Latest threats to media freedom

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Threats to the Protection of Journalists Sources

Date of entry 24 Jun 2016 Country Belgium Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Submitted by EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
24 Jun 2016 Belgium E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ Level 2

The Minister of Justice of Belgium, Koen Geens, announced his intention to increase sentences for violation of professional secrecy, which would permit wiretapping or computer tracing of journalists' sources. The Minister also has plans to allow intelligence services to "withdraw the protection linked to the status of professional journalist" if these services consider that the beneficiary of that legal status in Belgium is not really a journalist. Professional organisations of journalists have denounced these projects, arguing that they undermine the protection of journalists' sources and the legal status of journalists. The General Association of Professional Journalists of Belgium (AGJPB) recalls that the status of professional journalist, in Belgium, is granted (supervised and withdrawn) by an independent commission of approval organised by law, and that it is therefore not the remit of intelligence services to interfere in an independent procedure.

DIHA Journalist Nazım Daştan Arrested for Facebook Posts

Update : 23 Jun 2016
Date of entry 15 Feb 2016 Country Turkey Category B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Submitted by EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 1
15 Feb 2016 Turkey B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists State EFJ/IFJ Level 1

On 11 February 2016, Dicle News Agency (DIHA) journalist Nazım Daştan was detained on his way back home in the province of Antep (Turkey). He is accused of "spreading propaganda for an illegal organisation". These allegations relate to several posts that the journalist had published on his Facebook. After interrogation, the Kurdish journalist was remanded in custody and sent to the Antep H type prison.

Updates

New 23 Jun 2016 : On 23 June 2016, Nazım Daştan has been released in the first hearing held by Antep 2nd Heavy Penal Court.

New Anti-terrorism Law Allows Blocking of Online Media

Date of entry 23 Jun 2016 Country Poland Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Submitted by Index , AEJ , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
23 Jun 2016 Poland E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State Index , AEJ , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ Level 2

A new anti-terrorism law came into effect on 22 June 2016 after it was ratified by the Polish President Andrzej Duda. The law was successfully passed by two parliamentary chambers of the Sejm earlier this month. The law gives Poland’s intelligence agency, the ABW (Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego), the right to “order the blocking or demand that the electronic open source service administrator block access to information data”, thereby giving the agency the right to shut down online media outlets, including websites and television programmes, Kulisy24 reported. Websites can be blocked for up to five days prior to obtaining permission by higher prosecution authorities, and up to 30 days if permission is granted, with the option to renew it for up to three months. Authorisation for a temporary access ban can also now be granted by the minister of justice. The legislation does not grant power to the source administrator to appeal against such a decision. Watchdog website Kulisy24 criticised the legislation, writing that it is not known how blocking will be executed and that the ABW is not obliged to publish its blocking order. The Polish NGO Fundacja Panoptykon started a petition against the law in late April and collected just short of 8,690 signatures by 20 June. Together with the NGO e-Państwo, it also published a protest letter addressed to the Polish president, which was shared by a number of media and NGOs, including the Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights.

Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer

22 Jun 2016 : Opinion on the Act of 15 January 2016 amending the Police Act and certain other Acts, adopted by the Venice Commission at its 107th Plenary Session (Venice, 10-11 June 2016)

Sport Journalist Kyriakos Thomaidis Faces Arrest after Police Raid on Skai TV's Building

Date of entry 22 Jun 2016 Country Greece Category C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat State Submitted by EFJ/IFJ , Index Alert level Level 2
22 Jun 2016 Greece C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists State EFJ/IFJ , Index Level 2

On Tuesday 14 June 2016, at midnight, the public prosecutor accompanied with police officers entered the private TV channel Skai in Athens to arrest sport journalist Kyriakos Thomaidis who presents "Court trial at Skai", a programme which addresses controversial issues in Greek sports. The journalist is being sought in connection with a complaint filed by Olympiakos soccer club’s owner Vangelis Marinakis allegedly for defamatory comments in the programme. Officers had earlier attempted to arrest the journalist at the TV station but he refused to follow them, arguing they had no arrest warrant against him. They returned later with the prosecutor but Thomaidis had left after presenting his programme and they spent about 40 minutes searching the premises for him before leaving at around 2.40 a.m., according to reports. Skai TV’s management condemned the midnight raid which they described as “unprecedented” and an “affront to the rule of law and the freedom of the press.”

Draft Bill to Tighten Criminal Penalties for Defamation

Update : 21 Jun 2016
Date of entry 27 May 2016 Country Italy Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Submitted by EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index , IPI Alert level Level 2
27 May 2016 Italy E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index , IPI Level 2

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.

State replies

21 Jun 2016 : Reply from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Follow-ups

27 May 2016 : Defamation penalty in Italy needs to be considered for its effect on free expression, OSCE media representative says

Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer

27 May 2016 : Venice Commission Opinion on the Legislation on Defamation of Italy (December 2013)
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