followed a wave of damaging cyber-attacks on Albanian servers and computer systems in recent months by state-backed hackers in Iran, which has caused a diplomatic crisis and the severing of ties between the two countries.

 

The bulk of the hacked material contains classified police information and sensitive email correspondence, documents and memos between Albanian politicians, authorities and foreign ambassadors, including documents about suspected plans to assassinate foreign and domestic political figures, according to reports.

 

In response to the latest leaks, the Prosecutor’s Office of Tirana issued the order and warned that media that violate the ban would face criminal investigation under articles 103, 208 and 304 of the penal code. This included publication in audio-visual, print and online media, as well as social media. News websites that published data would subsequently be blocked.The information was first shared via a post on the Facebook account of the Albanian Police.

 

Our organisations recognise the severity of these cyber-attacks and the sensitive nature of the leaked data. In such circumstances, the media have a professional responsibility to handle and present this kind of material in an ethical manner, with full consideration given to citizens’ right to privacy and serious national security concerns.

 

However, regardless of the source of the material or the intent of those behind the attacks, journalists have a responsibility to assess the veracity and public interest nature of the leaked information, as well as the right of citizens to be informed about newsworthy matters.

 

The response by the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office to try and unilaterally limit all reporting on the leaked information, without proper consideration given to the public interest, therefore raises serious concerns about unjustified infringements on the freedom of the press, which is already under the spotlight in Albania.

 

Threats of criminal investigations and website blocking for media or journalists that violate the banning order will meanwhile have a censorious effect on reporting and could open the door to the criminalisation of legitimate journalistic activity. No journalist, editor or publisher in Albania should face prosecution for publishing accurate information on a matter of public interest.

 

Moreover, the role of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) and the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) – two independent bodies – in monitoring the media ecosystem for potential violations on behalf of the Prosecutor’s Office also raises clear concerns.

 

Moving forward, our organisations urge investigatory and government authorities in Albania to avoid taking any further steps which undermine the exercise of responsible journalism or endanger the liberty of journalists publishing public interest material. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the coming days and respond to further developments.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • Balkan Free Media Initiative
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Safe Journalists Network
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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EU flags outside the European Commission Library

Joint Statement on the Proposal for the European Media…

Joint Statement on the Proposal for the European Media Freedom Act

The undersigned journalists’, media freedom, and human rights organisations welcome the European Commission’s initiative to strengthen the free and pluralistic media system and the commitment to protect journalists and editorial independence within the European Union.

These values directly link to fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, the right to access to information, the formation of opinion, and making informed choices in elections, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

 

Matters relating to the media have traditionally been the competence of member states, however such is the threat posed to media freedom that an EU wide action has become necessary to protect Europe’s democratic values.

 

Therefore we support the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) which breaks significant new ground in our efforts to protect media freedom in Europe. The EMFA has identified many of the key issues where the EU and member states must urgently act in order to protect media freedoms. This statement of intent, alone, is very welcome.

 

However, if the EMFA is to become effective in the struggle to guarantee media pluralism, to protect journalists’ rights and ensure editorial independence from the impact of vested commercial and political interests, it should strengthen efforts to increase the transparency in media ownership; introduce rules governing all financial relations between the state and media (in addition to advertising); guarantee the independence of national regulators as well as the independence of the European Board for Media Services; and fully protect journalists from all forms of surveillance (in addition to spyware).

 

The undersigned organisations look forward to continuing to engage with the institutions of the European Union to ensure that the text of the European Media Freedom Act is as robust and effective as possible and helps provide a foundation for generations of journalists to come.

Signed by:

  • Association of European Journalists (AEJ) 
  • Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) 
  • Coalition for Creativity (C4C) 
  • Committee to Protect Journalists 
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) 
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) 
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU) 
  • Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) 
  • Index on Censorship 
  • International Press Institute (IPI) 
  • Media Diversity Institute, Belgium (MDI) 
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) 
  • Ossigeno.info 
  • Reporters WIthout Borders (RSF) 
  • Society of Journalists, Warsaw 
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) 
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation 
  • Transparency International EU 
  • World Association Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC Europe)
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Albania: Press freedom groups call for a fair trial…

Albania: Press freedom groups call for a fair trial in defamation lawsuit by former top prosecutor against Isa Myzyraj

The undersigned media freedom and freedom of expression organisations and journalist unions and associations are highly concerned by the defamation lawsuit filed against journalist Isa Myzyraj, who works for Ora News, by Elizabeta Imeraj.

