Latest threats to media freedom

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Republika Srpska President’s Office Bars Access for Selected Media

Date of entry 23 Jan 2017 Country Bosnia and Herzegovina Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Submitted by AEJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , RSF Alert level Level 2
23 Jan 2017 Bosnia and Herzegovina E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State AEJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , RSF Level 2

On 18 January 2017, a TV news team from N1 Television was prevented by officials from attending and reporting on a press conference in Banja Luka by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik. The reason given was that N1 did not have accreditation to enter the Palace of RS, the press conference venue. N1 TV was also removed from the mailing list of the President’s office, meaning that the company no longer receives any official notices, information or permission to access locations as necessary to report on the activities of the RS President. The Bosnia and Herzegovina Journalists Association (BHJA) and Free Media Help Line denounced these actions as unreasonable discrimination against a media enterprise which is known for its critical coverage. Beta news agency’s correspondent Ljiljana Kovacevic and employees of BN Television have also suffered bans which have blocked those news organisations from being able to report freely on the activities of Mr Dodik.

Russian journalist Aleksander Sokolov held in detention since July 2015

Date of entry 20 Jan 2017 Country Russian Federation Category B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Submitted by RSF , AEJ , Index Alert level Level 1
20 Jan 2017 Russian Federation B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists State RSF , AEJ , Index Level 1

Aleksander Sokolov, a Russian journalist who was working for the RBC Media Group at the time of his arrest, has been held in detention since July 2015. Human Rights groups and media freedom organisations declared the journalist to be a political prisoner. Sokolov was arrested while he was helping to create a website for a group called “For Responsible Government” (IGPR “ZOV”), accused to revive an association banned in 2010 for extremism, “People’s Will Army”. The group IGPR “ZOV” was campaigning for a referendum to amend the Russian constitution so that politicians could be held accountable under criminal law. Sokolov was initially charged for publishing “extremist content” and trying to “destabilize the government.” The second of these charges was subsequently dropped for lack of evidence and the main charge was changed to “organizing a terrorist group,” Sokolov is the author of a thesis on public funds embezzlement and is an expert on these issues. His last article was about the embezzlement of public funds in the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome. His claims have been corroborated by the Russian Court of Accounts in December 2015, when it announced the discovery of “financial irregularities” in connection with this project and gave an estimate for the amount embezzled that was close to Sokolov’s own figure – around 93 billion roubles (1.27 billion euros).

Masterminds Still not Condemned, Ten Years After the Assassination of Journalist Hrant Dink

Date of entry 19 Jan 2017 Country Turkey Category D. Impunity Source of threat State Submitted by EFJ/IFJ , Article 19 , AEJ , CPJ , Index , IPI , RSF Alert level Level 1
19 Jan 2017 Turkey D. Impunity State EFJ/IFJ , Article 19 , AEJ , CPJ , Index , IPI , RSF Level 1

On 19 January 2007, Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist and founder of Agos newspaper, was shot dead at 15:05 on the street in front of his office in Istanbul. The murderer, a 17-year-old Turkish nationalist, and some of his accomplices were apprehended and imprisoned but not all parties involved in the crime have been investigated. In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkish authorities have failed to protect Hrant Dink’s rights to life and freedom of expression. Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that that civil servants and institutions must be investigated for their alleged roles in the journalist’s murder. Public servants who allegedly failed to protect the journalist and prepared false reports are currently being prosecuted at Istanbul 14th penal court.

Follow-ups

19 Jan 2017 : Ten years on, OSCE media freedom representative calls the authorities of Turkey to increase their efforts to ensure that justice is served in the case of journalist Hrant Dink

Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer

19 Jan 2017 : Case of Dink v.Turkey, ECHR Judgment of 14 September 2010 (Applications n°2668/07, 6102/08, 30079/08, 7072/09 and 7124/09) : Failure of authorities to protect life of a journalist following death threats and to protect freedom of expression of a journalist who had commented on identity of Turkish citizens of Armenian extraction

Azadliq Newspaper Stops Publishing in Azerbaijan After Arrest of Financial Director

Date of entry 18 Jan 2017 Country Azerbaijan Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Submitted by Article 19 , AEJ , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index Alert level Level 1
18 Jan 2017 Azerbaijan E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State Article 19 , AEJ , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index Level 1

