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24 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 26 Aug 2020 n° 98/2020 Italy

Online Threats Against the President of Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Since 18 August 2020, the president of Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (FNSI), Beppe Giulietti, has been harassed and intimidated on social networks. The campaign is fueled by online accounts that advocate extreme right-wing theses. Recently Giulietti had defended the journalists who demonstrated that an alleged report in the newspaper “Libero” on 7 August, according to which migrants had killed and eaten dogs belonging to a resident of Lampedusa, was not based on any proven facts.The journalists who exposed this false news, including Angela Caponnetto of Rai News 24 and Nello Scavo of the newspaper “Avvenire”, were also subjected to threats and insults on social networks. MP Walter Verini, Coordinator of the Italian Committee of the Anti-Mafia Parliamentary Commission for the Protection of Threatened Journalists, announced on 20 August that he will organise a hearing to follow up on the testimonies of threatened journalists and the FNSI.
State replies
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24 Aug 2020 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 03 Aug 2020 n° 92/2020 Romania

Judicial Intimidation Targeting the Romanian Union of Journalists and Daily Newspaper "Libertatea"

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ RSF
Partner EFJ/IFJ RSF
Following the denunciation of irregularities in the management of the Romanian public television station TVR by the Romanian journalists' union FAIR-Mediasind, TVR's management has instructed the law firm Zamfirescu Racoti & Partners to take legal action for defamation against the union and against the journalists of the daily newspaper "Libertatea". The union said TVR had allocated a public budget of 50,742 euros to the law firm to bring these legal actions. FAIR-Mediasind issued a statement on 28 July accusing the director of the TV station, Doina Gradea, of attempting to intimidate and harass the journalists' union.
State replies
24 Sep 2020
New Reply from the Romanian authorities
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24 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 24 Sep 2020 n° 110/2020 Bulgaria

Bulgarian Reporter Martin Georgiev Summoned for Questioning over Request for Comment

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner CPJ
No state reply yet
Partner CPJ
On 14 September 2020, police in Sofia summoned Martin Georgiev, a crime reporter at the local daily Sega, for questioning after he e-mailed the Ministry of Interior for comment on alleged police brutality amid recent anti-government protests. On 2 September, riot police had beaten and pepper sprayed demonstrators and reporters, as CPJ documented at the time.
In his request for comment, Georgiev sent questions about alleged police brutality, photos from social media and news stories depicting officers’ use of pepper spray and brass knuckles, and questions about the legality of police actions.
At the police station, officers told Georgiev that they treated his request for comment as a criminal complaint, and questioned him about the protests and asked him to provide an official statement. When Georgiev refused to speak without a lawyer present, the officers released him after about half an hour.
“As a crime reporter, I usually send hundreds of questions every year to the police and the Ministry of the Interior,” Georgiev told CPJ. “I see this questioning as a warning that journalists are not supposed to ask certain questions to the police.”
In a statement, the Association of European Journalists(AEJ) in Bulgaria said that, instead of answering the reportert’s request, the questioning was “an attempt at intimidation and repression, which probably aims to make the media not interested in such illegal actions of the police.”
A Ministry of the Interior spokesperson said that police treated Georgiev’s questions as a complaint and summoned him because his e-mail included photos of police officers committing “possible violations”. CPJ e-mailed the Ministry of Interior for comment, but did not receive any reply.
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24 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 24 Sep 2020 n° 110/2020 Belgium

News Website Apache Ordered by Court to Take Down an Article

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ ECPMF
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ ECPMF
The news website Apache was required to take down an article after the Antwerp top executive and lobbyist Erik Van der Paal filed a civil lawsuit for ‘breach of privacy’ and ‘slander’ over an Apache article on two major Antwerp real estate groups. The case was brought by unilateral application before the President of the Court of First Instance at Antwerp under the fast-track procedure. The Flemish journalists’ association (VVJ) has since long denounced bringing cases by unilateral application, as a journalist is denied any right of defence, which according to the VVJ amounts to censorship. This is not the first case Van der Paal initiated against Apache.
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23 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 23 Sep 2020 n° 108/2020 France