Formerly Tirana’s top prosecutor, Imeraj was fired in April 2022 as part of the justice reform process for causing a loss of trust in the justice system and inability to justify or explain her assets. Following yesterday’s postponement of the case and ahead of the hearing now scheduled for 16 October, we call for a fair trial with full respect for all due process rights and in which the importance of free speech, press and public interest reporting is appropriately considered.

 

Imeraj is suing Myzyraj after he reported threats and intimidation he received for writing about Imeraj’s vetting process to international networks. In late March and early April 2022, Myzyraj commented on the developments around Imeraj’s vetting process carried out by the constitutionally-mandated International Monitoring Operation (IMO). The journalist had noticed that colleagues from other media outlets began self-censoring, while many mainstream media did not report the developments. At the same time, anonymously owned media outlets in Albania began publishing defamatory pieces attacking members of the IMO in what the EU’s Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement characterised as an “orchestrated smear campaign”. Myzyraj said his investigations found that at least three of these online outlets had links to Imeraj and published these allegations on Facebook and Twitter. Imeraj contests this statement and filed a lawsuit before the Elbasan District Court.

 

The defamation case is set against serious concerns about media freedom and threats to independent watchdog journalism in Albania, which plummeted to 103rd rank in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, last in the Balkans.

 

We will continue to monitor the case closely and stand in solidarity with Myzyraj.

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)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • SafeJournalists Network

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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Turkish journalist blacklist Library

Turkey: Solidarity with twenty journalists including TGS leadership blacklisted…

Turkey: Solidarity with twenty journalists including TGS leadership blacklisted by police

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) expressed solidarity with the twenty journalists blacklisted by the Turkish General Directorate of Security (EGM) for their writing and joined Turkey’s Journalists Union (TGS) in denouncing an apparent attempt to intimidate independent journalists and trade unionists.

On 5 September, the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) revealed that the General Directorate of Security (EGM) had blacklisted 20 journalists in relation to their writings for the online magazine Journalist Post, a periodical run by journalists living in exile. No legal proceedings have yet been initiated against them.

 

The confidential document, containing the blacklist, was disclosed during the trial of MA editor-in-chief Dicle Müftüoğlu, on trial under terrorism charges. According to media reports, the list was prepared based on intelligence information collected against the Fethullah Gülen movement for anti-terrorism police departments. Based on this intelligence information, the EGM Foreign Relations Department of the Turkish Police classified Journalist Post as being run by a Fethullah Gülen-linked network.

 

Since 2020, four magazine issues have been published as part of a solidarity campaign for freedom of expression and press freedom worldwide. It featured 74 articles, interviews, news and analysis written by journalists and academics from 32 different countries, available in Turkish, English and German.

 

The list includes the name of the journalists who have been involved in running the magazine or contributing to it, their ID numbers, their positions, and whether they have an entry with their ID numbers on the National Judiciary Network (UYAP).

 

The listed journalists are: Engin Sağ, Şemsi Açıkgöz, Mustafa Kılıç, Yüksek Durgut, Ramiz Kılıçarslan, Necdet Çelik, Hasan Cücük,  İsmail Muhammet Sağıroğlu, Enes Cansever,  Basri Doğan, Türkmen Terzi, Vedat Demir, Rabia Yavuz Türe, Yunus Erdoğdu, Naciye Nur Kılıç, Erkan Pehlivan, Erkin Emet, Dicle Müftüoğlu, Dicle Fırat (Journalists Association DFG Co-chairperson), Mustafa Kuleli (General Secretary of Journalists Union of Turkey and EFJ Vice-President) and Gökhan Durmuş (President of Journalists Union of Turkey).

 

Listed among the 20 journalists, EFJ Vice-President Mustafa Kuleli reacted: “Erdogan’s regime is trying to criminalise journalism and advocacy by juxtaposing them with terrorism. They are trying to intimidate us. We will continue to defend journalists, journalism and democracy.  As I wrote in my article that got me blacklisted: Turkey is bigger than Erdogan. The people of Turkey will eventually defeat tyranny and despotism.”

 

Our organisations urge the Turkish authorities to end the repression of media freedom advocates and to not start legal proceedings against the listed journalists. Thirty-eight journalists and media workers are still behind bars in Turkish prisons for doing their job in the public interest.