Azadliq, the main opposition newspaper in Azerbaijan, has been forced to stop publishing following the arrest of their financial director, Faiq Amirov, and ongoing financial pressures from state-owned or affiliated companies. Faiq Amirov was arrested on 20 August 2016 on charges of “inciting religious hatred” and “infringing the rights of citizens under the pretext of conducting religious rites”, after police allegedly found materials produced by Fethullah Gülen in his apartment and car. He is currently being held in pre-trial detention, accused of being an imam in the Gülenist movement. Rights groups believe the charges to be unfounded and politically-motivated; while Amirov has denied that the Gülenist materials are his, believing that the police planted them among his belongings. Amirov faces between two and five years in jail if convicted. According to his lawyer, Amirov has been denied medical treatment while in jail. Azadliq has long faced financial pressures, which have been exacerbated by Amirov’s arrest, resulting in the paper’s inability to pay the state owned printer a 20,000 manat (approx. 10,000 EUR) debt. The printer subsequently refused to work with the paper, and it has not been published since September 2016. Azadliq was unable to pay this debt on two grounds: first, Azadliq’s bank have refused to recognize Azadliq’s new financial director, meaning that the newspaper cannot access its funds. Second, according to a newspaper spokesperson, Azadliq was owed and 70,000 manat (approx. 35,000 EUR) by the state-owned distribution company GASID. Since being forced to stop publishing, the online version of Azadliq has reportedly faced repeated attempts to block access to the website. According to Qurium, the hosting provider of Azadliq’s website, there have been five incidences since November 2016 in which they recorded repeated attacks on the site, affecting the site’s ability to load, significantly restricting the ability of people inside Azerbaijan to access the site. In the most severe incident, on 15 December 2016, the site was fully unreachable within Azerbaijan. The site is continuing to experience DDOS attacks.

German Journalists Refused Accreditation for Conference in Koblenz Organized by the European Parliament’s Group of Europe of Nations and Freedom

Date of entry 16 Jan 2017 Country Germany Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat Non-state Submitted by EFJ/IFJ , AEJ Alert level Level 2
16 Jan 2017 Germany E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Non-state EFJ/IFJ , AEJ Level 2

Several journalists, including from Die Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung, der ARD-Tagesschau, Das Handelsblatt and Der Spiegel, who have been critical in their reporting about the German party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), were refused accreditation to attend the conference organized by the European’s Parliament’s group of Europe of the Nations and Freedom (ENF) in Koblenz on 21 January. The meeting is to be attended by leaders of the Germany’s AfD, France’s National Front, Dutch Freedom Party as well as Italy’s Northern League. The Deutscher Journalisten-Verband (DJV) requested fair accreditation for journalists who wish to attend the ENF conference in Koblenz. “When a political group of the European Parliament organises a conference, it is not a private meeting in the living room“, stated DJV-chair Frank Überall. “Parties, which are supposed to contribute to the political decision-making process, cannot exclude journalists from its meetings”. German public broadcaster ARD said that it may take legal action after it was refused access.

Poland - Journalists' access to Parliament restricted

Update : 13 Jan 2017
Date of entry 20 Dec 2016 Country Poland Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Submitted by Article 19 , AEJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index Alert level Level 3
20 Dec 2016 Poland E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State Article 19 , AEJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index Level 3

On Saturday 17 December 2016, the Speaker of the lower chamber of the Polish parliament issued an order banning all journalists from entering the parliamentary estate, following large demonstrations in Warsaw and other cities in Poland, in protest at proposed changes to rules governing journalists' access to the Polish parliament. The order remains in force, and no journalists have been able to access the parliamentary estate since Saturday morning. Last week, Marek Kuchciński, the Speaker of the Polish parliament (a member of the ruling Law and Justice Party) published changes to the rules governing journalists’ access to the Polish parliament. The stated goal of the changes is to bring order to the building and lessen interference in MPs work. NGOs have expressed concern that the new regulations would disproportionately restrict the ability of journalists to cover the work of elected representatives, by reducing the number of accredited journalists, significantly limiting where recording can take place and confining most journalists to an official media centre away from the main parliament building. Following the start of demonstrations, Speaker of the Senate Stanisław Karczewski has now held consultations with editors of the main media outlets (on 17 and 19 December 2016) and stated that he intends to share new proposals on 6 January 2017.

