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12 May 2021 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 12 May 2021 n° 92/2021 Russian Federation

Police Detain, Fine 2 Journalists over Corruption Reporting in Russian Republic of Tatarstan

1 Journalist in detention
Source of threatState
CategoryDetention and imprisonment of journalists
Partner CPJ Article 19
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Partner CPJ Article 19
On 9 May 2021, the Vysokogorsky District Court in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan convicted Aleksey Solovyov and Damir Manzhukov, correspondents for the news website Rosderzhava, on charges of interfering with traffic and disobeying police. The court sentenced Solovyov to five days of administrative arrest, and fined Manzhukov 2,000 rubles (Eur 22). The journalists did not admit guilt, Solovyov told CPJ, adding that police confiscated their equipment during the arrest and have not returned it. He said that he had already filed an appeal in his case, and that Manzhukov planned to appeal as well. Rosderzhava is a news website that primarily writes about alleged police corruption. Solovyov and Manzhukov also cover those topics on their YouTube channels; Manzhukov’s channel Zhukman and Solovyov’s channel Aleksey Svist regularly post videos that receive tens of thousands of views. On 8 May, Solovyov and Manzhukov were driving near the village of Biriuli in Vysokogorsky district, and planned to film a report about alleged corruption by traffic police, when they spotted a group of police officers at the side of the road, some of whom were allegedly failing to wear pieces of headwear that are required by all officers. The journalists stopped their car and questioned the officers, and Solovyev told them that he wanted to file a complaint about that violation. The officers confiscated the journalists’ video cameras, phones, and dashboard camera, arrested them, and took them to the Vysokogorsky police station. During their detention, police officers twisted the journalists’ arms, injuring Solovyov’s arm severely. Police tested both journalists for drugs and alcohol, and the journalists passed those tests. Officers held Solovyov and Manzhukov overnight, and the following day the Vysokogorsky District Court convicted the journalists, fined and released Manzhukov, and ordered Solovyov to be held at the Vysokogorsky Detention Center for five days. While in detention, Solovyov was examined at the Vysokogorsky District Hospital, where a doctor told him that his right arm had extensive bruising and inflammation, and would need an operation. The journalists have filed complaints to the Vysokogorsky police, alleging that officers illegally interfered with their work and unlawfully confiscated their equipment. CPJ emailed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tatarstan and the Vysokogorsky District Court for comment but did not receive any responses.
Journalists in detention

Currently in detention (1):

Aleksey Solovyov
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12 May 2021 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 12 May 2021 n° 91/2021 Czech Republic

Czech Deputy PM Hamáček files criminal complaint and civil lawsuit against Seznam Zprávy

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner IPI RSF
No state reply yet
Partner IPI RSF
On 5 May 2021, the Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček, announced suing the media outlet Seznam Zprávy (News List) over an article it published making allegations about a planned trip to Russia which caused a political scandal in the country. Hamáček said he would initiate criminal complaint against the journalists as well as civil proceedings against the publisher in which he would demand CZK 10 million (€391,000). The editor-in-chief of Seznam Zprávy, Jiří Kubík, stood by the reporting and said that the online newspaper was ready to prove the veracity of its findings in court, adding that they had multiple sources lined up who were willing to come forward. The lawsuit stems from a report Seznam Zprávy published on its website on 4 May in which it claimed it had spoken to several sources which confirmed that ahead of a planned trip to Moscow, Hamáček had privately discussed offering to "exchange the international scandal" about Russia agents’ involvement in the deadly explosion in the Czech munitions depo in Vrbětice, in return for one million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine. The 2014 explosion killed two Czech nationals. The alleged plan to offer to bury Prague’s knowledge of the Russian attack was reportedly discussed by Hamáček, who is now the interior minister, during a private meeting on the evening of 15 April in the office of the Minister of the Interior, during which several military, police and security officials were present. The journalists who wrote the article, Janka Kroupa and Kristina Cirokova, later confirmed that they had spoken with several of those present in the meeting who verified the information. It was also reported that as part of the alleged deal, Hamáček had also pushed for a planned Russia-US summit between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden to be held in the Czech capital. The planned trip to Moscow was later cancelled. The report by Seznam Zprávy came two weeks after the Czech government officially announced that the explosion was caused by an attack by Russian military intelligence. In response, the Deputy PM strongly denied discussing such a trade-off, announced the civil lawsuit and made a criminal complaint. He said that said law enforcement authorities should “check whether the authors have committed the criminal offenses of defamation, dissemination of an alarm message and damage to foreign rights.” After the report was published it caused a major political outcry, with opposition parties strongly criticising Hamáček. “My own reputation and my party’s good name have been damaged, so I have no option but to sue the authors of the article for slander and scaremongering,” he said. Prime Minster Andrej Babis stood by his deputy. If he wins the case, the deputy PM said he would donate the compensation to the fire and police brigade foundation.
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12 May 2021 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 12 May 2021 n° 90/2021 Belgium

