Strasbourg 9 May 2016
Strasbourg 2 May 2016
Strasbourg 14 April 2016
The platform in figures
Since April 2015*
- alerts in 26 countries
- alerts where a member State replied
- resolved cases
- journalists killed
*Platform launch date
Alerts by category
Latest threats to media freedom
Draft bill to tighten criminal penalties for defamation
A committee of the Italian Senate voted unanimously on 3 May 2016, a draft amendment to the Penal Code which will increase the criminal penalties for those accused of defamation against members of the political class, the judiciary or public administration. The draft law will soon be submitted to the Senate for adoption. Specifically, the text envisages raising the maximum sentence from 6 to 9 years in prison, if the defamation concerns a politician, a judge or a public servant. The bill was denounced by the Italian Order of Journalists, the Italian Federation of Journalists Organisations and the NGO Ossigeno per l'Informazione, which recall that another draft bill, introduced in 2012 proposed outright decriminalisation of defamation. In 2013, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, addressed a letter to the then Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, to remind her of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, which considers that prison sentences for defamation are a disproportionate sanction and a threat to democracy. The organisations submitting this alert hold firmly to the principle, which has been established in rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, that those who hold high public office should not enjoy additional protections in law but instead should be prepared to accept a higher level of criticism than others.
Trumped-up Charges to Silence an Investigative Journalist in AzerbaijanUpdate : 26 May 2016
The investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, a leading figure in the battle for press freedom in Azerbaijan, was arrested on 5 December 2014 on a trumped-up charge of inciting a former colleague to commit suicide. Her preventive detention has been routinely extended ever since and on 13 February 2015, she was additionally charged with large-scale embezzlement, illegal trading, tax evasion and abuse of authority. The new charges follow a 26 December 2014 raid on the Baku bureau of Radio Azadliq (the Azerbaijani service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), which Ismayilova ran until just over four years ago. Radio Azadliq was closed and placed under seal after being searched. RWB calls these charges frivolous and considers that Khadija Ismayilova's arrest is merely a punishment for her brave journalistic activities. An award-winning journalist, she is well known for deep investigations into the corruption at the highest levels of government. Ismayilova's arrest was condemned by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe President Anne Brasseur, the US Department of State, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, RSF, the IFJ, the EFJ, Index on Censorship, the CPJ and many others. For most of these organisations, the arrest of Ismailova is nothing but intimidation, part of an ongoing campaign aimed at silencing free and critical voices in Azerbaijan.
New 25 May 2016 : On 25 May 2016, Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court has ordered to release Khadija Ismayilova from custody after reducing her prison sentence from 7.5 years to a suspended term of 3.5 years.
25 Nov 2015 : On 25 November 2015, the Baku Court of Appeal upheld the verdict of the court of first instance, sentencing Khadija Ismayilova to a 7.5 year prison term.
03 Sep 2015 : On 1 September 2015, a Baku court sentenced Khadija Ismayilova to 7 and a half years in prison on charges of misappropriation and embezzlement, illegal business dealings, tax evasion and abuse of power. In her closing statement, Ms Ismayilova denounced the case against her as politically motivated with the aim of ending her investigations into corruption at the highest levels of government. The AEJ, Article 19, EFJ/IFJ and Reporters Without Borders jointly denounce the verdict and sentence against Khadiya Ismayilova as based on fabricated evidence and legally unsound. They call for the verdict to be reversed, for the case against Ismayilova to be dismissed, and for her immediate and unconditional release.
21 Aug 2015 : Khadija Ismayilova's hearing began in Baku on 7th August, and culminated in a request on 21st August by the State Prosecutor to sentence her to 9 years in prison. The judge has adjourned the case until 26th August, when a verdict is likely to be delivered. The State Prosecutor's request to condemn Ismayilova to 9 years' imprisonment is a gross violation of human rights, given the lack of due process in the case and the absence of any credible evidence presented by the prosecution. Ismayilova has accused the court of rushing through her trial and not giving her sufficient chance to respond to the charges. Only some representatives of foreign embassies were allowed to attend the trial; and no independent media or civil society were present. The IFJ, the EFJ, ARTICLE 19, and AEJ urge the Azerbaijan authorities to reject the Prosecutor’s request and immediately free Khadija Ismayilova.
01 Jun 2015 : Reply by the Government of Azerbaijan
New 26 May 2016 : Statement of the OSCE Representative for Media Freedom
New 25 May 2016 : Statement of the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights
21 Jan 2016 : CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks intervenes before the European Court of Human Rights on the case of Khadija Ismayilova
01 Sep 2015 : PACE President deplores Khadija Ismayilova sentence in Azerbaijan
01 Sep 2015 : Statement by the Spokesperson of Secretary General Jagland on the verdict in the case of Khadija Ismayilova in Azerbaijan
01 Sep 2015 : Statement of the OSCE Representative for Media Freedom
21 Aug 2015 : Statement of the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights
Criminal investigation opened against journalists for solidarity campaign
On 18 May, 2016 Turkish judicial authorities opened a criminal investigation against six journalists and trade unionists for participating in a solidarity campaign with the Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem. The journalists include Ertugrul Mavioglu, Faruk Eren, Ayse Düzkan, Mustafa Sönmez, Melda Onur and Erol Önderoglu. The Co-Editorship-in-Chief campaign was launched by Özgür Gündem daily on 3 May, 2016 for World Press Freedom Day (#WPFD) where up to 16 journalists participated.Requests have been filed for the journalists and trade unionists to testify for articles that are being considered "terrorist propaganda" and an "incitement to crime" which were published whilst they participated in the solidarity campaign.