New National Policing Plan Raises Concerns among Journalists

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
On 17 September 2020, Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, presented the new National Policing Plan intended for police and gendarmes. The text recognises the need for "better consideration of the presence of journalists during law enforcement operations, based in particular on better mutual knowledge". In a press release, French journalists' unions and journalists' societies comprising more than 40 media outlets expressed their concern that the Plan infringes on press freedom. In particular, it discriminates between journalists "holding a press card and accredited to the authorities", who are the only ones authorised to wear protective equipment, and others, even though the exercise of the profession of journalist, as defined in the Labor Code, does not require the possession of a press card. It also states that "the offence consisting in remaining in a crowd after having been warned does not suffer any exception, including for the benefit of journalists or members of associations". Journalists' unions and journalists' societies see this as a green light given to law enforcement to prevent journalists from fully reporting on protests. Media professionals call on the Interior Minister to bring the Plan in line with French and European principles regarding freedom of information.
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23 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 01 Sep 2020 n° 100/2020 United Kingdom

Investigative Media Outlet "Declassified UK" Blacklisted by the Ministry of Defence

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner Index AEJ IPI
Partner Index AEJ IPI
On the morning of 25 August 2020, journalist Phil Miller from the investigative media outlet Declassified UK contacted the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to request a comment about the arrest of Ahmed al Babati, a serving soldier, near Downing Street for protesting the United Kingdom’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen. He received a call back from the MOD and was told that they had “something good to go” and that it would be sent on to Miller shortly.

During the phone call, Miller was asked “What sort of angle have [Declassified UK] taken on the war in Yemen?”. Miller replied: “It’s just very factually documenting British military and defence industry support for the Saudi-led coalition”.

Less than an hour later, Miller received an email telling him that the MOD was not going to send him anything that day, but that he should “submit an FOI [Freedom of Information request] for anything that you require”.

Later that day, when the Telegraph newspaper published their article “Government has 'blood on hands' says serving soldier investigated for protesting against war in Yemen while wearing uniform”, it became evident that the MOD had provided the Telegraph with a comment. Miller called the MOD to enquire as to why Declassified UK were not provided with a comment. He was told: “We no longer deal with your publication”. When Miller asked why, the speaker on the phone told him that he did not know the reason, but that he would find someone who could explain the decision. That contact information was never provided to Miller or Declassified UK.

On 26 August Mark Curtis, editor of Declassified UK, emailed the MOD to seek confirmation that it is now MOD's policy to blacklist Declassified UK . No response was received to that communication. Declassified UK is now considering legal action.
Progress
New 23 Sep 2020: On 22 September 2020, lawyers acting for Declassified UK received a letter from the MOD admitting that it was wrong not to have provided a comment to their request. The MOD apologised for the wrongdoing. The letter followed a statement made by Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, on 21 September, which said that "all Government media and communication professionals must abide by the Government Communication Service’s propriety guidance and the civil service code". He said that he was "deeply concerned that those standards are alleged not always to have been met in the Department." He also said that he was ordering an independent review into the blacklisting of Declassified UK and would report back to the House once the review had been concluded.   Statement by the Secretary of State for Defence
Updates
New 10 Sep 2020
The MOD hasn't responded to either DeclassifiedUK or their lawyers' questions about the reason for the decision to blacklist them. Leigh Day, acting on behalf of Declassified UK, had the MOD a deadline of 4pm on 10 September by which to respond, but it was missed. Responding to a parliamentary question on 8 September, one Conservative MP and defence minister said: "the Ministry of Defence engages with media outlets who report responsibly", thereby implying that DeclassifiedUK's reporting is irresponsible. On 10 September, another Conservative MP and defence minister said that they were "looking into the specifics". On 11 September, responses to two more parliamentary questions were answered reiterating that statement.
State replies
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23 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 23 Sep 2020 n° 109/2020 Spain