Journalist's House Searched after Breaking Story on Vaccine Corruption

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
On 6 May 2021, police searched the home of Belgian journalist Dirk Selis. The Flemish Association of Journalists (VVJ) called the search "illegal" and a "misstep by the judiciary and police". The search was ordered by the investigating judge after Selis revealed in an article for the local media Trudocs that the mayor of Sint-Truiden, Veerle Heeren, had cut the line for the Covid-19 vaccine. According to the information Heeren had also arranged vaccinations for some of her family members, staff and other people before they were called for vaccination. Journalist Selis alleged systematic vaccine corruption in the Belgian city of Sint-Truiden, based on a source who works in a vaccination centre. Mayor Heeren then filed a criminal complaint about the "breach of medical secrecy".

During the police search of Selis' home, his computer and mobile phone were also searched. The journalist made it clear that he would not reveal his source, which he said was met with understanding by the investigators. The VVJ announced it would raise the matter with the competent judicial and police authorities and recalled that the law of 7 April 2005 on the protection of the confidentiality of journalistic source formally prohibits such judicial action to find the journalist's source.
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11 May 2021 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 28 Nov 2016 n° 121/2016 Belgium

Belgium: Journalist Interrogated and Home Raided by Police

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner Index AEJ EFJ/IFJ RSF
No state reply yet
Partner Index AEJ EFJ/IFJ RSF
On 21 November 2016, the Belgian federal police raided the home of journalist Bart Aerts who works for the programme "Terzake" on Canvas TV channel and took him in for questioning. According to Flandre Info, Aerts' phone was seized by the police, his computer was searched and he was taken in for questioning in Bruges. During the Terzake episode of 17 November 2016, Aerts examined recordings that had been extracted through wiretapping carried out by the police, which had been used in a murder investigation. These recordings revealed that the family of the victim Stijn Saelens had tried to contact the Public Prosecutor's department and judges in Bruges. In a letter to the Bruges magistrate, the public media group VRT, of which Canvas TV is a part, denounced the methods of the police and justice system. They demanded that the police return the phone to the journalist. Pol Deltour, national secretary of the Flemish journalists' association was quoted by Flandre Info saying the house raid "was a clear violation of the 2015 law on journalistic sources protection."
Updates
New 11 May 2021
On 10 May 2021, a criminal court sentenced VRT journalist Bart Aerts to a four-month suspended prison term for broadcasting wiretapped phone conversations used during the judicial investigation into the murder of Stijn Saelens. The Flemish Association of Journalists (VVJ) denounced the court ruling as "a dangerous precedent".
11 Nov 2019
Proceedings in Bruges are ongoing. An appeal by Peter Gyselbrecht against the Bruges Council Chamber’s referral of the case to the Crime Court has been dismissed.
27 Jun 2019
On 26 June 2019, the Bruges Council Chamber referred Bart Aerts and the victim's brother-in-law, Peter Gyselbrecht, to the Crime Court for abuse of the right of access to the investigation record as wiretaps had been leaked to VRT journalists and broadcast in the "Terzake" show. The Council Chamber did not respond to the request to relocate the proceedings outside the Bruges jurisdiction. The defendants face up to one year in prison.
22 Sep 2017
On 21 September 2017, the Indictment Chamber at the Ghent Court of Appeal rejected Bart Aerts' request for access to the criminal file and confirmed the search of his home, the interrogation and the temporary confiscation of his mobile phone on the grounds that it constitutes an object with which a crime could have been committed; that its confiscation therefore falls under the current investigation; that there is no indication that the purpose of the search or confiscation was to reveal the journalist's sources.
Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer
29 Nov 2016
Factsheet on other acts having chilling effects on the media freedom of journalists
29 Nov 2016
Ernst and others v. Belgium, no. 33400/96, Judgment 15.7.2003 : Massive searches of journalists’ places of work, homes and, in some instances, cars in order to identify magistrates having leaked information about pending criminal cases
29 Nov 2016
Nagla v. Latvia - 73469/10 : ECHR Judgment 16.7.2013 : Urgent search at journalist’s home involving the seizure of data storage devices containing her sources of information
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11 May 2021 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 11 May 2021 n° 89/2021 Croatia