Signed by:

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

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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Turkey: International groups call to restore Evrensel’s right to…

Turkey: International groups call to restore Evrensel’s right to receive public ads

18 press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organisations call on the Turkish Press Advertising Agency (BİK) to withdraw without delay its alarming decision to revoke the right of the independent Evrensel newspaper to receive public ads, a vital source of financial income for the publication. BİK has a regulatory duty to act as an independent and fair distributor of public ads, and not to facilitate censorship through suppressing critical news outlets.

 

Turkish translation available here.

On 22 August 2022, Evrensel newspaper received BİK’s decision backdated to July 17, 2022, revoking its right to receive public ads. This move was prompted by an audit into alleged bulk buying that distorted Evrensel’s distribution figures against which measure the advertising levels are set. The right of Evrensel to receive public advertisements has been suspended since September 2019. With the latest decision, this suspended right was completely cancelled.

 

In its decision, the BİK stated that “the public ad ban on Evrensel was observed to be suspended for a full six months without break, excluding the period when such administrative monitoring was suspended due to the pandemic, therefore its right to receive public ads was revoked”. Evrensel has the right to appeal to the decision at court. Should Evrensel be removed from BİK’s system to receive any public advertising, a new, swiftly launched application process for re-gaining the right to public ads would take at least three years. This drawn-out process would be detrimental to the newspaper’s financial stability.

 

In the last three years, IPI and undersigned press freedom organisations have repeatedly called on BİK to withdraw the initial public ad ban that was initiated in September 2019 on Evrensel. Ten members of the European Parliament had also joined the call with a letter to then-General Director of BİK Rıdvan Duran requesting the ban be lifted. Despite an in person meeting with Duran in February 2020, the ad ban remained in force until this latest decision.

 

MFRR Coordinator, Gürkan Özturan, said:

 

“The long time pressure and regulatory restrictions imposed on independent media has been impacting media freedom and society’s right to access information negatively in Turkey. The latest BİK decision to revoke advertisement revenues for Evrensel is yet another example of this ongoing and increasing trend and must be revoked immediately.”

 

In a judgment issued on 10 August 2022, the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that BİK’s arbitrary and consecutive public ad bans on newspapers including Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel and BirGün, violated freedom of expression and press freedom as well as constituted and evidence of BİK acting as a tool for systematic censorship and criminalization of news coverage in the country. The Constitutional Court’s verdict thus confirmed that BİK lacks impartiality towards media outlets.

 

Media freedom in recent years has been deteriorating in Turkey in light of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in 2023, we are concerned about the state of remaining independent media outlets, the repercussions it will have on the right to access information for the residents of Turkey who will need to rely on the existing media outlets to make informed decisions in the election calendar, and how this will contribute to an already-shrinking civic space in the country. Hereby we once again call upon the Press Advertising Agency (BİK) in Turkey to withdraw the decision to revoke ad revenues for Evrensel.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Articolo 21
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • IFEX
  • IPS Communication Foundation/bianet
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
  • PEN America
  • PEN Norway
  • PEN Turkey
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN
  • The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

Uluslararası hak grupları, Evrensel’in kamu ilanı yayımlama hakkının geri verilmesi için çağrı yaptı 

Basın İlan Kurumu, Evrensel gazetesinin kamu ilanı alma hakkını iptal etti

 

Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI) ve 17 uluslararası basın ve ifade özgürlüğü ve insan hakları grubu, Basın İlan Kurumu’na (BİK) bağımsız Evrensel gazetesinin kamu ilanı alma hakkına yönelik iptal kararını derhal geri çekme çağrısı yaptı. BİK, gazetelerin yayın hayatı için hayati önem taşıyan kamu ilanlarının bağımsız ve adil bir biçimde dağıtılmasında düzenleyici bir rol oynamalıdır, eleştirel haber kurumlarını baskılayarak sansür mekanizmasını yaygınlaştırmada değil.

 

Evrensel gazetesine 22 Ağustos 2022’de tebliğ edilen 17 Temmuz tarihli BİK kararında gazetenin kamu ilanı alma hakkının tümüyle iptal edildiği bildirildi. Bu karar, Evrensel gazetesinin tirajını “çoklu alım” ile arttırdığı iddialarını takiben başlatılan denetimlerin gerçekleştirilmesinin ardından geldi. Evrensel için gazetelerin tirajlarına göre belirlenen kamu ilanı gelirleri Eylül 2019’da denetim kararına kadar BİK tarafından durdurulmuştu. Bu son karar ile Evrensel gazetesi, kamu ilanı yayımlama hakkını tümüyle kaldırdı.

