IN 2017

Latest threats to media freedom

 

Journalists from Magločistač News Portal Receive Death Threats

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Year 21 Sep 2017 Country Serbia Category C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat Non-state Partner EFJ/IFJ , RSF Alert level Level 1
21 Sep 2017 Serbia C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists Non-state EFJ/IFJ , RSF Level 1
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On 4 September 2017, journalists and media workers working for the Serbian Subotica Magločistač news portal received explicit death threats following the publication of an article entitled “We are all Gosa workers, and all the rulers are Labans” (Svi smo mi radnici Goše, a vladari Labani). The team of journalists was threatened with harsh words in the comments section. The article referred to the death threats made by Bogdan Laban, the mayor of Subotica, directed against one of his party colleagues, Magločistač news portal reported about that event.

Follow-ups

New 22 Sep 2017 :

The Guardia Civil Raids Several Catalan Newsrooms

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Year 21 Sep 2017 Country Spain Category C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
21 Sep 2017 Spain C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists State EFJ/IFJ Level 2
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The Spanish Guardia Civil raided the offices of five Catalan newspapers on 15 September 2017 in relation to media coverage of the Catalan referendum on self-determination due to take place on 1 October. The Guardia Civil presented a judicial ruling prohibiting the targeted media (NacioDigital, El Punt Avui, Vilaweb, El Nacional, Raco Català, Libertat.cat) from publishing any institutional advertisement in favour of the referendum viewed illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court. The Guardia Civil then proceeded to identify the journalists present. Several journalist organizations, such as the Union of Journalists of Catalonia (SPC) and the Ethical College of Journalists of Catalonia, denounced the intervention of the Guardia Civil. The SPC issued a statement on 18 September condemning "police intimidation" and recalling the freedom to comment on current events. On 20 September, the information portal Vilaweb, which refused to stop the dissemination of institutional advertising in favour of the referendum, was threatened with closure by the Guardia Civil.

Political Appointments to Head Spanish and Catalan Public TV Channels

Update: 21 Sep 2017 State replied
Year 16 Mar 2016 Country Spain Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
16 Mar 2016 Spain E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ Level 2

On 8 March 2016, the Board of Directors of the Spanish public channel RTVE decided to appoint as director, Eladio Jareno, a former head of communication for the Catalan Popular Party. The Spanish Federation of Journalists' Unions (FeSP), in a statement, condemned this decision that is likely to reinforce governmental control over the national public channel. On 28 February 2016, the Union of the Journalists of Catalonia (PSC) in the same manner deplored political appointments within the new leadership of Catalan public media (TV3 and Catalunya Radio), entrusted to individuals with known allegiance to parties forming the Catalan government coalition, namely the ERC and CDC. Journalists' unions are calling for legislative reforms aimed at guaranteeing the independence of public media from the interference from political parties, notably by making possible the appointment of public media board members by a qualified vote of the Parliament.

State replies

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Government Plan to Strongly Reduce Funding for Public Service Broadcasting

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Year 20 Sep 2017 Country Ukraine Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , EBU Alert level Level 2
20 Sep 2017 Ukraine E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , EBU Level 2
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The 2018 state budget, soon under discussion at Ukrainian Parliament, envisages for the public broadcaster around half of the budget defined in the Law on Public Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine. The provisional budget of the public broadcaster, UA:PBC, for 2018 will be around 1,5 billion UAH (around 45-49 million EUR), which is one of the smallest budgets in Europe in comparison with other broadcasters, such as Poland, Romania, Croatia, having few times higher budgets, but covering smaller areas and communities. The Management Board of UA:PBC published on 18 September 2017 an official statement expressing its concern about possible under-funding of UA:PBC which could affect not only broadcaster's ability to fulfill its remit, but moreover could affect its independence, especially in the eve of the election campaign. Several professional organisations, including the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) called on Ukrainian Government to ensure appropriate funding for the public broadcaster in line with the Ukrainian Law and with European standards, as provided in Council of Europe Recommendation 1878 (2009) on Funding of public service broadcasting and EBU's principles for stable, accountable, fair and independent funding.

Far-right Militants Threatened Novosti Newspaper During Protest

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Year 19 Sep 2017 Country Croatia Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat Non-state Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
19 Sep 2017 Croatia E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Non-state EFJ/IFJ Level 2
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On 2 September 2017, members of the far-right Autochthonous Croatian Party of Right (A-HSP) gathered in front of weekly Novosti’s office in central Zagreb and burned a copy of the magazine, which is published by the Serb National Council in Croatia. According to the Western Balkans Regional Platform for Advocacy of Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety, A-HSP accused Novosti journalists of spreading hate against Croatians and called on the Croatian government to stop funding the magazine. During the incident, Novosti journalists also faced repeated hate speech through social media and threats - including death threats - according to Novosti editor Nikola Bajto, who said in an interview to Novi list newspaper that the A-HSP threatened Novosti journalists that "they will end up like Charlie Hebdo".