Croatian President Milanovic verbally attacked HRT journalists

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ RSF
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ RSF
On 6 May 2021, Croatian President Zoran Milanovic verbally attacked journalists from the public broadcaster Croatian Radio Television (HRT) in the coastal city of Split. Milanovic accused them of being "tricksters", political "mercenaries" and "an embarrassment to the country". Milanovic went on an official trip to Split to participate in its City Council session. There, he gave a statement to the media, which soon escalated into an argument with HRT journalists over a previous incident at an HRT show in the capital. The president singled out an individual journalist, Mislav Togonal, whom he called a trickster, then added: “You are usurping space, let [us hear from] other television stations … You are mercenaries of one [political] option, that’s a disgrace”, insinuating that HRT is under the influence of the ruling centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ. “Do not be in solidarity with HRT, these journalists are the only ones who know that they will receive a salary,” Milanovic told the other journalists present. The two Croatian journalists’ organisations, SNH and HND, reacted in a statement, strongly condemning the attack and the "harmful generalisation".
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11 May 2021 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 16 Mar 2021 n° 42/2021 Montenegro

Vijesti Journalist Jelena Jovanović Hit By Car Windscreen Wiper

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryAttacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists
Partner IPI RSF
Partner IPI RSF
On 14 March 2021, Jelena Jovanović, a journalist for the Montenegrin daily Vijesti, had a car windscreen wiper violently thrown at her as she was covering events outside a political party’s headquarters in the city of Niksic on the night of local elections. Jovanović was hit on the head, just above the eye, but she was not seriously injured. She had been reporting live from outside the building of the 'For the Future of Niksic' coalition. In a video, a man can be seen becoming increasingly aggressive and shouting at police and other individuals. After being moved away by police officers, he returns, rips the wiper off a stationary car, and throws it across the vehicle at those standing on the other side, hitting Jovanović. The incident was broadcast live on Vijesti Television, which had been covering the local elections.

The Media Union of Montenegro condemned the attack, saying: "We believe that this should stop immediately, and we certainly call on all colleagues to be extremely careful when reporting from all political gatherings, because it is obvious that they can easily, whether guilty or not, be victims of irresponsible behaviour. In the case of journalist Jovanović, we expect a reaction from the competent institutions.”
State replies
11 May 2021
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11 May 2021 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 25 Mar 2021 n° 46/2021 Montenegro

Televizija Vijesti Journalist Sead Sadiković Injured after Group Attack

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryAttacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists
Partner IPI RSF
Partner IPI RSF
On 20 March 2021, a journalist for Vijesti Television in Montenegro, Sead Sadiković, suffered minor injuries after being attacked by a group of people carrying Montenegrin flags who were attending a patriotic rally in the north-western town of Bijelo Polje.

A spokeswoman from the Basic State Prosecutor's Office, confirmed that the attack happened at around 8.10pm as a convoy of vehicles displaying Montenegrin flags was driving through the town centre. Police confirmed that two men had been arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack and inflicting minor bodily injuries. Sadiković was found by police with visible injuries and was taken for medical treatment after giving a statement at the local police station. Police said that after an argument broke out between Sadiković and people in the motorcade, a group of men began insulting and threatening him before attacking him. Police said they were analysing video surveillance footage in the area, adding that prosecutorial activities were underway.

Sadiković told TV Vijesti he was assaulted by five or six men, one of whom hit him with a Montenegrin flag, and that onlookers had stepped in to break up the attack. Sadiković was observing the rally in a professional capacity at the time and is well-known for a critical weekly show on TV Vijesti and for his reporting on corruption and organized crime in Montenegro. The journalist has faced attack because of his work in the past. In April 2018, he survived a car bomb explosion in front of the home which police believed was a targeted threat. The convoy in Bijelo Polje was one of many happening in different locations across the country that evening that were reportedly made up of supporters of the Democratic Party of Socialists, according to media reports.
State replies
11 May 2021
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11 May 2021 Lvl. 1
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 26 Jan 2021 n° 9/2021 Russian Federation

Russian Cameraman Pavel Zelenski under Arrest

Source of threatState
CategoryDetention and imprisonment of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
On 16 January 2021, a court in the Russian Federation ordered the arrest of Pavel Zelenski in Moscow on charges of “inciting extremism on the internet.” Zelenski is a cameraman at Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), a platform that seeks to expose corruption through media reports. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Russian Journalists and Media Worker’s Union (JMWU) have demanded his release. According to JMWU, Zelenski was arrested over two tweets he posted in early October, after journalist Irina Slavina set herself on fire in the city of Nizhny Novgorod.