 

BİK kararında, “23 Mart 2020 ile 30 Nisan 2022 tarihleri arasında Kurumca mevzuat şartlarının aranmadığı salgın süreci hariç bırakılmak suretiyle altı ay içinde yayınlama hakkı yeniden devam etmediği anlaşıldığından, Günlük Evrensel gazetesinin, resmi ilan ve reklam yayınlama hakkının sona ermesine karar verilmiştir,” ifadelerini kullandı. Evrensel’in kararı önce BİK’e itiraz etmek olmak üzere mahkemede temyiz hakkı bulunuyor. Evrensel gazetesinin BİK sisteminden çıkarılması halinde, ilan yayımlama hakkının geri kazanımı için bugün başlatılacak bir başvuru sürecinin dahi en az üç yıl süreceği öngörülüyor. Bu süreç, gazetenin finansal sürdürülebilirliği açısından son derece yıkıcı etkiler doğuracaktır.

 

Son üç yıl içinde, IPI ve aşağıda imzası bulunan basın özgürlüğü kurumları, Eylül 2019’da verilen Evrensel’e yönelik ilan durdurma cezasının kaldırılması için BİK’e pek çok kez çağrıda bulundu. 10 Avrupa Parlamentosu üyesi, dönemin BİK Başkanı Rıdvan Duran’a ortak mektup göndererek bu çağrıya destek vermişti. Şubat 2020’de Duran ile IPI öncülüğünde yüz yüze düzenlenen bir toplantıda bu talep ve endişeler dile getirilmiş olmasına rağmen, ilan durdurma cezası kaldırılmamıştı.

 

Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel ve BirGün gazetelerinin toplu başvurusuna yönelik Anayasa Mahkemesi’nin 10 Ağustos 2022 tarihli kararında, bu gazetelere verilen arka arkaya ve keyfi ilan kesme cezalarının basın ve ifade özgürlüklerini ihlal ettiğini belirtti. Ayrıca bu durumun yapısal sorunlardan kaynaklandığını belirten karar ile BİK’in ülkedeki sistematik sansür mekanizmasının bir aracı olarak hareket ettiği adeta teyit etmiş oldu. Böylelikle, AYM kararı BİK’in medya kurumlarına yönelik bağımsız yaklaşımının kaybedildiğini tasdik etti.

 

Son yıllarda Türkiye’deki medya özgürlüğü alanı gün geçtikçe daralıyordu. 2023 genel ve başkanlık seçimleri takvimi devam ederken, bağımsız haber yapmaya çalışan medya kuruluşlarının durumu, bilgiye dayalı karar verebilmek için var olan basın kuruluşlarına bağımlı kalan Türkiye vatandaşlarının habere erişimi üzerindeki olumsuz etkileri ve tüm bunların halihazırda daralmakta olan sivil alana olumsuz katkısı hakkında büyük endişe içerisindeyiz. O nedenle, bir kez daha Basın İlan Kurumu’na Evrensel gazetesinin ilan yayımlama hakkının iptalinin geri çekilmesi için çağrı yapıyoruz.

İmzacı kurumlar:

  • Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI)
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Articolo 21
  • Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • IFEX
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • IPS Communication Foundation/bianet
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
  • PEN America
  • PEN Norway
  • PEN Turkey
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN
  • The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

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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Ukraine 6 month anniversary Library

Ukraine: MFRR partners reiterate call for safety and support…

Ukraine: MFRR partners reiterate call for safety and support of media 6 months after invasion 

Today, 24 August, marks both the Ukrainian day of Independence and six months since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression. On this occasion, the partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) reiterate our continued solidarity with the journalists and media workers who risk their lives and safety to bring the world independent, balanced, and accurate information from the frontlines.

The killing, kidnapping, and other attacks on journalists must stop and those responsible must face justice for their crimes under national and international law. The safety of media workers is essential to inform the world about the realities of the war, including the humanitarian consequences, and to hold the powerful accountable. 