RTVE Left without Board of Directors for the Past Two Years

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
The Spanish public television RTVE has been managed for more than two years by a provisional administrator, Rosa María Mateo, who was initially supposed to remain in office for only a few months. According to a law of September 2017, the Presidency of RTVE and Board of Directors' members must be appointed through a public competition. The test was held and 19 candidates were pre-selected 21 months ago, but Parliament has still not appointed the President of RTVE or the members of its Board of Directors. The citizen platform Teledetodos, the Association of Communication Users (AUC) and journalists' unions have repeatedly denounced the lack of legitimate management and control bodies. The European report "Media Pluralism Monitor", published in July 2020, also denounces this shortcoming and calls, in its recommendations, the Spanish authorities to appoint RTVE's administrators, in order to meet the imperative of impartiality of public broadcasting.
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22 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 13 Apr 2016 n° 46/2016 Montenegro

Freelance Journalist and Fixer Jovo Martinovic Tried for “Being a Member of a Criminal Organization”

Source of threatState
CategoryDetention and imprisonment of journalists
Partner RSF EFJ/IFJ
Partner RSF EFJ/IFJ
Mr. Jovo Martinovic worked as a non-exclusive part-time fixer for a French documentary film “The Route of the Kalashnikov”, aired in France on Canal+ on 4 January 2016. The film examines the illegal flow of weapons from Balkans. Part of Mr. Martinovic job involved helping trace underground weapons networks and included interacting with members of these criminal groups in the Balkans. Mr. Martinovic was arrested on 22 October 2015 in relation to this assignment. He is accused of being a member of a criminal organization and of trafficking drug. The arrest warrant was issued by High court in Podgorica after the request of the Special State Prosecutor's office. On 12 April 2016, he still was in custody, waiting for his indictment and trial. Mr. Martinovic has worked with several international media outlets including The Economist (UK), the Financial Times (UK) and M6 (France).
Updates
New 22 Sep 2020
On 15 September 2020, the High Court of Podgorica concluded the retrial of Jovo Martinović and announced that the verdict would be announced on 8 October.
04 Nov 2019
On 24 October 2019, the Court of Appeal in Podgorica quashed journalist Jovo Martinović’s 18-month jail sentence, stating that the prosecution failed to prove that he committed any crime or to produce enough hard evidence to justify a prison sentence. His retrial is expected to start within a few weeks.
15 Jan 2019
On 15 January 2019, the Higher Court in Podgorica sentenced Jovo Martinovic to 1.5 years in prison for alleged “drug trafficking and membership in a criminal organisation”. The journalist rejected the charges which he considers politically motivated. The verdict was condemned by international media freedom organisations and organisations of journalists. Jovo Martinovic announced that he would appeal the verdict.
09 Jan 2017
On 5 January 2017, journalist Jovo Martinović was released pending trial. The Court ordered Martinović to check in with police twice a month, and confiscated his passport. As a consequence, the alert was changed to level 2.
State replies
07 Dec 2016
Reply from Montenegro provided by the Ministry of Justice
Follow-ups
09 Jan 2017
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media welcomes release of Montenegrin journalist and calls for conclusion of his case
Freelancers

Key information :

Jovo Martinovic

A freelancer journalist whose work has often focused organised crime in the Balkans. Martinovic has worked with several international publications including The Economist, Newsday, Global Post, The Financial Times and VICE, in addition to winning several international awards.
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21 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 21 Sep 2020 n° 107/2020 Hungary

Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to List Journalists’ Trips Abroad

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ RSF
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ RSF
In a letter dated 2 June 2020, József Magyar, the deputy secretary of state for development of European affairs at the ministry of foreign affairs and trade, requested Hungarian embassies in the EU to provide information about all recent professional visits, training courses and research trips undertaken by Hungarian journalists to the respective EU countries.
The letter, disclosed on 21 September by the online news platform Telex, requests embassies to report when these trips took place, which Hungarian media participated, and which organisations or press outlets were involved.
To a question from Telex why the list was necessary, the Ministry replied: “to fulfil its mandate, [the Ministry] is doing everything against foreign interference in Hungarian domestic affairs. Experience has shown that Soros organisations tend to be behind such attacks.”
The European Federation of Journalists indicated that the practice could undermine the protection of journalists' sources and was of an incriminating nature.
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21 Sep 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 29 Jul 2019 n° 87/2019 Albania

New “Anti-defamation” Legislative Package Threatens Online Media Freedom

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner RSF Article 19 AEJ ECPMF EFJ/IFJ IPI
No state reply yet
Partner RSF Article 19 AEJ ECPMF EFJ/IFJ IPI
On 3 July 2019, as part of a reform of the judiciary, the Albanian Council of Ministers approved a series of amendments known as the “anti-defamation package” and aiming, according to the authorities, at fighting against defamation.