Around ten law enforcement officers searched Zelenki’s apartment for 6 hours, seizing his professional computer, his wife Natalia’s cell phone, and external hard drives. Zelenski was arrested at his mother’s house. Upon searching him, the officers seized his laptop and phone, and beat him in the leg and the head. Charges of “inciting extremism on the internet” carry up to five years in prison.

Zelenski’s arrest came the day before the arrest of opposition politician Alexei Navalny at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
Updates
New 11 May 2021
On 16 April 2021, the Moscow’s Tushinsky District Court found Zelenski guilty of inciting extremism and sentenced him to two years in a penal colony. According to his wife, he plans to appeal the verdict.
11 Mar 2021
On 24 February 2021, the Presnensky Court at Moscow converted Pavel Zelenski’s pre-trial detention to house arrest, to last until 24 April.
26 Jan 2021
On 17 January, Dozhd TV reporter Eduard Burmistrov was also briefly detained while broadcasting live from the politician’s landing, and MediaZone correspondent David Frenkel was detained at Saint Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport as he was about to fly to Moscow to cover the Navalny’s arrival.
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10 May 2021 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 10 May 2021 n° 88/2021 France

France 3 Regional Director Received Threats

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ EBU
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ EBU
The director of France 3 Centre-Val de Loire, Jean-Jacques Basier, has received "hundreds and hundreds of threats" since 30 April 2021, declared the French public broadcaster France Télévisions on Wednesday 5 May. The threats followed the decision by the public channel to not broadcast a documentary about Jeanne D'Arc, which was commissioned by the city of Orléans and supposed to be on air on 8 May. France Télévisions had initially accepted, then refused citing "a lack of confidence" in the editorial process. The documentary was to give a prominent place to the Mayor of Orléans. "Several elements […] suggest that this programme will be too politicised", explained the channel in a letter to the town hall. The journalist (doing the voice over) from "Valeurs actuelles", Charlotte d'Ornellas, originally from Orléans, was considered to be "close to the right-wing identity movement". Jean-Jacques Basier said he received threatening phone calls such as: "We'll take care of your face" or "We'll pay you a visit, so you can think before you act". According to France Télévisions, the regional director also said he was the target of insults and threats, including death threats, on social media after a CNews programme on 30 April, when his name was mentioned several times on air. The director of France 3 Centre-Val de Loire filed a complaint against X on 6 May for "threatening to commit a crime or offence against persons or property against a public service official".
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10 May 2021 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 23 Mar 2021 n° 45/2021 Poland

Minister of Justice Sues Gazeta Wyborcza Editor-in-chief Adam Michnik

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner IPI AEJ EFJ/IFJ
Partner IPI AEJ EFJ/IFJ
On 2 March 2021 the Minister of Justice and Prosecutor-General of Poland, Zbigniew Ziobro, filed a lawsuit against the editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Adam Michnik over an article. Titled “Pensja Ziobry poza prawem” (“The salary of Ziobro is against the law”), the article was written by the newspaper’s investigative journalist, Wojciech Czuchnowski and its law correspondent, Ewa Ivanova. It was published on 2 March 2020 in the Gazeta Wyborcza paper edition and on wyborcza.pl. Particularly at issue is the article’s following statement : “200 tys. złotych prokuratorskiego dodatku dostał w ciągu trzech lat Zbigniew Ziobro, choć konstytucja zabrania, by poseł był również prokuratorem. Ale minister sprawiedliwości obszedł tą zasadę.” (“200 thousand PLN were received by Zbigniew Ziobro as the prosecutor's supplementary salary within the last three years, despite the fact that the constitution prohibits Members of Parliament from being prosecutors at the same time. But the Minister of Justice has circumvented this rule.”)
In his lawsuit, Ziobro claims that the constitutional ban refers only to the common prosecutors and not to the Minister of Justice who performs the functions of Prosecutor-General. Gazeta Wyborcza maintains that the article was accurate. On the basis of the press law, Ziobro requests the rectification of the article and the reimbursement of legal costs. The case will be decided by the Civil Department of the District Court in Warsaw. The date of the hearing is not yet known.
The case is one of the 60 civil and criminal cases against Gazeta Wyborcza, initiated by politicians of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), various ministries, state-owned companies, and business people with close ties to the government.
State replies
10 May 2021
New Reply from the Polish authorities
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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”.