Azerbaijani Journalist Elchin Ismayilli Sentenced to 9 year in Prison

Update: 18 Sep 2017 No reply yet
Year 23 Feb 2017 Country Azerbaijan Category B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Partner Article 19 , EFJ/IFJ , Index Alert level Level 1
23 Feb 2017 Azerbaijan B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists State Article 19 , EFJ/IFJ , Index Level 1
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On 17 February 2017, Elchin Ismayilli, founder and editor of Kend.info, an on-line news portal known for its reporting on corruption and human rights violations in the Ismayilli region of Azerbaijan, was detained by police. He is accused of threatening a local government employee, and has been charged with extortion and abuse of a position of influence. Ismayilli denies all the charges. On 18 February, the Nasimi District court sentenced Ismayilli to pre-trial detention for an initial period of 24 days. Ismayilli is currently being held in the Kurdakhani pretrial detention centre.

Updates

New 18 Sep 2017 : On 18 September 2017, the Sheki Court for Grave Crimes sentenced Elchin Ismayilli to 9 years imprisonment. The court found him guilty under articles 182 (extortion of money by threats), 308 (abuse of office) and 311 (bribery) of the Criminal Code.
03 Aug 2017 : Elchin Ismaylli`s preliminary investigation ended on 3 August 2017, but new charges of bribery were brought against him. He is now facing a jail sentence from 8 to 12 years.
03 Mar 2017 : On 3 March 2017 Elchin Ismaylli`s pre-trial detention time was extended to three more months.

Azadliq Newspaper Stops Publishing in Azerbaijan After Arrest of Financial Director

Update: 15 Sep 2017 No reply yet
Year 18 Jan 2017 Country Azerbaijan Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner 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
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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.

Updates

New 15 Sep 2017 : On 15 September 2017, the Baku Court of Appeal decided to release Faiq Amirov and place him on a three-year probation.
26 Jul 2017 : On 24 July 2017, a Baku court sentenced Faiq Amirov to three years and three months in prison. He was also fined 39,000 manats (20,000 euros).

French Journalist Detained at Iraq Border, Arrested on Terror Charges

Update: 15 Sep 2017 No reply yet
Year 03 Aug 2017 Country Turkey Category B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Partner Index , EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 1
03 Aug 2017 Turkey B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists State Index , EFJ/IFJ Level 1
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French journalist Loup Bureau was arrested in Şırnak on charges of assisting a terror organisation on 2 August 2017.The journalist was first detained on 26 July at the Habur crossing, where he was crossing into Turkey from Iraq. Authorities have said the French journalist was arrested on charges of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation.” He was placed in Şırnak Prison and a gag order was imposed on his case. BBC Turkish reported that the journalist visited Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, and returned two weeks ago to Turkey, where he was detained under a prosecutorial warrant. An academic thesis he wrote on the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia force in Syria, and some of the photographs he had taken were used as evidence.

Updates

New 15 Sep 2017 : On 15 September 2017, Loup Bureau's lawyers announced that he had been released from prison and was soon to be expelled from Turkey.

Follow-ups

New 07 Aug 2017 : OSCE Media Freedom Representative addressed the Turkish authorities demanding immediate release of French journalist Loup Bureau and to drop charges.

Journalist Vladimir Otasevic Faced Insults and Death Threats

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Year 14 Sep 2017 Country Montenegro Category C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat Non-state Partner EFJ/IFJ , Index , RSF Alert level Level 1
14 Sep 2017 Montenegro C. Harassment and intimidation of journalists Non-state EFJ/IFJ , Index , RSF Level 1
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A Montenegrin journalist working for Dan daily newspaper, Vladimir Otasevic, reported that the Prime Minister's brother, Velizar Markovic, had threatened his safety during a phone call on Monday 11 September 2017. In the conversation, Otasevic was asking for the phone number of the Prime Minister's other brother when Markovic insulted and verbally threatened him, saying that he shouldn't be surprised if someone ended up dead at the end. According to a Balkan Insight report, Markovic also alluded to the 2004 killing of the Dan newspaper editor Dusko Jovanovic.

Follow-ups

13 Sep 2017 : OSCE media freedom representative calls on authorities in Montenegro to swiftly investigate death threats against journalist.

Blogger Rashad Ramazanov Jailed for Nine Years

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Year 14 Sep 2017 Country Azerbaijan Category B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , Index , RSF Alert level Level 1
14 Sep 2017 Azerbaijan B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists State EFJ/IFJ , Index , RSF Level 1
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The Azerbaijani blogger Rashad Ramazanov is serving a nine-year sentence in Baku Prison #2, which media freedom organisations link with his writings. Ramazanov was arrested on 9 May 2013, charged for drug possession, and on 13 November 2013 sentenced to nine years in jail. The Baku Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court later upheld this sentence. Ramazanov used to actively post micro blogs on social media networks, particularly on Facebook, in which he criticized the governmental policy and high-ranking Azerbaijani officials, including the President. After the arrest, he was unlawfully held in the Ministry of Internal Affairs Organized Crime Department for 11 days. His lawyer Aslan Ismayilov stated that Ramazanov was subjected to torture and beatings while in custody. Ismayilov's demands for investigation of the journalist's case yielded no results and he ended up being detained by police as well. Despite the repeated calls for release from local and international organisations, Ramazanov is still in prison.

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