In the six months since the invasion, at least 100 media freedom violations linked to the conflict in Ukraine have been recorded on Mapping Media Freedom. Journalists, both Ukrainian reporters and international correspondents, have been actively targeted and killed by the Russian troops. To date the MFRR consortium identified and verified eight journalists who have been killed in the line of duty. They are Yevheniy Sakun, Brent Renaud, Pierre Zakrzewski, Oleksandra Kuvshynova, Oksana Baulina, Maks Levin, Mantas Kvedaravičius, and Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff. According to the definition and the status of research other platforms and organisations publish higher numbers. Five were killed by gunfire, while the other three were killed by shelling. 

There is evidence that at least five more Ukrainian media workers and citizen journalists may have been killed or executed by Russian troops in occupied territory in apparent connection to their profession, though these have not yet been verified and the motive remains unclear. From the beginning of the war, reports emerged of the Russian army intentionally targeting media infrastructure, with many journalists being placed on so-called “wanted lists”. The immediate safety of journalists and media workers on the ground is of paramount importance and must be respected.

The invasion has also seen a complete collapse of the advertising market for news outlets. Without this key source of revenue for media, the long-term financial sustainability of news organisations has been severely threatened. Outlets have been forced to shut down and journalists have been placed on involuntary, unpaid leave. The lack of long-term, sustainable funding mechanisms, combined with an inability to make concrete future plans amid the uncertainty of war, leaves the media landscape severely weakened. In this context, citizens are much more susceptible to manipulative disinformation operations that distort available information, leading public opinion farther from facts and reality. 

With the start of the invasion, the MFRR partners joined international efforts to offer support and expand its mandate to cover journalists and media workers in Ukraine. Practical support was offered to cover the immediate needs of journalists in Ukraine to support the flow of information. In addition, the partners initiated new Journalists-in-Residence programmes in Germany and Kosovo with the support of local authorities in both countries. 

Despite ongoing efforts and an influx of foreign funding for media, increased support is still needed for journalists on the frontline, for media outlets struggling financially, and for media workers who are forced to work in exile as a consequence of the aggression. We reiterate our support for these independent voices from the region as they remain committed to providing invaluable independent journalism and keep the world informed of what is happening in Ukraine.

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, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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The Shift News Malta Library

Malta: IPI supports Shift News in unprecedented freedom of…

Malta: IPI supports Shift News in unprecedented freedom of information battle

The International Press Institute (IPI) and its global network stand behind our member The Shift News as it faces an unprecedented legal battle with the Maltese government over freedom of information requests it submitted linked to expenditure of public contracts.

IPI sees the case as emblematic of the problematic climate for transparency, journalists’ access to information and media freedom in Malta. We support The Shift in its public interest mission to scrutinize power and provide citizens with information about the use of taxpayer money.

 

The Shift, a small independent news outlet, today launched a fresh crowdfunding campaign to help pay the legal costs of fighting the FOI cases in court. The estimated expense of challenging all the cases is €40,000 – half of its operational budget for one year.

 

To safeguard its independence, the online newspaper is the only media outlet in Malta which refuses to accept funding or advertising contacts from the government or any political party and is instead run on a community-funded model.

 

The Shift is facing identical, taxpayer-funded appeals from 40 different government entities against the decision of the Maltese Information and Data Protection Commissioner to side with the media outlet and grant it access to contracts and payments made by public entities to Malta Today co-owner Saviour Balzan and his commercial entities.

 

The Appeals Tribunal has so far ruled on 12 of those cases, siding with The Shift and the Commissioner in all of them. Five state entities have so far filed secondary appeal lawsuits. Dozens more government bodies could eventually end up making additional appeals, initiating yet more time consuming and costly legal battles.

 

IPI and our global network stand firmly behind our member The Shift News, its Managing Editor Caroline Muscat, and the news outlet’s vital watchdog journalism mission in Malta”, said IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen. “The clear public interest in releasing the requested information has already been recognized not once, but twice.

 

The continued efforts by the government to needlessly challenge these decisions drag out the process is inexplicable and seriously undermines transparency and the freedom of the press. We are concerned these coordinated appeals are also aimed at draining The Shift of time and resources that could otherwise be spent carrying out public service reporting.

 

We call on the government entities to immediately drop outstanding appeals, put an end to this absurd waste of taxpayer money, and provide the requested contacts in a timely manner. IPI also calls on its members around the world to join us in expressing support for The Shift and to consider donating to its crowdfunding campaign.

 

IPI is currently working with partner organizations to secure funding to help support The Shift’s legal defence and hopes to make further announcements in the coming days.

 

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.

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