State replies

New 13 Jan 2017 : Reply from the Government of Poland

The National Radio and TV Council of Ukraine Bans Broadcast of Russian TV Channel Dozhd

Date of entry 13 Jan 2017 Country Ukraine Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Submitted by EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , CPJ , Index , RSF Alert level Level 2
13 Jan 2017 Ukraine E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , CPJ , Index , RSF Level 2

On 12 January 2017, the National Radio and TV Council (NRTC) of Ukraine voted unanimously to cease the retransmission of the Russian TV Channel Dozhd (Rain) within a month, following TV reports showing Crimea as part of Russia. NRTC member Serhiy Kostynsky said that Dozhd's depictions of Crimea as a Russian republic had spurred the decision, but that the station had also repeatedly violated Ukrainian advertising laws throughout 2016. Dozhd Director Natalya Sindeyeva explained that Russian law requires the use of maps that indicate Russia’s possession of Crimea. She also claims that the channel had not received any official notice of non-compliance from the Ukrainian authorities. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović qualified on Twitter the ban as “very damaging for media pluralism in Ukraine”.

Follow-ups

13 Jan 2017 : OSCE Freedom of the Media Reprensentative describes decision of NacRada to stop broadcasting of DozhdTV as very demaging for media pluralism in Ukraine.

A Greek Newspaper Publisher and Director Charged with Libel

Date of entry 12 Jan 2017 Country Greece Category C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat State Submitted by EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index , IPI , RSF Alert level Level 1
12 Jan 2017 Greece C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists State EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index , IPI , RSF Level 1

On 10 January 2017, Greek police arrested the publisher and the director of Parapolitika newspaper, Giannis Kourtakis and Panayiotis Tzenos, following a lawsuit filed against them for libel and attempted extortion by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos. The publisher, Giannis Kourtakis, said he went voluntarily to the police headquarters after being informed about the lawsuit, while director Panagiotis Tzenos was arrested by police in his office, in Athens. Panos Kammenos filed a lawsuit against Kourtakis and Tzenos for allegedly libel and attempted extortion through repeated attacks against him made by Parapolitika radio station in order for the minister to withdraw his accusations that Kourtakis and Tzenos received large sums of improper funding from a state health entity. The public prosecutor who investigated the lawsuit dropped charges of criminal extortion. Giannis Kourtakis and Panayiotis Tzenos were released pending trial for alleged libel. The Journalists’ Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers condemned the heavy handed police action when ten officers raided the Parapolitika headquarters and the detained the director.

Caucasian Knot Correspondent Beaten in Rostov

Date of entry 12 Jan 2017 Country Russian Federation Category A. Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Source of threat Unknown Submitted by Index , Article 19 , EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 1
12 Jan 2017 Russian Federation A. Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Unknown Index , Article 19 , EFJ/IFJ Level 1

On 10 January, 2017 Vladislav Ryazantcev, a correspondent for the independent news agency Caucasian Knot, was assaulted by unknown individuals, the journalist reported on Facebook. According to the journalist, there were five assailants, whose faces were covered by scarfs. One of them reported grabbed his hand and asked him to “to follow him for a talk”. Right after that an additional four individuals came up and started to hit the journalist in the head. Ryazantcev reported that bystanders then helped rescue him. He stressed the assailants did not try to rob him. “I do not know what the attack is connected to, Ryazantcev wrote in Facebook. He later filed a complaint to the police. The day before on 9 January, the speaker of the Chechen parliament, Magomed Daudov published threats against to editor-in-chief of the Caucasian Knot, Grigori Shvedov, on Instagram.

Azerbaijani Journalist and Blogger Detained Overnight

Update : 11 Jan 2017
Date of entry 10 Jan 2017 Country Azerbaijan Category B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Submitted by Article 19 , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , IPI , RSF Alert level Level 1
10 Jan 2017 Azerbaijan B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists State Article 19 , CPJ , EFJ/IFJ , Index , IPI , RSF Level 1

On 9 January 2017, Mehman Huseynov, a blogger and journalist, was detained in Central Baku by plain clothed police officers and held incommunicado overnight. Mehman has reported that while in police custody, police placed a sack over his head and used force against him. On 10 January, he was taken to Nasimi District Court, where he was tried on charges of disobeying the police (Article 535.1 of the Administrative Offences Code), which carries a sentence of up to 30 days in jail. The Court released him; however, he was fined 200 AZN (approx. 100 EUR). Huseynov is well known for his investigative journalism, focused on corruption among the Azerbaijani elite. Most recently, he had posted pictures online of luxury properties, which he said were owned by government officials. He has long been subject to pressure by the authorities, and has been under a travel ban for several years.

Follow-ups

New 11 Jan 2017 : CoE Human Rights Commissioner expresses his worries at reported ill-treatment, arrest, fine of blogger Mehman Huseynov.
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