If passed by Parliament, the proposed amendments to the laws No. 9918 “On electronic communications in the Republic of Albania” and No. 97/2013 “On Audio Visual Media in the Republic of Albania” would empower a state administrative body (the Audio Visual Media Authority) to regulate content published by online media. The draft bills seek to tighten the control over online media, as the Complaints Council, which is part of the Audio Visual Media Authority, could increase censorship by ordering the removal of online content on grounds of protecting the citizens’ “dignity and privacy”.

Several international organisations joined Albanian civil society and independent media in calling the government to withdraw these bills.
Updates
New 21 Sep 2020
On 16 September 2020, “alarmed by reports that the Parliament plans to reconsider the Amendments to Law No. 97/2013 ‘on Audio Visual Media in the Republic of Albania’ on the basis of article 86 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, which prescribes that the Parliament considers only the issues introduced by the President of the Republic”, seven international rights organisations sent an open letter to the Albanian parliament. They fear that the Assembly would ignore the problems raised in the Opinion of the Venice Commission and by domestic and international civil society organisations. They asked the parliament to reconsider the laws which they say “fall short of international law and standards” and to include civil society and representatives of the media throughout this process
14 Jan 2020
On 12 January 2020, Albanian President Ilir Meta vetoed the latest amendments to the two laws “on audiovisual media” and “on electronic communications” arguing that both laws violate the fundamental constitutional principles of a democracy, the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to information, the previous decisions of the Constitutional Court, the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the President, the new legislative package “would produce intimidation and self-censorship, unlawful closure or suspension of electronic media, directly affecting the quality and objectivity of information, which would result in providing the public with information other than facts, which would mislead the society not only in seeking their rights, but in fulfilling civic responsibilities for building and preserving the democracy.” Following the President’s decision, the parliament can either accept his decree and start over the legislative process, or dismiss it with a simple majority. support document http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143898
20 Dec 2019
On 18 December 2019, the Albanian parliament approved the two media laws known as the “anti-defamation package”. 82 MPs voted in favour, 13 against and 5 MPs abstained. Media freedom organisations caution that the package is likely to replace the current self-regulation of online media by state-regulation, and argue that cosmetic changes made at the last minute do not address all the concerns raised by the European Union, the Council of Europe and Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic. They have urged the President of Albania not to enact these laws.
26 Nov 2019
On 20 November 2019, a majority of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) board voted against the so-called “anti-defamation package”. The authority was consulted in the framework of the legislative process.
Follow-ups
21 Sep 2020
New General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on media freedom and the protection of journalists urges the Albanian parliament to drop the current proposals and restart the whole process.
24 Jun 2020
On 19 June 2020, the Venice Commission adopted an opinion on draft amendments to the Law n°97/2013 on the Audiovisual Media Service. While acknowledging "the efforts of the Albanian authorities to be transparent, to respond to the criticism and to improve the text of the draft amendments", the Commission considers that "the draft amendments are not ready for adoption in their current form. The law suffers from vagueness and would likely to have a “chilling effect” suppressing free discussion and political speech in the Albanian sector of the internet."
24 Jan 2020
On 22 January 2020, the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly requested an opinion of the Venice Commission concerning the Albanian Law no. 97/2013 ‘on Audiovisual Media Service’.
14 Jan 2020
OSCE Media Freedom Representative expresses readiness to continue working with Albanian authorities to improve media legislation.
17 Dec 2019
CoE Human Rights Commissioner urges Albania’s Parliament to review bills which restrict freedom of expression.
10 Dec 2019
OSCE Media Freedom Representative recommends further improvements to laws on online media in Albania.
29 Jul 2019
OSCE Media Freedom Representative presents new review of laws on online media in Albania, recommends further improvements
Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer
26 Jun 2020
Venice Commission, Opinion No. 980/2020 on draft amendments to Law No. 97/2013 on the Audiovisual Media Service, CDL-AD(2020)013-e (19 June 2020)
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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

23 October 2015