Journalists Detained and Barred from Entering Idomeni to Report on Treatment of RefugeesUpdate : 25 May 2016
On 9 December 2015, according to verified reports from ESIEMTH (EFJ-IFJ affiliate in Greece), at least two Greek journalists and two photojournalists were detained in Idomeni just before the local police started an extended operation to remove refugees from the camp. Under the pretext of personal data authentication, policemen asked journalists to follow them to a police station far away from the field of action in order to prevent media coverage. All detained journalists were released later but access to the camp of Idomeni is still denied to journalists and other NGOs.
New 25 May 2016 : On 24 May the authorities began the operation to gradually evacuate the Idomeni refugee camp, blocking access to the area and barring all journalists from the operations, with the exception of those working for the Public Broadcaster and the National Press Agency.
New 02 May 2016 : Reply from the Greek authorities
Journalist Given 20-months in Prison, Stripped of Parental Rights
A court in the city of Mersin sentenced journalist Arzu Yildiz to 20 months in prison and deprived her of her parental rights for breaching court confidentiality over footage she published on social media in May 2015. The footage was from a court hearing where four prosecutors were on trial for ordering a search of trucks belonging to Turkey's MIT intelligence agency as they travelled to Syria in 2014. The trial of the four prosecutors was held in a closed court, however Yildiz obtained the videos and posted the testimonies of the prosecutors on Youtube. The case will now be heard by the Appeal Court.
Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 of the Committee of Ministers on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, 13 April 2016
Factsheet on freedom of expression and the broadcasting media, 4 April 2016
Factsheet on mass surveillance, 29 February 2016
Factsheet on media coverage of protests and demonstrations, 29 February 2016
A. Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists
Killings; abductions; threats and acts of violence against the physical integrity of journalists, their family members and other media actors; attacks against journalists’ sources because of their co-operation with journalists or media.
B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists
Arbitrary, unwarranted or politically-motivated arrests, detention and imprisonment of journalists and other media actors.
C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists
Harassment of journalists and other media institutions or actors; violence or interference causing damage or destruction of journalists’ equipment or other property; punitive or vindictive exercise of investigatory tax or administrative powers; arbitrary denial of access for journalistic coverage; threats to journalists’ privacy, threats to employment status, psychological abuse, bullying, online harassment and cyber-bullying;
Judicial intimidation: opportunistic, arbitrary or vexatious use of legislation, including defamation, anti-terrorism, national security, hooliganism or anti-extremism laws; issuing bogus or fabricated charges;
Political intimidation, including hate speech and use by public figures of abusive or demeaning language against journalists or media outlets;
Other forms of intimidation and harassment.
Failures to promptly, independently and effectively investigate and seek to prosecute crimes and offences against journalists and other media institutions or actors.
E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Acts having chilling effects on media freedom including restrictive legislation encroaching on media freedom;
Censorship, interference with editorial freedom;
Threats to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources;
Unjustified or indiscriminate blocking of websites or social media platforms, hacking, and surveillance or interception of communications data of journalists without due process of authorisation, etc.
The platform was set up in close co-operation with five major journalists’ and freedom of expression organisations* – signatories of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Council of Europe. They are responsible for providing verified information on serious concerns with regard to the media freedom and safety of journalists.
* European Federation of Journalists, International Federation of Journalists, Association of European Journalists , Article 19, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Index on Censorship
Covers the most severe and damaging violations of media freedom, including physical assaults and murder, intimidation, impunity for crimes targeting journalists and the application of excessively severe penal laws to protect state officials from the level of criticism which is to be expected in a democracy.
Applies to governments’ dealings with the media in law and administration. These category concerns violations of media freedom arising from the misuse of governmental or other powers to direct the media, especially in elections, interference with media freedom through ownership, control and regulation, the abusive or disproportional use of laws on anti-terrorism, extremism and state security on freedom of expression, access to information and confidentiality of sources and the independence of public sector broadcasting.
Covers the need for diverse media ownership, professional and ethical conduct on the part of media owners, managers, editors and workers, decent working conditions, procedures to deal with disputes and complaints and effective national reviews of the condition of media freedom.
This section presents a non-exhaustive selection of CoE instruments and ECHR case-law. This information is not a legal assessment of the alert and should not be treated or used as such.